Tea Meditation Rituals that Help You to De-Stress in a Tasty Way
I have always enjoyed a good cup of tea. The whole process of boiling water, steeping the tea leaves, and pouring out into a pretty mug is a welcome antidote to our fast and quick culture. When I recently learned about Zen tea meditation rituals, it made sense to me. The central practice of a tea ritual is one of mindful meditation. There are many research studies that have supported various benefits of mindfulness meditation, and I will discuss those here. Many cultures enjoy tea, and I have compiled a list of these along with some recommendations for tea to enjoy during each.
Following a tea ritual couples the benefits of mindfulness meditation along with the health benefits of tea. Research on mindfulness meditation has identified both cognitive and emotional benefits. These benefits include reduced rumination, stress reduction, boosts to working memory, focus, less emotional reactivity, more cognitive flexibility, relationship satisfaction, and other benefits.
The health benefits of tea are also well researched. Studies have found that drinking tea may reduce heart disease, lower cholesterol, and encourage weight loss. The flavonoids found in tea may even reduce cancer.
Everyone can benefit from a tea meditation ritual. It can be enjoyed any time of day, and can be performed alone or with company. The practice of mindfulness meditation can make any practice from the traditional Japanese Zen Tea to the English Afternoon tea meditative and beneficial. Let me share with you my favorites and the best tea for meditation in each one.
#1 – Japanese Zen Way of Tea
This ritual is the most natural for meditation, as it was created with that purpose in mind. There is a Zen phrase, “ichi-go ichi-e”, which can be translated “one time, one meeting”. This phrase is meant to remind us how each moment is unique and to treasure it. The Japanese Way of Tea (or Japanese Tea Ceremony) was founded by Sen no Rikyu. There is a story told about him, where a student asked him to say the most important teachings of the tea ceremony.
Sen no Rikyu answered, “First you must make a delicious bowl of tea; lay the charcoal so the water boils; arrange the flowers as they are in the field; in the summer suggest coolness, in the winter, warmth; do everything ahead of time; prepare for rain; and give those with whom you find yourself every consideration.”
The student was disappointed with his response, as it was already known to him. Rikyu told him that the difficulty lies in doing the simple things well. If he could do that, he would be able to teach Rikyu. (https://buddhaimonia.com/blog/find-peace-destress-with-tea-meditation)
In modern practice, the Japanese tea ceremony can be broken down into simple steps. As Sen no Rikyu noted, though, the difficulty is in doing each of the simple things well. Seek to be truly present in each step; savor the slowness of water boiling, sink into the peace of simply enjoying the tea you drink, relish the company you may have or the peace of solitude, and be grateful above all.
The pow(d)er of Matcha
This is a wonderful ritual to perform in the morning, as the meditation, it brings sets your morning off right. For this ritual I would recommend either one of these two following teas for meditation: For a truly traditional experience, try a matcha tea. Zen Spirit’s Organic Green Tea Matcha Powder is a great choice. For a similar but simpler experience try a tea bag style matcha blend tea.
If you’re planning to try matcha tea you’ll need a special whisker. It’s not expensive at all and it is really fun to use.
#2 – English Afternoon Tea
Although you might not think of English Afternoon Tea as ritualistic, it has all the markings of one. And while it may not be traditionally viewed as a meditation ritual, if all of the steps are followed with focus and intention it can easily become one.
The English custom of having afternoon tea began with the Duchess of Bedford, who would have an afternoon snack along with a pot of tea, to break up the time between lunch and dinner. The English ritual of preparing tea traditionally requires a teapot and a strainer or tea ball. You boil the water in a kettle, taking care to not scald the water. You place teaspoons of loose tea into the teapot, generally adding one for each person, plus one for the pot.
Alternatively, you can place the tea in a tea ball, which is then placed in the teapot. You then pour the hot water over the tea leaves and allow the tea to infuse for the proper amount of time. This is generally 3-5 minutes, although that time varies with different teas. Meanwhile, add a little milk to the bottom of your teacup. Pour the steeped tea through a strainer into the cup. Add sugar cubes as desired and stir. You may also enjoy a light snack with your tea, like cucumber sandwiches.
This practice is great for socializing. Sharing a pot with a friend while being totally present in the moment provides benefits for the friendship as well as the benefits of mindfulness meditation. For this ritual, I would recommend Taylors of Harrogate Pure Ceylon Loose Tea.
#3 – Chinese Tea Ceremony
When it comes to ritual, the Chinese Tea Ceremony is high on the list. Traditionally performed at weddings and to welcome guests, the ceremony is very precise, with every hand movement coordinated. When mastered, this ritual can easily become a meditative practice. There are classes available if you would like to learn this ceremony. I will not detail the steps in this article, but I would recommend this site for an introduction.
#4 – Russian Tea Ceremony
Tea was first introduced to Russia in 1638. At first, only a delicacy available to the nobility, the construction of the Trans-Siberian railroad made it available to everyone.
The Russian Tea Ceremony traditionally utilized an appliance called a samovar, which could hold and dispense boiling water. Black tea would be placed in a teapot, hot water from the samovar would be added, and the teapot would be set aside to steep.
It would steep longer than in other traditions, creating a kind of tea concentrate. You would pour some of the tea-concentrate into your cup, and top it off with sugar and lemon. This ritual can be modernized by utilizing a tea kettle as your samovar. Allow your tea to steep a little longer than five minutes, and be sure to add lemon and sugar.
To enjoy a Russian tea for meditation, I would recommend Kusmi Tea Troika Loose Leaf tea.
Any good quality black tea can be substituted, but for an authentic experience avoid flavored teas. The flavorings should be the lemon and sugar you add, not an artificial flavor.
#5 – Indian Chai Tea
The ritual of preparing Indian Chai tea is more like following a recipe. It begins with a base of Assam tea, and milk, spices, and sugar are added. This sweet, warming brew is enjoyed with savory snacks like a samosa. (In case you’re not familiar with samosa, here’s a great recipe).Follow the mindfulness practice of doing one step at a time, and this ritual can easily become meditative.
Once brewed, hold the drink in your mouth for a while, and really notice the spices. Feel the warmth spread from your mouth down your throat, and be aware of how your body feels. This tea is a great treat on an autumn afternoon.
For the base of homemade masala chai, I would recommend Stash Tea Kopili Estate Special Assam Black Loose Leaf Tea. This tea makes a great base for homemade masala chai. Be sure to also get good quality spices that are as fresh as possible.
#6 – Korean Barley Tea
Although Boricha, or Barley Tea, is not made with tea leaves, it is a delicious and healthful tea. Barley is naturally caffeine free and lends a nutty flavor to the tea. You can purchase barley already roasted or you can toast it yourself at home. Boricha can be enjoyed hot, at room temperature, or cold. This is a great tea to enjoy cold on a hot summer day.
The preparation of boricha is more time consuming than traditional teas, and it may be difficult to remain in a meditative state while it simmers. I would recommend using the time the boricha simmers to set up a space to enjoy the tea. As in the Japanese Tea Meditation Ritual, choose a comfortable location in which to sip your tea. Place some seasonal flowers or items you love on the table beside you. Select a cup that brings you joy. Get ready to savor the tea, and to embrace the moment’s simplicity.
To prepare boricha, rinse a half cup of roasted barley under a faucet. Add the rinsed barley along with two quarts of spring water to a stock pot. Bring to a boil, and let simmer for 20 minutes over medium heat. Strain the tea through cheesecloth into a pitcher. It can now be enjoyed hot, or allowed to cool.
I would recommend Assi Premium Roasted Barley Tea. This tea is beautifully roasted for you, and the flavor is excellent. I’ve always thought the nutty, sweet barley flavor of boricha reminiscent of a good beer. This brand provides that delicious taste, and the size of the package is generous.
Did you enjoy reading about the different tea rituals from around the world? By practicing mindfulness meditation while brewing and enjoying tea, I hope you experience the same peace, clarity, and focus that I have. Consider these rituals a reference to creating your own. Whether you use loose leaf tea, bags, or even barley, by slowing down and being present in each step you can calm your mind and bring a clearer focus to your life.
Please comment below and let me know what you think! If you like what you’ve read, please share.