By Aman Dewan,Country Head - HORECA at TGL Co.
An excerpt from an Interview in 2013 between Oprah Winfrey and Buddhist monk Nhat Hanh discussing nuances of tea and becoming fully present in the moment which inspired me to write this article.
Oprah: Tell me how we do it.
Nhat Hanh: Suppose you are drinking a cup of tea. When you hold your cup, you may like to breathe in, to bring your mind back to your body, and you become fully present. And when you are truly there, something else is also there—life, represented by the cup of tea. In that moment you are real, and the cup of tea is real. You are not lost in the past, in the future, in your projects, in your worries. You are free from all of these afflictions. And in that state of being free, you enjoy your tea. That is the moment of happiness, and of peace. When you brush your teeth, you may have just two minutes, but according to this practice, it is possible to produce freedom and joy during that time, because you are established in the here and now. If you are capable of brushing your teeth in mindfulness, then you will be able to enjoy the time when you take a shower, cook your breakfast, sip your tea.
Oprah: So from this point of view, there are endless conditions of happiness.
Nhat Hanh: Yes. Mindfulness helps you go home to the present. And every time you go there and recognize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes.
Oprah: With you, the tea is real.
Nhat Hanh: I am real, and the tea is real. I am in the present. I don’t think of the past. I don’t think of the future. There is a real encounter between me and the tea, and peace.
The conversation above is the perfect example signifying how tea induces contemplation and connection all with one sip! Centuries ago, when tea was discovered in China and introduced to buddhist culture in monasteries, it was already used for medicine and meditation. There’s no doubt that drinking tea is good for health, but more than that it helps to attain a state of mindfulness - a much needed recipe for this time of COVID-19 where distractions of news reign and lot of reflections happen while staying at home. More than clearing the uncertainty of “what will happen or when will it happen“, mindfulness helps to suggest new creative ways of being, of finding solutions and winning ahead. And as evident in the interview above, it helps people bond.
I came to understand that a good cuppa tea with the right ingredients can make all the difference, almost like a solemn ceremony for mindfulness, almost a form of meditation. A friend and I decided to embark upon this contemplative journey of mindfulness with tea, in a nice cool corner place at our terrace.
The first step is to identify the appropriate tea for the ritual, depending on the time of the day or your mood. There is no right or wrong, just choose what you feel like going forward with. The process begins with measuring the prescribed amount of tea into an infuser or a teapot, adding hot water and watching the dry leaves slowly come to life. The secret, more than in the methodology, lies in being present in each moment. Being mindful of every small action; of watching the tea leaves dance happily in warm water, staining the water with hues as it imparts flavour to it. Once the tea is ready, begins the second phase of wrapping your hands around the comforting cup, basking in the aroma, taking the first sip and cherishing the plethora of flavours left on your tastebuds, while being fully mindful of what you’re experiencing.
One of the things we observed was that our minds became clearer after each sip as wandering thoughts slowly gave way to only what we were doing. We were being encouraged to notice the present, being aware, as mindfulness is indeed about focussing on what’s on right now.
After an immersive experience, we realised that the mindfulness activity can actually be applied to anything,especially during stay home – listening to music, cooking a recipe, reading a book etc. In fact, mindfulness would help enhance productivity at work and during calls too.
Armed with more clarity and focus, post this activity, we decided to make a list of things we have been wanting to do for long,relating to a passion or hobby. It also encouraged us to make some determinations of how to work on our potential to bring, as they say “my gifts to the world”. Am I sounding spiritual now? Yes that’s what a good mindfulness tea activity could do!
Lastly, after some trials and tea tasting, we came up with a list of teas we tasted, to suit the time of day. Here’s our recommendations:
Best teas for a mindful moment suited for different times of the day
English Breakfast Black Tea – A perfect Assam blend that is your good morning tea. It is has the malty finish and strong taste enough to give you that much needed morning kick especially on a lazy morning. A dash of milk, if you prefer or simply, black tea with lemon - very British indeed!
Lemon Detox Green Tea - With citrus notes of lemon slices and lemon, this one made us smile! A truly exceptional green tea with lemon, a bright yellow cup that zings with lemony freshness and lingers long after drinking. Great for spas and serves as a post workout beverage.
Orange and Mango Oolong tea - Distinctively fruity notes from mango, orange peel and pineapple flavours, blended with a luscious, creamy semi-fermented Milk Oolong tea. The first sip reveals fruity flavours with prominent citrus notes followed by a soothing creamy aftertaste of lingering vanilla finish, all good for post lunch reflections.
Mogo Mogo Green Tea - Happy notes of bananas, mango, melons and guava hit your palate as you take in the first sip of this super fruity blend followed by floral nuances of sunflowers and cornflowers. A fruit melange which lends to creative imagination. Also a good brew while reading a book – It will surely bring a smile!
Sweet Dreams - This tisane is meant for instant stress relief. Tiny dry petals of Chamomile instantly get to work at the first sip, lending a citrusy yet floral mouthfeel. Overall, the blend has a simple herbal taste with enhanced nuances of chamomile - just about everything you need for a good night's sleep.
Remember to enjoy it like a ceremony. Enjoy every sip and savour in your mindful moment as apart from destressing, great ideas emerge during such times, mine sure did!