Beyond the documented and popularized physical health benefits of tea, is the simple truth that tea is actually a magical elixir that can transform your consciousness and your life with just one cup. Green tea can speed up your metabolism and help you burn fat, black tea may lower your risk for certain types of cancer and white tea is good for fighting bad bacteria and wrinkles. That is all very good information indeed, yet there is something about tea that goes beyond the surface.
Cultures around the world agree that tea is a close second, only to water, for their beverage of choice. With every culture, there seems to be a method of preparing tea that has been adapted over time. China and Japan have celebrated tea the longest, and they still hold traditional ceremonies, which honor the very beverage that has helped shape their present culture. In the spirit of practicing a method or ceremony, we can begin to train our minds to focus on one thing at a time in lieu of tracking the myriad of mundane tasks that tend to grasp our mental energy.
Much like yoga, tea actually engenders more calm and meditative brain states naturally, especially when prepared and imbibed with awareness. Wait up! Hold the phone! Shut the front door! I thought tea was supposed to get you amped? It’s true, while you can’t change the chemicals in tea, you can change how you enjoy it. It’s the same reason I have called tea “liquid yoga” for years, because it causes us to slow down. The method that does this most adequately is the Chinese gong fu cha method, which consists of drinking tea in very small vessels as opposed to mugs or gold-rimmed cups. Gong fu cha also steeps the same leaves multiple times giving those who enjoy it the opportunity to notice a wide variance in flavors. This also slows down the tea’s natural process of releasing chemicals, like caffeine. Much like taking your time with eating, there are many practical reasons to take your time with drinking tea: such as not burdening the stomach with large amounts of hot liquid in one sitting and giving the body time to digest and properly assimilate the minerals, vitamins and many other chemicals in the tea.
Most people say, “Oh I’ve tried tea, but it tastes too bitter for me.” While that may be right, tea’s bitterness depends on how you brew it. I have noticed over time that standard times and temperatures recommended for tea brewing are horribly inconsistent and frankly, do not fit the bill for most types of tea anyway. If you wish to prepare good-tasting tea, you must be willing to cultivate your “in-tea-uition.” Tea is, as a whole, a very aware plant, which requires attention and awareness to accomplish what I have coined as “brewing the joy out of tea.” Truly, if you put joy into brewing tea, you will receive “en-joy-ment” out of it. If your tea is too bitter, then something needs to be adjusted, either the time of steeping, the temperature of the water, or both.
What about the energy of tea? As I mentioned before, the energy we give to tea will be returned to us; sometimes this happens in unexpected ways and in exponential quantities. When brewing gong fu cha, we only use full or whole leaf teas because we believe the energy of the plant and the energy of nature are preserved and recorded in them, as opposed to tea bags, which often contain crushed leaves. Tea bags are good for everyday drinking, but not for a tea ceremony. If you are mindful and give tea your love, it will share its secrets with you.
As you deepen your willingness to understand and respect something as humble as tea, your ability to understand and respect other aspects of your life may also shift. If nothing else, remember: tea is simply a metaphor for the way in which we choose to live our lives. Tea can help you to awaken awareness in your day-to-day life. If nothing else, it offers a simple comfort that has been enjoyed throughout recorded history.
[Photo by Maciej Hrynczyszyn – CC BY]
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