Friday, December 16, 2011

A cup of tea and Culture!

As stated in assessment section occupational therapists need to be aware and mindful that each client, whether young or old, and people of all cultures prepare a cup of tea in a unique way. The culture and drinking of tea seems to be not a strong as it once use to be, however a lot of people have held on to the traditions passed on from the previous generations of tea drinkers. Research completed by Hannam (1997) states that social gatherings with neighbours and extended families around cups of tea were marked by customs seen as polite and necessary at the time. However I have observed that nowadays tea seems to be usually drunk alone or with a friend or family member. These less frequent cups of tea occasions are still influenced by the “memories of the past that held the criteria for correct, proper behaviour even though these rituals were becoming anachronisms.” (Hannam, 1997, pp.73) The offering of a cup of tea when welcoming another person appears to be universal over many different cultures meaning that an occupational therapist can use this welcoming custom within a lot of their practice. Occupational therapists can also observe the cultural differences in the way each client prepares and offers a cup of tea as this can give the therapist an inside view of the importance and meaning for each individual.

Click here to read a brief essay by George-Orwell to give a different perspective on the culture of tea drinking.

I was on my final placement on an assessment, treatment and rehabilitation ward. I was completing some education and practice with a client based on preparing a cup of tea. This client searched for a tea pot ten minutes. I asked her what she was searching for and she stated that “her tea would not be the same without using a tea pot”. After a prompt to find it she gathered the pot and completed the preparation of her tea. Whilst completing her preparation of tea she explained the way in which she had to warm the teapot before putting her tea inside and how her mother had taught her the method of preparing tea. As she spoke about her tea making she appeared very happy to be sharing this knowledge that her mother passed on to her. When she had transported her tea to the table, I observed her offering to share her pot of tea to the other client sitting with her. The client accepted offer and initiated a discussion about how much they appreciated using a tea pot to prepare their tea, as the stated that “It always tastes better coming from a tea pot.”
Prior to this experience I had thought the use of a tea pot was to save on tea, I had not thought about the values that some people have behind the tea pot, the memories of loved ones that people hold onto through the unique ways of making tea and the significance of sharing the same pot of tea with another. This experience highlighted the importance of her link to the cup of tea through her family memories and also the importance to herself in sharing the pot of tea with another. During this experience I remember that it reminded me of my nana, when she used to offer a cup of tea to everyone who came into her home. She also used to ensure that I did the same when I was in her home. I feel that through this experience with my nana that I now hold some of the same values around the sharing of tea and also the importance of offering tea in a welcome to a new place. My experiences in fieldwork placements and also in my own personal life have highlighted to me the generational differences around the values and beliefs of offering tea. During my community placements I experienced being offered a cup of tea by older adults, some adults, and never by young adults.
These experiences about the change in generational culture in relation to sharing a cup of tea has influenced my practice in guiding me to be more aware and respectful of the general values and beliefs within each generation culture. Each time I am offered a cup of tea I try and be aware of the impact my answer could have on the client’s values and beliefs. This reflection has also highlighted to me the recognition of my own values about offering and accepting of a cup of tea. This new learning will enable me to be aware of and also reflect further on the impact that these values may have for me as a therapist.

Hannam, D. (1997, August). More than just a Cup of Tea: Meaning Construction in an Everyday Occupation. Journal of Occupational Science Australia, 4(2), 69-74.

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