I think it's fair to say the pandemic has had an impact on everyone around the world. And it's taking its toll on us here in Hong Kong as we struggle through the fifth wave. Taking care of our own physical, mental and emotional wellbeing has never been more important.
The key to self care is consistency. And the easier our self care routine is, the more likely we are to do it regularly. So here's a guide on how to craft a simple self care ritual with tea.
As anyone who practices any form of meditation will tell you, the best way to break negative cycles of stress and anxiety is to get out of your head and bring your attention back to the present moment.
An easy way to do that is to connect with your senses: what you are seeing, smelling, tasting, hearing and feeling right here, right now.
Tea is wonderful for this because it engages all your senses. The simple act of brewing a cup of whole leaf tea is a full sensory experience.
Drinking tea is also helpful for those new to meditation or those who find it hard to keep still, because it provides a focal point and an activity to do while bringing yourself back to the present moment.
Plus, drinking tea is already a daily habit for many of us, so it doesn't take much effort to turn it into a more mindful and nurturing activity.
How to create a self care ritual with tea
All you need is some whole leaf tea, some hot water, and a brewing vessel of your choice: a gaiwan, teapot, mug or bowl. It's best to use something that allows you to watch the leaves unfurl, to give your eyes something to focus on.
You can keep this short (10 minutes) or extend it for as long as you need.
1. Set up
Choose a quiet space, boil the kettle, wash your hands, and set up your tea leaves and brewing vessel in front of you. Rinse your teaware with hot water to clean and warm it.
Adjust your posture so your back is straight and you are sitting comfortably. Remind yourself that you are here to connect with yourself: to observe, to listen and to do nothing but be with yourself.
Pick up the leaves with your fingers and notice how they feel in your hands. Every type of tea has a different texture and feel to it. Notice any fragrance they might be exuding.
Put the tea leaves in your brewing vessel, pour the hot water in, and watch the magic that unfurls. Notice the continual change in the colour of the water, the shape of the leaves and the fragrance they exude.
Bring your brewing vessel up to your nose, using both hands, and take three deep breaths. Notice the aroma of the tea, and notice how it makes you feel.
If you're using a gaiwan or teapot, pour your tea into a cup ready to drink. Hold your cup, mug or bowl with both hands, bring it up to your mouth and take a sip.
Notice the flavour of the tea in your mouth. Breathe out as you swallow to enhance the aftertaste. Take another sip. Notice the warmth of the tea in your body. Notice how your body feels.
6. Focus inward
Continue drinking, sip by sip, leaving space for at least 3 breaths between each sip.
As you drink, bring your attention to your heart and notice how you are feeling. There's nothing to do or fix. Just acknowledge what's going on. Let yourself feel how you feel.
Then bring attention to your mind and observe what you're thinking. Notice your thoughts without engaging with them. Simply observe and acknowledge them.
Lastly, bring your attention to your body. Notice any areas of tension or discomfort. Allow your body to be as it is.
To end the session, you can say some affirmations to yourself, give yourself a hug or have a nice big stretch. Whatever feels good to you.
Teas to try
You can do this with any quality whole leaf tea! Just note that, as the brewing process is slower than usual, it's good to choose teas that don't get bitter quickly.
I've found these teas particularly well suited to meditative brewing:
Try it: Osmanthus Oolong (Organic)
Grown organically on a woman-led farm in Taiwan, this tea has an incredible fragrance that lingers long after the last sip. It also has a comforting creamy texture and is very soothing for the body.
Try it: Yunnan Wild Tea Buds
A white tea full of antioxidants, these beautiful purple-ish buds are from wild tea plants growing natively in the mountains of Yunnan. It has a very endearing floral fragrance that is totally unique and a warming flavour that helps you unwind and de-stress.
Try it: Camomile Reverie Tisane
Not only is this tea a stunner to look at, it is also a caffeine-free herbal blend you can drink just before you sleep. A mix of camomile, chyrsanthemum and globe amaranth, this garden-in-your-cup will help you cleanse, relax and sleep deeply.
We hope this helps infuse your life with more peace, connection and enjoyment - things we all need more of during the pandemic. To end, we leave you with a quote from Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh:
"Why would people spend two hours drinking just one cup of tea? Time has much more value than money - time is life. In two hours of drinking tea together, we don't get money, but we do get life."
For more home-based tea activities, see our other 'Tea @ Home' guides: