I drink coffee to help me wake up, stay up or speed up. But tea is an invitation to slow down. I use it to break from what I'm doing and refocus my attention. Here are 3 tea rituals that have helped me learn to be in the moment, although "ritual" seems like too big a word for such a small thing. There's nothing new about this, and it doesn't require any special tools. A kettle, mug and tea are all you need.
1. A Tea Ritual For Attention
Writing for work requires focus, but I'm easily pulled away by emails, to-do lists and day-to-day distractions. When I'm scattered, this small ritual signals that it's time to concentrate.
- Put a kettle of water on to boil.
- I prefer loose-leaf tea to tea bags, so I fill a strainer with 1-2 teaspoons of leaves.
- Pour honey into the bottom of a mug, fill with hot water, and stir to dissolve the honey.
- Bring the mug to my desk, and wait a few minutes for the tea to steep.
- Remove the strainer, take a sip and start work. That's it. Nothing special, but very effective.
2. A Tea Ritual For Warmth
I have a soft spot for my home's rickety radiator heating. Modern life makes it easy to disconnect from the seasons, but I feel the summer and winter in my house. I warm up by drinking tea in winter.
- I do the same steps listed above: put the kettle on, fill the strainer, mix in the honey.
- Once the water's ready, I pour it into the mug, stir to dissolve the honey and steep the tea.
- Maybe I'll add a blanket and sit on the sofa for a few minutes.
- I hold the mug in both hands so it warms my fingers.
- I sit, sip and repeat. Simple.
3. A Tea Ritual For Rest
There's some evidence that calming herbal teas like chamomile or lavender can create a mind/body routine that helps us slow down and prepare for sleep. If you mix in a little honey, you're adding tryptophan. Our bodies absorb this amino acid and then convert into serotonin, which may help to regulate sleep.
- A half hour before bed, make tea.
- Turn off your devices. Whenever I don't turn my phone off, it keeps me up.
- Sit at a table or on the sofa and drink your tea.
- Share a cup with someone or read. Whatever relaxes you.
- Rinse out the mug, and get ready to go to sleep.
All these "rituals" are really just a way of re-centering. In Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers, Leonard Koren reformulates a Zen maxim as the philosophical basis for the Japanese tea ceremony: "'First [tea] meeting, last [tea] meeting,' meaning that you must pay maximum attention to everything happening at this very moment: be here now." I don't pretend to know the histories or intricacies of tea ceremonies, but I do believe there's value in integrating small rituals into life, if just to make space for whatever's happening right now.
Written & Photographed by Sarah Coffey