A world bloomed in her mug. A forest emerged, complete with a circle of ravens to welcome the dawn. Perhaps this blend of tea was more magical than advertised?
Bergamot, hyssop, and a dash of hinoki oil were the listed ingredients, but she was sure there had to be some surprises. There always were. No cook gave away all her secrets. They were like magicians in that way. Revealing just enough but not too much … any more and the gig was up and you’d be out of a job.
People paid for secrets. They paid to be surprised. People paid to suspend their disbelief if only for an hour. It was how writers survived – this compulsive need for lies of all sizes and shades. White lies were still lies after all,still less than the truth. But the truth was too much for most people. Little white lies kept the wheels of society greased.
But this tea might take some serious adjusting to. Was she tall enough for this ride? She’d gone to this tea blender for several months now but this was the first time she’d considered that the mix wasn’t for her. Perhaps it was for another customer? Or perhaps the blender (more alchemist than anything else) had over estimated her needs this time.
For this was no ordinary tea shop that she found. The tea resided in dark brown glass jars, with handwritten labels. Some were blends, but most were raw ingredients, ready to be whisked together into the need of the day. Patrons didn’t even tell the clerk what they wanted. That wouldn’t do. They could not be expected to be objective enough to know what they really needed, after all.So they came in, waited their turn, and then sat before the clerk who observed them. Sometimes s/he would take their pulse. Sometimes s/he would ask the patron to stick out their tongue. But nothing more – no medical history, no list of prescriptions or supplements written down or spoken.
It was a simple affair, but one that required over a decade of training, and that was only after a rigorous testing just to be considered for the role of student. Students had to be impeccable in their words and actions,diplomatic, and able to raise all the funds for their training upfront. There were no scholarships. There were no loans. The entire tuition had to be fully funded from the start. The teacher wished for each student to be able to serve her whole-heartedly upon the completion of their apprenticeship (not graduation, for they would never cease to learn) so the patrons could be served without distraction or hesitation.
So this had to be what she needed, but was she ready for it? It tasted like no other tea she’d ever had. Was that a woodpecker call she heard from her mug? Did she see antlers? She’d never hallucinated before, college being at a private Christian school, but she suspected this was what it must feel like. And feel was the right word – she didn’t just see the trees and animals in her tea, she could hear and smell them too. They were there, but in miniature, in her mug.
Well, there was nothing to it but to do it, so she took a sip. The forest stayed horizontally oriented, the birds continued to fly, and the still hot tea tasted like earth and moss and stone as it slid down her throat.
Strangely, it was exactly what she needed.