Calm in a teacup

How the simple pleasure of enjoying tea can help you switch off by
Annabelle Spranklen

The art of drinking tea has long been seen as a mindful practice, one you turn to when you need to press pause, a ‘tea break’ offers us a short respite from our crazy, never-ending schedules. But where did the notion of taking a breather with a cup of tea really come from? 

Our affection for tea dates back to ancient China, where, according to legend, the mythological emperor Shennong discovered it in 2737 B.C. when the leaves from a nearby Camellia sinensis plant accidently fell into his pot of steaming hot water. For centuries, it was considered a medicinal herb, and it first became a popular beverage in the Tang Dynasty. It spread around Asia, and was eventually brought to Europe in the 17th century. 

However, it was Japanese philosopher Sen no Rikyu who made the traditional tea ceremony what it is today.  Back in the sixteenth century, he perfected the formal tea ceremony called chado, or ‘the Way of Tea’ calling for a return to wabi, which means simplicity and rustic beauty. During his era of warrior shoguns and samurai, the tea ceremony became a ritual for peace, and opportunity for balance and restraint. 

The most popular type of tea ceremonies are Gong Fu from China and Cha-no-yu from Japan. Though there are many cultural differences between the two, similarities include the art of simplicity and balance in form, movement and object. 

Once in ceremony, the tea becomes the central anchor point of the mind. From the processing of the tea to the way it is served, all aspects of a traditional tea ceremony demand time and care. Today the practice teaches both guests and hosts the concepts of harmony between tea, art, nature, organic materials, and people. It’s also an appreciation for stillness and quiet contemplation.

It’s little wonder then that this traditional Japanese art has seen a recent resurgence of interest all over the world, with more of us keen to learn of how drinking tea can help us to slow down in our increasingly hectic lives.

‘Tea is the sunlight, moonlight and starlight, the rain, mountains and soil – and we are of the same,’ says Resham Daswani, a spiritual teacher and tea curator at Fivelements Habitat wellness centre in Hong Kong, a city retreat that opened last summer.

‘Instead of trying to get the world to fit our view, tea ceremonies help us see that we are part of an infinite expanding whole. This shift from ‘ego’ to ‘eco’ is the antidote to find our way back to our health, harmony and balance with the planet.’

The ceremony involves drinking cups of nourishing organic tea, each prepared and poured by Daswani in a ceremonial ritual passed down by generations of tea masters. The rite is all done in complete silence, followed by questions and reflection at the end.

Daswani’s journey to becoming a tea curator was an unconventional one. Born and raised in Hong Kong, she was all set on a career in fashion after graduating from London College of Fashion and was going to launch her own clothing line before she felt the desire to look into tea and stumbled upon the Tea Sage Hut in Taiwan.

‘I sat for my first tea ceremony and found it to be the most healing and nourishing encounter with truth and wisdom. I began to remember what it was like to live in harmony and align with the Dao (chinese philosophy for path). I could clearly see how all the dots in my life were connected, and with full surrender a clearer conscious picture began unfolding.’

During Daswani’s ceremonies, she hopes to help others explore what she calls “the sacred benefits of the leaf.” 

“Newcomers who arrive for a meditative tea ceremony for the first time have often been drinking tea for most of their life and usually share that it is something consumed without any thought, and ‘tea and meditation’ is relatively unheard of with the current generation, when in actuality tea and Zen are completely bound up in one another. The mind is a very powerful tool and integrating practices that foster emotional awareness, cultivate gratitude and clarity and awareness are integral to mental wellness and tea has been doing this very powerfully for a long time.”

It’s not just busy Hongkongers who are turning to the ritual, over in LA, former model, actress and dancer Baelyn Elspeth runs ceremonies in the Santa Monica mountains for women looking to reap the wellness benefits. She’s become an Instagram hit, amassing over 60,000 fans including Hollywood producers, directors and even Paris Hilton, who follow her back-to-nature lifestyle, one which probably seems a million miles away from her former one.

“All we’re doing is sitting down and drinking tea, some people would say it’s a complete waste of time”, says Elspeth. Of course, in the words of British philosopher Bertrand Russell, “The time you enjoy wasting, is not wasted time.” 

So, whether you’re enjoying a cuppa at a traditional ceremony or at home as you take a moment to observe the gentle stream flowing into your cup, tea drinking can be an easy and simple way to bring about a daily dose of meditation into your life – all you need is hot water, a mug and some excellent tea. 

The latter? We can help with that. In the Kintsugi Tea Collection, we have brought together a selection of seven delicious teas and flavours from all over the world to suit any time of day or mindful moment. Enjoy.

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