January is National Hot Tea month! Learning about tea is the perfect way to start the new year.
Tea has been around for centuries. It is the most widely consumed beverage globally, with about 3 billion cups of tea consumed daily. Although they all originate from the same plant, camellia sinensis, there are five main tea types.
- White Tea
- Green Tea
- Yellow Tea
- Black Tea
- Red Tea
Tea leaves go through an oxidation process to develop its flavor. Depending on the type of tea, the leaves go through different oxidation levels. Green tea is not oxidized, while red tea is fully oxidized. It is no mistake that these five types of tea also correlate directly with the five movements or elements (Wu Xing) of Traditional Chinese Medicine. During processing, the tea changing oxidative state alters the tea’s energy or Qi (“pronounced Chee”).
Tea, both hot or cold, is also known for many health benefits. Tea can aid in weight loss, heart health, lower blood pressure, stabilizing blood sugar levels, and studies even showed tea helps prevent certain cancers. Besides its physical health benefits, tea is also a tool used to bring mindfulness and achieve inner peace. In the Tao of Chinese Tea, Ling Yun said that “tea is a friend for Zen meditation to gain our inner peace.” In our modern, fast-paced world with high-speed internet, Zoom calls, e-mails, and endless notifications, it is increasingly rare to take the time, slow down, be present, and be aware of yourself.
Use the seemingly simple act of preparing a cup of tea to create a Zen space and mindfulness in your day. Experiencing this zen space can fill you with a tremendous sense of focus and clarity.
“Tea is an act complete in its simplicity. When I drink tea, there is only me, and the tea. The rest of the world dissolves. There are no worries about the future. No dwelling on past mistakes. Tea is simple: Loose-leaf tea, hot pure water, a cup. I inhale the scent, tiny delicate pieces of the tea floating above the cup. I drink the tea, the essence of the leaves becoming a part of me. I am informed by the tea, changed. This is the act of life, in one pure moment, and in this act, the truth of the world suddenly becomes revealed; all the complexity, pain, drama of life is a pretense, invented in our minds for no good purpose. There is only the tea, and me, converging.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
Tea is a cup of liquid focus.
Extracting caffeine from a leaf creates a more stable and bioavailable chemical composition (unlike coffee’s caffeine coming from a bean). Resulting in a much greater propensity towards calm, clear, and focused energy. When consumed, it makes tea the perfect beverage to support and sustain focus in our high-demand, fast-paced society. Let’s break down the act of brewing a cup of tea for meditation.
Here is how to form a simple meditation while making tea.
1. Fill your kettle with water.
As you run water out of the faucet to fill the kettle, take a moment to calmly listen to the sound the water makes as it runs. Try not to rush the water too quickly like rapids on a river, but instead more calmly like a smooth flowing stream. As you listen to the water flow, you can transport yourself to a quiet and peaceful stream in your mind. Calmly breathe in through the nose, bring the energy down to the lower abdomen, imagine it circulating around your kidneys, and passively exhale through your mouth.
2. Heat your water.
Hopefully, you already feel a bit calmer as the stress and worries have started to wash away with the water. The next step is to heat the water; this process is a form of “Hou Fa Qi” or Fire Qi transmission. As you place the kettle over a heat source (depending on your home, it could be actual fire from a stove or an electric kettle), focus on the heat. Imagine yourself sitting next to a fire, watching the flames flicker, listening to the wood crackle and pop, and allow your Qi to flow amongst the embers absorbing the nourishing energy circle around your heart. This visualization will calm the spirit or “shen” that resides within the heart.
3. Pour your water over the tea leaves.
When the water comes to a rolling boil, allow yourself to feel the warmth and hear the sounds of the water bubbling inside the kettle. This next step is where the transformation occurs. As you prepare your tea leaves, feel gratitude for the calm and clarity the leaves will provide. Pour the water slowly and calmly over the leaves, watch them begin to unfurl, and dance in the cup. Tea leaves are said to dance as they release energy.
4. Fill your teacup.
If you brewed with a teapot, time to fill your teacup. When filling your teacup, it is best to use the 70/30 rule. Fill your teacup only 70% full, allowing 30% space in the teacup for appreciation. That is also a metaphor for life because if you aspire towards a life of abundance, you will never have enough space to appreciate the good and more subtle aspects of life if you are overwhelmed.
5. Engage your senses as you consume.
Look with your eyes with appreciation. Smell with your nose the beautiful aroma. Feel with your hands the warmth. Finally, taste the pureness of the tea, which you crafted with intention to strengthen your focus.
Tea meditation is simple enough for beginners to feel comfortable and confident while trying this simple but effective form of meditation. With practice, the ability to focus, acquire, and maintain self-awareness and mindfulness will become more natural. Plus, you will always immediately reward yourself with a delicious cup of tea!