Jean-Siméon Chardin's A Lady Taking Tea is a French painting from 1743. There is absolutely nothing glamorous or unusual about this plain woman, not the way she is dressed, the room she sits in, or the table and the pot and cup before her. And yet, the painter has elevated the ordinariness of the scene. Here in the humdrum of her life, this woman takes a little Sabbath, a break in her day. A modest moment is made into something very lovely.
This exquisite painting is a "genre scene" where the focus is on women in domestic settings. The seated figure seems to grasp the meditative quality of drinking tea alone in a quiet place. This precious drink allows us to directly commune with nature.
In our day, tea is still used to sanctify special times. It is often mentioned in the "Slow Life" movement. In some religious communities, it is recognized for offering more than mere liquid refreshment. Tea provides us with a daily opportunity to enrich our bodies, minds, and spirits; the ritual of drinking tea offers dividends of peace and joy. Perhaps that is what Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn meant when he said, "We are most real when we are drinking tea."