I am a tea snob. I mostly use loose leaf, free from the bonds of a bag. I pay attention to brewing temperature: boiling for most black, 195 degrees for oolong, 160 -180 degrees for green, etc. I order my tea from a purveyor who knows the producer and has some integrity around fair trade and organic production. I have a palate and stomach that prefers Darjeeling over Assam, Indian teas over those produced in China. In other words: picky, picky, picky.
Tea drinking, for me, is part science and part ritual. Science in selection. Ritual in preparation and consumption. And both science and ritual merge into the art of tea. It involves all the senses—painting and sculpting with aroma, texture, and taste. All of this culminates in the presence of sipping and resting with the sip. Even though I have some experience with the elaborate Japanese Tea Ceremony, I find the simple moment of quaffing to be the most sublime encounter. It invites me to be awake to the moment.
In the legendary history of tea, Bodhidharma is said to have been meditating in a cave and kept falling asleep. So he cut off his eyelids and where they fell, a tea plant sprouted. The use of tea in east Asian monasteries dates from that moment. The science of eyelash tea is a bit suspect, but the idea is that meditation is about being awake. Tea has a compound called theanine which heightens the mood without the stimulation associated with caffeine. Even though there is some caffeine in tea it is minimal compared to coffee, especially the green teas.
I think it is important to cultivate rituals of awakened presence in our lives. The actual practice of meditation has no benefit unless it blends seamlessly into our moment to moment experiences. Sometimes this is referred to as, “no sessions, no breaks.” The instant I pour fresh water into the kettle, my mind becomes more present. From boiling to infusion to drinking, every step is painting a meditative moment. So, maybe, let go of reading these words, shut off your screen, and go have a cup of tea.