We’re not talking about that dusty tea bag you chuck in a mug for thirty seconds until it turns astringent and black, drown in milk, and absent-mindedly sip while glued to your computer screen. And we’re also not talking about the Strawberry Dream or Peach Delight tea that is overpowered by the artificial chemical flavorings. We’re talking about real, loose-leaf tea which captivates your attention, invigorates your spirit, and nourishes your body; tea which reminds us of our intimate connection to nature, invites us to slow down, and snaps us back to the present moment.
There’s plenty of scope to speculate about why more and more people are turning to mindfulness practices in the twenty-first century. But it’s definitely a trend which has taken hold of modern society. Even the US Marine Corps and the British Parliament are building meditation rituals into their daily routines and a solid bedrock of scientific research is now confirming what the ancients knew all along—that mindfulness exercises come with potent psychological and physical benefits. The tea ritual is the perfect complement to this trend, and the explosion of interest in premium tea confirms this.
In these rituals, we are finding the means to navigate our way above the confusion of daily life, resisting the incessant push and pull of the myriad of distractions and demands on our attention. We are searching for a more intrinsic basis to our happiness which comes from tapping into our resources of discipline, determination and focus, enhancing our productivity and creativity, and realizing our goals. More than ever, we use our rituals to nail down our intentions, exploiting those calm, undisturbed moments of clarity in each day when we can take a look at the bigger picture.
Cultivating the ritual of tea drinking and incorporating it into your day can have similarly powerful effects. Like yoga or meditation, you have to invest time and effort to learn and fully appreciate the aesthetics of the tea ceremony; the visual appearance, the delicate fragrances before and after steeping, the various phases of flavour which glimmer across your tongue, and the sensation as you breathe out and bask in the after effects. Enjoyed alone, tea can put you in a frame of mind akin to that of a mediation session; shared with friends, the experience can be one of profound bonding—without the artifice of alcoholic intoxicants.
Your tea ceremony doesn’t have to be a three hour session on a remote mountain top. If you have a kettle and some tea ware to hand, a mere ten minutes can be all it takes. You can even skip the tea pot, and sprinkle a few leaves into your cup “grandpa style” and brew for several minutes. Simplicity is the key; relish your tea with slow, deliberate consumption. Channel your inner wisdom and let the leaves do the talking.
Furthermore, the physical health benefits of drinking tea are virtually undisputed across the Eastern and Western medical worlds. Loaded with nutrients, bioactive compounds, polyphenols and antioxidants such as flavanoids and catechins, tea is believed to boost your metabolism, reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and ward off cancer.
But the Camellia sinensis has another magic trick up its sleeve. The powerful combination of a gentle dose of caffeine with the amino acid known as L-Theanine is what gives tea drinkers that slow-burning boost of focus and energy, without any of the jittery caffeine-fuelled buzzing highs and drowsy lows that coffee lovers experience. L-Theanine prompts an increase in dopamine levels—the happy hormone—and Alpha brain waves, which has the effect of relaxing the mind and body, relieving anxiety and promoting a sense of well-being, all the while amplifying your ability to concentrate and sharpening your senses.
Good tea is an embodiment of man’s intimate interplay with nature: a divine confluence of Mother Nature’s attributes and traditions developed by cultures that date back millennia. The third wave of tea is well and truly on the move, and getting involved need not be intimidating; the tea world is full of passionate people who love to share, and you can consult this handy guide to buying tea online if you need somewhere to start. If you haven’t yet, now is a wonderful time to start learning the difference between your oolongs and your senchas.
Never before has it been spelled out so clearly that mindful downtime is not a luxurious indulgence of the indolent, but the crucial means to unlocking your full potential. Tea is your secret weapon in the survival game of the focused.
Originally posted on Holstee’s Mindful Matter, the best place to read stories and tips on how to live life fully.