Once upon a tea time is how the best of stories start. When I start talking about how teatime and books are a match made in heaven, I may repeat some of what I said in this post.

Once upon a tea time/ Bookended

Today’s book photography prompt is to photograph that match made in heaven, tea and books. I’m from India and growing up, the women of my family came together to drink tea. It was always around 4PM everyday and it was a dedicated time to relax, regroup, and indulge our collective sweet tooth. During summer vacations, the extended family, men, women and children, would get together for tea. There was much laughing and talking and catching up with each other. So, tea has always been an important family ritual. I think it’s fair to say that many families have this in common and when we grew up, we held onto the nostalgia and tried to recreate it in our new, busier lives. Most Indians have some cherished chai (tea) stories, one from the past and one for the present: stories of the best cup of tea they ever had, the best recipe for masala chai ( tea with spices, literally), the accompanying snacks, the camaraderie that the sharing of tea time can bring about.

Once upon a tea time/ Bookended

In my case, reading became associated with tea time because I moved far away from family and books were the only companions that went everywhere I went. Two quotes that capture the sentiment:

“Rainy days should be spent at home with a cup of tea and a good book.”

– Bill Watterson

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”

– C.S. Lewis

The words once upon a tea time are an homage to this special time that usually involves slowing down sometime in the middle of the day, brewing a cup of tea and taking a few minutes to read, and to ponder and mull over what we read. But it’s also an implicit permission built into every day, a sanctioned time where you are allowed to rest. The more mere productivity becomes a benchmark of a successful day, the more the urge to cling to the ritual of teatime.

When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things. Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else, are doomed to die, or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment?

Muriel Barbery