31 May 2019
Yesterday a student and I sat briefly on the curb of Haji Lane for a different perspective of the wall murals & the sky surrounding us.
At ground level, we also spotted a handsome cat seeking shade in the shadow of the column supporting the shop houses.
The feline’s portly appearance and sturdy collar showed that he or she had a protector among the shopkeepers.
And yes, as I strolled down the lane, I spotted the unmistakable cat feeding bowl and water dish right by the entrance of a yoga shop.
Someone from within called out, and the cat promptly got up and strutted right in.
By then the humidity was getting to me. I paused outside a shop promoting street & retro fashion. The Malay lady shopkeeper saw me at the entrance & urged me to step right in to escape the midday heat.
We chatted a bit and I was surprised to see that further inside the shop, there was an array of Chinese tea for sampling at $2 per cup. Wati explained that it was to help customers have a taste before deciding if they wanted to buy more.
The owner of the business for whom she worked was an avid promoter of tea and coffee culture.And even though she didn’t know a lot about Chinese tea history and cultivation, helping her boss had prompted her to buy tea gifts for her children’s tuition teachers.
“My boss is a tea expert. He’ll come to the shop early today so that I can go home to break fast. Why don’t you come back & meet him? He knows a lot about tea. He can tell you everything!” She said with absolute certainty.
I was also very impressed that given the small space, she had made every effort to arrange the tea bags and tea related products to achieve the highest level of aesthetic appeal possible.
Towards evening Krison and I dropped by at the shop. Wati was getting ready to go home. She was thrilled to see us and quickly introduced us to Tea Boss. She was beginning to wonder if I would turn up at all!
And was I glad I did! What followed after Wati’s intro was an almost 2 hours of tea drinking and appreciation lesson. Tea Boss didn’t seem to care if we would buy any of his teas, but he cared that we could differentiate & enjoy the various types of tea from different regions he was brewing for us.
Before he seeped the tea, he invited us to inhale the tea leaves and to describe the scents to him. He smiled encouragingly at our attempts to articulate our olfactory experiences and tapped the table approvingly when our responses matched his.
I felt as if we were taking a test but there was no pressure to be right or embarrassment of being wrong.
I think between Tea Boss and us, we must have sipped 54 tiny cups of tea brewed from at least 6 different types of leaves. They bore exotic names from hills and mountains which I didn’t even know existed.
Time slowed down. We were recharged not just by tea, but by the passion of a man who shared freely with us details of his travels to tea plantations and the knowledge that old tea folks taught him.
And the causes behind this magical encounter among 3 Chinese people? The sleepy orange cat and the dedicated Malay lady shopkeeper of Haji Lane in the month of Ramadan.