Appreciating Tea

How do we appreciate tea? Is there something inherently different between having a mug of tea, preparing gongfu style, and having a formal tea ceremony?

Think about the time involved for each. The rush. You might make a mug of tea at work or on the go – something to get caffeine or because you just love the taste. You don’t have much time to appreciate it beyond the initial taste.

Gongfu style – some of us are lucky enough to brew this way at all! – can take more time to get the full experience. We can drink for multiple reasons: taste, caffeine, or experience.

Tea ceremonies are formal. Patience is a necessity. Obviously, you have much more time to appreciate each drop in every cup.

Appreciating anything comes in two experiences: Appreciating in solitude and appreciating in groups.

Appreciation in Solitude

Solitude is a reflective time. Tea, for me, is a way to practice awareness. Smell the lid of the gaiwan, the leaves, the cup, the liquor. Feel the leaves, look at the colors.

Appreciation of tea is immersion. Immersion is losing yourself in the moment – awareness is feeling everything at a heightened level. Strive for both. Strive for heightened immersion. Cut off your senses one at a time. Smell the tea with your eyes closed. Have minimal noise or distractions. Put your phone away. Enjoy each sensation from the tea – how each sip feels on the tongue and the throat. Understand how your body feels in response.

There are no right or wrong feelings, scents, tastes. There is only the importance of being aware in the moment and fully immersed in the experience.

Appreciation in Groups

Drinking socially is just as important. Share your tea experiences either as you have them or after the fact. Let people know how you feel in an open way, remembering there are no correct answers. If your experience triggers a memory, share it. If you think it tastes like popcorn, tell people. Don’t judge the tea as a whole, but understand your feelings about it, whether you thought the experience was worth the price.

We, as humans, are social creatures and we crave interaction. Abraham Maslow, in 1943, developed his Hierarchy of Needs. After the base physiological needs of food, water, and air, we need security. After that, we need a sense of belonging. This sense of belonging is your contribution to and gift from the community. We need this belonging before we can have self esteem or be self actualized.

Sharing your thoughts, pictures, and tasting notes are all ways to gain belonging in the community. Sharing your experiences socially also helps you to be more cognizant and aware of your thoughts when having tea to begin with.

Tea tastes better when you take the time to appreciate the nuance. We learn more, we grow, we educate others. When we grow in our appreciation, we give it to others.

The tea ceremony is the formal way to experience tea and appreciate everything about it, but we can have that same appreciation every day through every cup. Turn your passion into community.

Until the next cup.