Say hello... to Clipper. (Cup # 20)

I can't help but wonder, sitting on this train to Crewkerne, where everyone else is off to today. Everyone seems rather content to mind their business, paying no attention to me as I stare, wondering about the lives they might lead. I can't be sure, but I would guess the nobody here is wondering the same things about me that I am wondering about them. And even if they were, I'm confident that none of them would guess that the only reason I am on this 3 hour train ride is for a cup of tea...

You probably would have guessed that by now though, am I right?

Before today, I had never been on the production floor of a tea company. Actually, I've never been on any sort of production floor at all. Today may have also been my first time wearing a hair net. It was a special day, today was - though, the hair net had very little to do with it. I had been wondering for a while what a tea company might think of all of this tea drinking business, whether they might appreciate what I have set out to do using the oh so lovely beverage that they've devoted their careers to producing. Funny that all I should do to set up a meeting with a tea company then, was ask.

[ Hair net? Check! All ready for the tour! ]

I had been talking to Clipper Teas for a little while – throwing around some possible dates for me to come by their headquarters in Beaminster – a small town some 200 km's outside of London. I took a little while I suppose, but the cup of Clipper at the end of the tunnel was definitely worth the wait.

Claire Tuck picked me up from the station – a short drive from Clipper HQ. There is something comforting about receiving such kindness from someone you have never met. When I first reached out to Clipper, I was surprised to receive a reply at all, let alone an invite for tea and a ride from the station. I would learn though, as the day went on, that Clipper isn't your average tea company.

Claire and I started with a tour of their production floor – from the warehouses that hold the tea leaves, to the storage facilities for tea's ready for shipment, and finally, to the place where all the magic happens. Watching the machinery portion the tea, setting it onto the paper to be sealed, perforated, cut, sorted, packaged, boxed, and sealed again. Incredible, it is – watching it all happen. A single line, manned by 2 or 3 workers, pumping out 350 cases of tea an hour. This didn't feel like your average production line I thought, as Paul stopped the machine, pulled out a single packet of wild berry tea, ripping it open and handing it to me to smell – this was something entirely different.

Clipper, while they do export to an international customer base, and hold the title as the first UK based fair trade tea company – operate more like small business - a family business. I guess though, you'd have to operate that way when a genuine worry on your way to work in the morning is the risk of getting stuck driving behind a tractor. There's just no room for big-city, corporate stress in a place like this. They employ real people, doing their best to keep things local. Surely there would be pressures to move into bigger facilities, to increase production and cut costs – but then they wouldn't be the same company that Mike and Lorraine Brehme started in the upstairs bedroom of their house with only two chests of Assam and a desire to offer to world a better quality cup of tea.

Penny Knapman – my initial contact at the company – later joined Claire and I in the company boardroom, where the three of us drank tea and talked the day away. I am never short of amazed at how is it becomes to open up when you have a cup of tea in your hands. Sitting in Beaminster, I felt different than I did only hours earlier in London. I felt at ease. I felt relaxed. And as we spoke of the importance of slowing down, existing completely in the moment I felt, in a strange way, as if there was nothing else in the world besides Penny, Claire, and I – and our tea of course.

I know how important it is to exist in the moment. To embrace today - letting go of the past and feeling okay about the fact that we have no idea what the future may or may not hold. Like anything though, this is a skill that takes practice to perfect. How incredible it is that I live in London right now. That I have the freedom and ability to pack up my life and move it to the other side of the world. And though a move of that nature is difficult, it is harder still to remember that each moment spent wondering about what could have been – is a moment that you never truly lived. A moment you lose forever. I've always struggled with that. Even in those incredible, awe inspiring moments - I tend to coast. To detatch. I know I was there, but my recollection is hazy. I spend too much time conerned with what's next, and forget to enjoy what is. It's strange to say, but each cup of tea - each conversation - it forces me to live in the moment. It pulls my head out of the clouds, and reminds me that there is just as much, if not more, to enjoy right here. Right now.

I felt alive today, sitting with Penny and Claire – and I can't help but feel that it might have had even just a little something to do with the Clipper tea that sat in front of me – savouring each sip, appreciating the flavour, the subtle undertones, and the way it warms your entire soul as each mouthful makes it's way through your body. I noticed the warmth of the mug in my hand. The way that it burned my finger tips if I held it too long. I imagined Claire on a boat, as she told me of her love for sailing. I remembered that last time I sailed - appreciating the way that, once on the open sea, your troubles seem non-existant, as if you left them back at the dock. I listened to the words we each spoke - letting each one resonate - appreciating not just what was being said, but how alive each word was making me feel. I looked up at Claire, and then over at Penny - I wonder if they felt it too?

It's amazing that something as simple as a cup of taught me that I need to stop just existing, and get back to being alive. To always strive to see the value within the people around me. To appreciate that beauty that each day offers to us, but more importantly, to accept the offering and share it with everyone that I possibly can.

So here's to sharing, and living in the moment – and to getting stuck behind tractors too. After all, maybe getting stuck behind tractor is just life's way of reminding us to slow down and enjoy the ride.

[ Claire to my right and Penny to my left! ]

1 comment:

  1. I love this post so much. What good reminders. You've written it so well. (And I love Clipper coffee. Even more now.)