Taking a bowl of green tea in your hands and drinking it, you feel one with nature and there is peace. This peace can be spread by offering a bowl of tea to another. I hope you will drink and share this peace with me.
-Soshitsu Sen XV, Tea Life, Tea Mind
Many times, I have been able to create a world in a cup of tea. While learning about different types of teas from around the world, I have also learned that each one has a different personality and the importance of water temperature to bring out the perfect balance.
A few years ago, I was parent teaching at our middle school and one night I decided to introduce the concept of relaxing with tea. Many of the attendees were moms, who are often tired and stressed, forget about themselves, and lose balance in their lives. I told them, “This class is about you.” I explained that it was very important that they take 10 minutes every evening after putting their kids to bed to reflect and breathe. To show them how, I had prepared tea, brought some relaxing music, delicious scents, and photographs of beautiful scenery, and had them relax. They cried. They loved it! They quickly realized they were need of those 10 minutes for themselves.
It is important for human beings to maintain balance in the four pillars of their lives – mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual. This balance brings out the best in us and helps us reflect.
When you sip that cup of tea, think about the calm and serene area from which your tea was harvested. The Camellia sinensis plant must have the right temperature and soil to grow well. Sometimes, the climate or the soil is not ideal, but with the proper cultivation, the conditions can be improved and good tea can result.
At the end of the day, spend some time in a favorite spot – a cosy room or garden – and set the mood. Select candles with a clean scent. Listen to relaxing music to help your mind drift – I recommend nature sounds. Invest in a small fountain (the trickling of water soothes). Contemplate a picture of a beautiful landscape, a tropical island, or crystal-clear waters. Then select your tea and your favorite cup.
Listen as you pour the tea into your cup, take the cup and inhale the scent, take some sips, close your eyes, and transfer yourself to that beautiful scenery and – just for that instant – forget your worries.
Last May at Kulov’s Annual Tea Festival, while attending a workshop with Angie and David of 1001 Plateaus, I learned a different way to brew tea, which was drawn from Lu Yu’s The Classic of Tea:
When the water looks to have fish eyes, and the hint of sound, it is at its first stage, and excellent for white and green teas; when it looks like pearls strung together, it is in its second stage, and excellent for oolongs and blacks. If, however, it leaps like ocean waves, it is boiled out and should not be used.
Here are some suggestions for brewing tea:
Green – 175-180 degrees – 3 minutes
White – 185 degrees – 3-5 minutes
Oolong – 190 degrees – 5 minutes
Herbal – 212 degrees – 2-4 minutes