The simple act of drinking tea is one many of us take for granted. We do it on the run, sometimes letting it go cold or not even finishing it. We don’t sit down and stop to actually enjoy it. Drinking tea has a long history. It is something people have been doing for centuries all around the world and these days we can harness all that knowledge to make it a ritual that will enhance our lives; forcing us to slow down and embrace the many benefits of tea on a physical, mental and emotional level.
Tea has a long and complex history. It is likely to have originated in Yunnan Province in China as far back as 3 AD. Specifically, the plant itself originated near the lands of northeast India, north Burma, southwest China and Tibet. It was consumed as a medicinal drink, then later for pleasure. The Chinese used it not only as an antidote to poison, but also as a restorative drink. The Chinese introduced tea to the Portuguese during the 16th century and the British began tea production and consumption in India during the 17th century to compete with the Chinese market.
It isn’t difficult to understand how people then spread this comforting and therapeutic custom across the globe. Drinking tea soon became a tradition for many different cultures and tea is enjoyed in different ways around the world.
The most well known tea ceremony in the world is the Japanese Matcha tea ceremony. The Japanese were introduced to drinking tea by the Chinese in around the 8th century and the green powdered Matcha tea came to Japan in around the 12th century.
“Preparing tea in this ceremony means pouring all one’s attention into the predefined movements. The whole process is not about drinking tea, but is about aesthetics, preparing a bowl of tea from one’s heart. The host of the ceremony always considers the guests with every movement and gesture.” – The Japanese Tea Ceremony
We can apply the principles of the Japanese Matcha tea ceremony to our own tea drinking rituals to some extent. The first step is to just slow down and make time to enjoy the process of making a cup of tea and drinking it quietly. Acquiring utensils that are delicate and beautiful, meaningful and sentimental can also enhance our experience. Perhaps an ornate tea pot, tea cup and saucer; or a mug with our favorite sporting team or quote on it. Tea drinking souvenirs that we bought on a special holiday or from a place dear to our heart can be used to boost our nostalgia. Drinking tea at home or at work at a certain time of the day, every day can become a daily ritual to center us, make us more mindful and bring us back to the present moment.
Choosing the tea we drink is important too. Black tea is the most common and accessible of teas and can be consumed in a variety of ways. You can drink it with or without milk and sugar, honey or lemon. These days there are also a variety of green teas, fruit teas and herbal infusions that are available in both loose leaf or packaged in tea bags. We are spoiled for choice and each infusion has its own unique flavour and health properties.
Drinking tea has been scientifically proven to have a number of health benefits due to the antioxidants it contains. It certainly aids hydration and is an excellent replacement for those wanting to cut down on their consumption of coffee and increase their consumption of water. Tea can be consumed as a comforting warm drink or a refreshing chilled beverage. Its versatility and simplicity is underrated.
Visualize this scenario. You’ve had a long day at work and have a million things running through your mind. You come home and turn off your phone and find a place of solitude and silence. You take your favourite cup and place a tea bag inside; you boil some water. You pour the boiling water in your cup and let the tea bag steep. Imagine how you like to drink your tea. Will you add some honey or milk? Perhaps some lemon? You take your cup to a comfortable place where you will sit and contemplate. You close your eyes and take a deep breath; the aroma of the tea filling your nostrils, the warmth of the cup or mug in your hands fills your body.
You wait. In silence. Just breathing. Until the liquid is cool enough to drink but still very warm and slowly you take a sip. The warmth of the liquid touches your lips and tongue and fills your mouth, gently flowing down your throat and into your stomach. Your whole body becomes warm. You breathe. Close your eyes and just be. Drinking tea. Still and calm. Making time stop. At peace.