I don’t know when the ritual of tea-drinking began, but I’m guessing it was a very long time ago.
Maybe it started before we – in the form we now think of ourselves – were born.
I imagine the rudimentary form of us watching a flower from a nearby tree fall into a clay cup of hot water we had heated for some other purpose. I imagine us letting it brew just to see what would happen and noticing that magic was rising in those vapors.
I’m sure I’m missing some details. Like the connection I suspect we all had to our inner knowing before we learned to spend the gold of our intuition on worry. Like the reverence for the elders whose careful hands knew how to avoid being stung by a nettle. Like the time to sit in that liminal space that a tea-drinking ritual provides.
While we may never get those parts of us back, what I know to be true is that whenever I have taken part in the rituals of tea-drinking, I remember things I have no words to express.
An Invitation to Tea
Let this be your invitation to a tea-drinking ritual. While the word ritual is big, let this be a practice of simple. Make it the type of party that asks you to do nothing fancy besides show up, boil water, toss in some flowers, and notice the gravitational act of falling into your body.
You can dress the part (your finest silk or your favorite slippers, either will do). You can study the medicinal qualities of different plants (but remember that it’s better to have five really close friends than 50 acquaintances). But most important, curl up with a steaming cup of something, stop time, and read the leaves.
A Call to Ritual
Being one who has spent many years engaging in ritual tea-drinking, I offer some thoughts that might help you on your way.
First off, tea is a gift, given to us by plants, the sacred and willing givers of the earth. The plants we sip align us to their qualities, so choose your plant allies wisely. Lavender, catnip, and linden for frayed nerves. Alfalfa, nettle, and rose hips if you’re not eating your vegetables. Rooibos with cardamom and cinnamon bark for a kick in the pants. Yerba mate if you are like me and miss the sunshine in the winter months. Buy them in bulk, free of the bags that hide them, so you can make friends with them in their true form.
Secondly, while a tea bag can be dunked in an absent-minded minute, a tea-drinking ritual needs time. Make space for it – as a morning routine, as an afternoon break, as a nightcap. Then, make it right. A 15-minute steep in boiling water in an open vessel (such as a French press) brings out the best in leaves and flowers. For twigs, bark, and roots, 15 minutes on a stovetop simmer will love you back. There are plenty of methods and all of them are correct so long as they’re infused with intention. Pick one and make it your favorite.
Finally, step into a ritual of the senses. Watch the steam rise in swirling cyclones. Inhale and exhale the perfumes. Cup the mug, taste the bouquet, and listen without ears to the love letter to your body written in the water.