Tasting Tea

I am the vine. You are the branches. He who remains in me, and I in him, the same bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5 WEB)

Although my parents drank coffee I avoided that delicacy for many years. Finally, at twenty years of age I took my first sip and it was awful. I was working in a hospital in Florida and entered the world of coffee as a reaction to the stress. My work with often terminally ill children was counteracted by the effects of the caffeine.

Although I continue to enjoy my daily coffee I’ve also developed a love for tea. According to popular belief it’s better for you. I’m sure my British colleagues would argue it’s God’s gift for afternoon tea time. I’m not interested in the health issue just good taste. I appreciate the wonders of Viennese coffee as well as a wide variety of teas.

During a visit to Sri Lanka there was some spare time between projects. With my eyes closed to the dangers of the fast driving, crowded roads and suicidal tendencies of motorists we rode from Colombo to the village of Kandy. We enjoyed a leisurely lunch in the cooler climate with a wonderful view and then we headed back down the mountain toward Colombo. Along the way we decided it would be fun to visit a tea farm.

I’m not sure if they call it a farm or factory but it was along the way. Earlier we passed the gates to the factory as the workers, hundreds of them, arrived on foot. Many were elderly women, some young men, some dressed in business attire while others arrived in country clothes.

We entered the gates, passed the guard house and stopped by the central preparation building. The tour was straight forward beginning in the drying room, then the rolling (cutting) room, the roasting room and finally the separating room.

Fresh leaves only from the top of the bush were picked each day by the ladies. They were then deposited in the drying rack, along with anything else that happened to jump in their basket. There, forced air dried the leaves until they were ready for processing. Once dried the leaves were gathered from the drying bin, tossed on the floor and shoved through a trap door to the floor below.

On the lower floor the leaves went through a series of rolling machines designed to separate them by size and value. Each machine rolled the leaves and dumped the separated piles on the floor. The leaves were scooped up in shovels and tossed onto the roasting machine. When the roasting was complete they were once more deposited on the floor.

The final separation process again dumped the results in piles on the concrete floor. From there the prepared tea was shoveled into bags for packaging and sale. It’s interesting to note the staff members tending this process, mostly women, wandered about the factory in bare feet. I suppose they didn’t want the tea leaves spoiled by their shoes!

We exited the factory and stopped by the little in-house shop. In various bins they had tea available from $10 to $500 per kilo. I purchased a small amount of the cheap stuff, took it back to Guam and brewed it up. With my first sip the hair on my head, what little there was, stood on end, it was so strong!

I found the process fascinating, simple and almost primitive. With the exception of the giant rolling machines, most of the labor was done by hand. A friend in Austria read a report on the contents found in tea bags, including grasshopper legs, and still he continued to enjoy the brew. I was a little dubious at first, then figured I couldn’t see all the foot prints, the leftover grasshopper legs, or other articles collected from the bushes. Maybe that’s why so much tea is hidden in little packets.

I looked back at my life and thought, “This is how God prepares us.” God rolls us to separate the wheat from the chaff. This process is repeated again and again to prepare us to minister for Him. Those who listen to our testimony, sermons, bible studies, don’t know all the times we’ve fallen on the floor after God pruned our life. It doesn’t matter. What matters is the final product. After we fall God picks us up, and prepares us for the next step in our walk with Him.

When we begin to concentrate on the areas in life where we’ve failed we become crippled. Like pausing to drink tea after watching it fall on the foot trodden floor over and over again, we sometimes spend too much time looking back and not forward to the Lord.

I am reminded of what Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Brothers, I don’t regard myself as yet having taken hold, but one thing I do. Forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13 14 WEB)

Let’s look forward to eternity in heaven with the Lord. That’s what matters in the end, not the past. There will be wonder in walking with the Lord in the new Heaven and Earth knowing the rolling process is over. Now that will be a good cup of tea.

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