Tea isn’t just a drink. For some it’s a comfort at the end of a long day. For others it’s at the very heart of their culture. Millions of us across the world enjoy the drink for many different reasons. And at a time when our days are over-saturated with technology in the workplace and home, it’s important to step back, switch off, and take the time for tea. We explore how different cultures embrace tea and what we can learn from them…
The history of tea can be traced back to ancient China when, according to legend, Emperor Shen Nung discovered the drink after leaves from a wild tree blew into his pot of boiling water. That was in 2732 B.C. and fast forward to the present day, you’ll find tea is still very much considered a way of life in China.
As well as being used in traditional Chinese medicine and cuisine, tea is regularly consumed in both informal and formal occasions. It even forms part of a Chinese wedding in which the bride and groom pay respect to their parents by serving them tea.
A Chinese tea ceremony is a time to relax and truly appreciate the taste and smell of the tea involved. Rules for making and pouring the tea are not always the same, however there are some general aspects of performing a tea ceremony that are always considered; the type of tea, the water selection & temperature, the teaware used, the ambience of the room and the technique of the person serving the tea. The art of taking your time and truly savouring a moment, however small, is so prevalent in the tradition of Chinese tea ceremonies.
In Japan, there is so much more to tea than pouring boiling water into a teapot. Matcha green tea is an integral part of the Japanese tea culture, and is used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. These ceremonies are a spiritual process, in which everything is done for the wellbeing of those participating.
A traditional tea ceremony venue is often surrounded by a garden which is kept simple to encourage a sense of tranquillity amongst attendees. Some ceremonies may even take place outside, but wherever the ceremony is held, the ambience must be calm to contrast the fast pace of everyday life. Elegant ceramic tea equipment is carefully chosen for each guest, and even the utensils are laid out in a specific way to give the best view for those participating. The full Japanese tea ceremony can last for hours, it is a chance for guests to enjoy the hospitality of the host, to practise mindfulness and to focus on the present moment.
In other cultures such as India, tea is a more casual affair – but no less important. As the largest tea exporter in the world, tea is a huge part of the Indian economy, making it more than just a beverage. The national drink of India is Chai; a black tea infused with milk, sugar and spices that’s served everywhere from the roadsides & alleyways to busy train stations by Chai Wallahs. These tea stalls aren’t just a place to buy spiced tea, they’re also a place for socialising & discussion. And if you’re offered a chai, it is considered impolite to refuse.
This idea of stopping whatever you’re doing to take a moment for a chai and a chat with your neighbour, friend or work colleague is something we can all benefit from. Especially in fast-paced lifestyles that are dependent on push notifications & alerts on a smart phone. This simple act of switching off from technology and catching up with loved ones outside of social media is one of the simplest ways to embrace wellness in 2019. Close the laptop, it’s time for tea.