Time and temperature are two keys to making the perfect cup of tea. That’s what I learned from Rishi Tea demonstrations presented this past weekend during the opening of Mad About Teapots: From the Racine Art Museum and Almost Alice: New Illustrations of Wonderland by Maggie Taylor, on view at the Woodson Art Museum through June 19.
Dave Jones of Rishi Tea would know. Rishi Tea, a Milwaukee-based purveyor of specialty teas, is the largest importer of loose leaf tea in the United States and the 2011 North American Tea Champion.
During tea tastings he presented at Friday evening’s preview party and at Saturday afternoon’s “Tea 101,” Jones said black teas can be steeped in water “right off the boil,” at 210 degrees Fahrenheit for a solid five minutes. Green teas and oolong teas require gentler treatment to avoid scorching the leaves. Cool the water to 185 degrees and steep three to four minutes.
I was struck by the parallels between steeping tea and the relationship nurturing that teatime rituals encourage. Carefully attending to the time you invest and the degree of warmth infused into the conversation are keys to improving the quality of the relationship – perhaps the most satisfying part of partaking in tea.
The formal Victorian-era ceremony and etiquette surrounding teatime does get turned – and delightfully so – on its head in Mad About Teapots, so this exhibition is a fitting complement to Almost Alice, a reimagining of Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
But basic essentials of tea, friendship, and even good business do turn on time and degree of warmth.
As mail order and social media manager at Rishi Tea, Jones and I do have Facebook in common. Part of his job, as well as mine as the Museum’s marketing and communications manager, is to monitor and post updates to Facebook and Twitter throughout each day. Part of social media’s appeal, of course, is that it’s free. But Jones and I certainly do invest time and energy into ensuring that our interactions with potential tea customers and Museum visitors are infused with plenty of warmth. That’s something that has to remain a constant priority.
My goal? I want every interaction with visitors – whether through our doors or through the virtual realms of social media – to cause them to emerge “Mad About the Woodson Art Museum!”