Nothing is closer to a well brewed cup of tea than analog photography. The more I think about it, the more it makes perfect sense, probably because I aproach both in my best understanding of Zen: feeling each step as it is, trying not to rush at all.
You see, both tea-making and photography feel better the slower you aproach them. Sure, you can buy industrialized bottled tea in a supermarket in the same way you can use your phone camera. It’s still tea and your phone takes pretty pictures, yes, but you’re skipping part of the process. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s different. So different that I barely consider them the same thing as their counterparts.
To me, a good cup of tea begins when I open my cupboard. That sweet smell that comes from my stash of tea. I take a deep sniff, choose what I’ll drink, close my cupboard and start to boil the water.
Actually, I don’t let the water boil. Each tea requires a certain temperature, and once the water boils at 100 Celsius, it’s no longer adequate for brewing tea. The Chinese have names for the temperatures: shrimp eyes, crab eyes, fish eyes, string of pearls and raging torrent. When I make tea, I stop to watch the bubbles to be sure that the water is in the right temperature. By the way, the Chinese names are based on the size and behavior of the bubbles.
I have a few tea cups and glasses. English, Japanese, Brazilian and Moroccan are the nationalities that come to mind. I don’t use them all the time. Sometimes I use a plastic Starbucks cup. Oh, and my grandma gave me a full tea set. That one I save for special occasions.
Tea should brew for a somewhat exact time. If you stop the infusion too soon, the flavor will lack personality. If you steep for too long, it usually gets bitter because of the tannins.
If you follow the right instructions, the result should be very close to perfection. Sometimes, though, you’d rather do something different. Add some lemon or orange blossom water. Cardamom, perhaps. Maybe try a cold brew. Experimenting is fun, or so they say, as I am too deeply in love with the old rituals to do so.
If you use film cameras, then you know that all of the above could be written about photography. Picking a roll of film. Choosing a camera. Developing. All of that is time consuming and, yet, immensely rewarding in itself.