Tea Party

Looking for a respite from distraction? It's as close as a cup of tea.

Illustration by Jason Lee

TIME: 10 minutes

Over the years that I’ve been running Samovar Tea Lounge in San Francisco, I’ve found that life doesn’t actually get better when we’re distracted—surfing online, updating our status, checking the news, generally immersed in our devices. Life gets better when we’re connecting with real people in real time. Not to mention that the less time we spend on our devices, the more time we have to actually do something. Write something. Create something. Taste something.

The ritual of tea—boiling the water, brewing the leaves, and sipping the infusion— does something that little else in life does these days: it gives us a little hiatus, a break in the action. Compared with the nano-gap we might get while waiting at a stoplight or grabbing a quick espresso, this is time we can actually dive into and enjoy.

We’re not talking hours here. Try 10 minutes and see how you feel. It doesn’t need to be complicated. Pay attention to each step, take your time, and you may find that for the rest of your day you’re a little more relaxed, present, and cheerful.

1. Buy some good tea. Wholeleaf tea is generally fresher and better tasting—you get more bang for the buck. Look for consistency in size, shape, and color. I recommend unflavored tea, because it’s generally better quality. And it’s a fraction of the cost of tea bags or coffee.

2. When you’re boiling the water, just boil the water. Don’t do anything else. If you have a glass kettle, watch the bubbles go from tiny to large to roiling. Notice your breath and allow this experience to set the tone. The Earth is mostly water. You are mostly water. Water is a miracle, and so is heat. Enjoy them.

3. Add about 1 cup of boiled water to 1 heaping tablespoon of tea. Steep the leaves for only 1 minute. I like to use a generous amount of tea leaves to maximize their flavor and caffeine and brew it quickly. Notice the steam wafting up. Notice the aromas arising out of your cup. Breathe easy.

4. Remove the infusion and just sit with the tea for 2 minutes. Let it cool slightly and notice the color of the brew. Enjoy the aroma in the air. Feel the ceramic in your hand. Appreciate the fact that this infusion was made possible by someone thousands of miles away who picked the leaves.

5. Now is the time to drink your tea. Sip slowly. Pay attention to the temperature. Is it hot, warm, or cool? Notice the taste. Is it earthy or grassy or floral? How does the body of the tea feel in your mouth? Creamy and full, dry and thin, heavy or light? You might notice that taking this time to enjoy just one activity enriches all the others in your day. That’s not because the activities have changed. But you have.

This article also appeared in the October 2013 issue of Mindful magazine.