In The poem ‘Tea’, even within the title itself, it suggests that it is a very simple poem. Naming a poem, ‘Tea’, is strange, as it is a mundane noun that we hear of daily. The word could however, imply, that even something as immaterial as an everyday cup of tea, means something to the person in the relationship. She starts off by saying, ‘I like pouring your tea’. This is a positive thought, as already, she is stating her affection for her lover.
Even the first line, she is showing that, rather like a wife, she enjoys doing duties and takes pleasure, as oppose to finding it a hindrance. ‘Lifting the heavy pot, and tipping it up’ is also a very powerful sentence. Although she describes the action as a burden, she does enjoy doing it, because it’s for her partner. This line also is metaphorically deciphered, as it incorporates the importance and understanding in a relationship, despite him having imperfections, she still, loves him.
The next line, is very descriptive, and is beautifully composed. ‘So the fragrant liquid steams in your china cup.’ Relating back to the second sentence, it seems as though she is referring back to their relationship, as she describes the action of lifting the teapot, she then sows the fruits of her labour and contently watches him drink the tea, she so lovingly prepared. In the second stanza, even whilst preparing tea, her mind, subconsciously drifts to him when he’s away, ‘or at work’.
This shows how often she misses him and the magnitude of her emotions and feelings. This is well reflected in the rest of the stanza, as she says ‘I like to think of your cupped hands as you sip, as you sip’. She takes pleasure in thinking of him, and this invokes an image of him slowly sipping the tea, almost periodically. She thinks of him, when he’s not home, and see’s his ‘faint half-smile of his lips’, showing how natural his smile is, without making an effort, she can see his lips curling into a ‘half-smile’
In the following stanza, she shows how much she enjoys making his tea for him, by religiously asking, what he’d like in his tea, ‘-sugar? -milk?’. She does seem very deeply involved with her partner, and she’s looking forward in the relationship, although it has not been a long time since they’ve been together. This is explicitly shown when she says ‘and the answers I don’t know by heart, yet’. It is show effectively as the word ‘yet’ is in juxtaposition with the comma, just before it, to magnify its importance. She forgets whenever she asks him for ‘sugar’ or ‘milk’, as she sees his ‘soul in his eyes’. This suggests, she is so deeply in love with him, even the slightest gaze at his eyes makes her forget, as she concentrates on him, and him only.
In the penultimate stanza, Carol Anne Duffy names the different types of tea; ‘Jasmine, Gunpowder, Assam, Earl Grey, Ceylon’, thus, showing the extent in which she’d be happy to make him any tea of his choice. In the next sentence, she relates to her complete fixation of her partner. Because she loves him, and everything about him, she illustrates this idea in the next sentence, ‘I love tea’s names.’ Her obsessions of the names of different teas are caused by her irrevocable love for him. She even offers to make him tea, ‘which tea would you like?’ this reverts back to the third stanza, where she says ‘I like the questions – sugar? milk?’, amplifying the fact that if it’s for him, she’d make it for him, ‘any time of day’. This could also illustrate her determination, caring nature, and her eagerness for her duty to please him.
Even in the last stanza, she expresses her affection for him, and compares it to the ‘women who harvest the slopes, for the sweetest leaves on Mount Wu-Yi’. In this stanza, Carol Anne Duffy illustrates a mental image of the tropics of China, where numerous teas are harvested from the ground. The word ‘harvest’ hints a laborious activity, similar to the effort she’s demonstrating in her immaterial aspect of making tea. As the women plough for the best leaves, she, strains his tea, so smitten, that she’d want to make every effort in order to give him to best tea. Invoking Mount Wu-Yi transports our minds to Eastern Asia, which is a powerful literary effect. She has fallen so deeply in love with him, even his tea, she is completely besotted about. In the final line, she openly says; ‘I am your lover, smitten, straining your tea.’ This shows her realism and her sincerity, that she can admit, she is ‘smitten’.