Inspire your afternoon and refresh your senses by creating sacred space for a personal tea ceremony.
From the fragrant aromas to the delicate flavors to the simple comfort of a warm mug, tea is a meditation for the senses. It also creates space to unwind and reconnect.
Preparing it is a process, one that forces you to slow down and relax. "Tea is a gift from the earth," says Diana Rosen, author of "Meditations With Tea," "and enjoying it is a gift to yourself."
By creating your own daily tea ritual in the afternoon when the day tends to drag, you can refresh your senses, refocus your thoughts, enjoy some peace, and -- the best part -- introduce a sacred moment into your day.
Prepare for Tea
In one traditional Japanese tea ceremony, guests are met at the gate by their host and led silently through a garden to the tea room, signifying a departure from the everyday world and an entrance into a spiritual realm.
You probably don't have a dedicated tea room, but you too can create a space in your afternoon for disconnecting from the day's stresses, whether you're at the office or at home. Here's our simple step-by-step approach to creating your own personal tea ceremony.
Dedicate a Space
This can mean moving to another room, a favorite chair, or just to the other side of your desk -- or simply clearing a space for tea on your table or work space. You might consider using a place mat or a tray to visually set your tea space apart from everything else.
Set the Stage
A tea ceremony is about atmosphere. Light a candle or play music to set the mood. If you're in a busy office, just close your eyes and listen to your breath for a few minutes to switch gears and set the tone.
Select Your Tea.
Bring some intention to your choice. What are you in the mood for? A mild, grassy green? A refreshing peppermint? A rich, vibrant oolong or black tea? As Confucius said, "Let your palate be your guide."
Use Your Favorite Accoutrements
The personal objects you use for tea making will help make this practice your own. Whether it's a pretty mug, an iron teapot, or a favorite infuser, using something special for your tea ritual inspires a ceremonial feel.
Enjoy the Process
As with wine and cheese, tea snobbery abounds, but don't be fooled by it. Tea appreciation does not require special expertise. "Tea can seem intimidating, but it really doesn't have to be," says Reem Rahim, cofounder of Numi Tea. "You put your tea bag or a teaspoonful of loose tea in a pot and add hot water. That's it."
There are, however, a few good guidelines we suggest to ensure an enjoyable process and a great cup of tea.
Start with good quality water -- tap is fine, but Rosen suggests spring water as opposed to distilled water, which lacks the minerals that can bring out the full flavor.
Brewing times vary depending on the tea. When in doubt, underbrew. White teas, as a rule, require only about 30 seconds; greens anywhere from 30 to 45 seconds; and blacks steep the longest, from 2 to 5 minutes, according to taste.
Whites, greens, oolongs, and herbals are typically enjoyed as is, whereas you may prefer milk or cream, or soy substitute, and a little sugar or honey with black tea.
Engage your senses.
Tea is a sensual pleasure, with its aroma, warmth, flavor, and visual appeal. Watch the tea slowly infuse its color into the water. Feel the steam rise. Focus on the complexities of flavor: Is it mildly sweet, or vegetal? Fruity or spicy? Breathe and absorb each delicious moment.
Keep It Fresh and Interesting
Rituals are about being engaged in the process. And unlike routines, they are not static but can change as you do. Allow your tea ritual to fluctuate with your moods and evolving tastes.
Teas to Try
With the recent explosion in tea culture, you'll find no lack of variety, whether you visit a specialty tea vendor or your local grocery store. Select organic teas when possible, and if you prefer tea bags, look for those that are unbleached and biodegradable. Here are a few staff favorites:
Numi Moonlight Spice
Numi Flowering Dragon Lily White Tea
Republic of Tea Silver Rain White Tea
Celestial Seasonings Decaf ChinaPearl White Tea
Mighty Leaf Green Tea Tropical
Republic of Tea Green Tea with Toasted Rice
Traditional Medicinals Green Tea With Ginger
Choice Organic Dragon Well Green Tea
Numi Chinese Breakfast
Republic of Tea Vanilla Almond
Choice Organic Irish Breakfast
Mighty Leaf Bombay Chai
Numi Moroccan Mint
Mighty Leaf Chamomile Citrus
Choice Liquorice Peppermint
Stash Tea Chanakara Vanilla Honeybush