What comes to mind when you think of tea?
Even the idea of a warm cup of tea brings a sense of comfort. Tea meditation is a relaxing mindfulness practice that uses the ritual of making tea to anchor your mind to the present moment.
It comes as no surprise that drinking a cup of tea has become an integral part of the traditions of many countries across the world, such as China, India, England, Morocco, Russia, and Argentina among others. In Japan, an elaborate four-hour ceremony is dedicated to the simple pleasure of drinking tea.
What is tea meditation?
You can use tea for meditation during any time of the day as the aroma and taste of tea will help your mind calm and focus. Tea meditation is about being mindful while making the tea, enjoying it, or observing its effects on your mind and body.
The origins of tea meditation
Tea originated in China where in 2737 BC a Chinese emperor ‘discovered’ it by chance. While he was sitting under a tea tree, a servant was boiling some water. A few leaves from the tree fell into the water, making the first cup of tea.
The use of tea for meditation is attributed to Zen Buddhists, more specifically the founder of the school – Indian monk Bodhidharma. Legend has it that tea leaves grew from the eyelids of Bodhidharma after he had torn them to punish himself for falling asleep during meditation.
While Bodhidharma is a historical figure, the legends about his eyelids sprouting into tea leaves is probably just that – a legend. Nevertheless, it illustrates the connection between tea and meditation, the first facilitating the latter.
Benefits of tea meditation
Tea meditation has all the benefits of meditation paired with the positive effects of drinking tea. This peaceful mindfulness ritual can:
- Improve awareness, focus, and attention span
- Decrease stress and anxiety levels
- Cultivate a deeper connection with nature and a sense of gratitude
- Depending on the type of tea, aid with sleep or alertness during meditation
How to practice tea meditation
Practicing tea meditation requires nothing more than following your regular tea-brewing routine with an extra bit of awareness. Staying in the present moment and focusing on the sensory experiences of brewing and drinking tea transforms the entire process.
Pick your tea
Listen to your body. Are you in need of an invigorating morning blend or a soothing cup to ease you into sleep? Your body knows best what it means so give it a moment of silence to guide you.
Choose your cup
There’s a cup for every mood. Choosing a cup that you enjoy can help you set your intention for your mindfulness practice. Maybe a mug that was gifted to you can help you connect with the feeling of gratitude? Or a hand-crafted cup can prompt you to see more beauty around you?
Boil some water
Take a comfortable position and start to deepen your inhales and exhales while you’re waiting for the water to come to a boil. Observe as the water starts to form bubbles and make a sound with its pace increasing. Notice how you feel about this process – are you bored and frustrated, or patient and still. All thoughts are ok, the idea is to notice them, not to judge or change them.
Steep your tea
Like the previous step, steeping your tea is meant to slow your thoughts down. Continue to breathe intentionally. You can try to make your exhales longer than your inhales, controlled and silent.
Watch as the tea color gets more intense.
If you like to add milk, lemon, or sweeten your tea, do it intentionally. Think about your motivation behind each ingredient. Stay mindful of the sound of stirring in some honey or the color changes when you’re pouring some milk.
Nourish your senses
Before you take the first sip, hold the cup in your hands. Notice its shape and texture, feel its warmth on your hands.
Now is the perfect moment to express your gratitude for this moment of stillness. Realize all the care and effort that has made this cup of tea possible. If you’ve set an intention for this practice – whisper it to your tea.
Bring your mug to your nose and inhale the tea’s aroma. What is it, what does it remind you of? How does it make you feel?
When the tea has cooled down to your liking, take your first sip as if you’ve never tasted tea before. The beginner’s mind is an essential concept in Zen Buddhism.
Let the liquid sit on your tongue so you can fully savor the flavor. Is there an aftertaste?
Take your sips mindfully. Notice your pace and your thoughts, and the changes in your tea as you’re drinking it.
Can you go deeper into your experience of sipping on tea?
What tea is the best tea for meditation?
Finding the right type of tea for your meditation will largely depend on your preferences and your needs. While some might enjoy a caffeine-rich tea to keep them from feeling drowsy or falling asleep during meditation, others might look for a calming effect.
With time you can learn about the different herbs that support diverse brain and body functions. As a starting point, here are some common teas for meditation.
Green tea has natural antioxidants, reducing the formation of free radicals in the body. It is also high in caffeine, although not as much as coffee. This means green tea offers the benefits of caffeine, such as improved mood, alertness, and memory, without being over-stimulating. If you are sensitive to caffeine, green tea might not be the best tea for your meditation.
Matcha is a type of green tea made from young leaves. In contrast to the green tea made by steeping leaves, matcha is a tea-leaf powder whisked with hot water.
Traditionally, matcha is used by Zen Buddhism monks to ward off sleepiness and sharpen concentration. When in the 1100s matcha powder was brought into Japan, monks lacked scientific knowledge about caffeine and L-Theanine making tea a balanced blend of relaxation and stimulation. Yet they were mindful enough of how tea cleared their minds.
Peppermint tea is easily recognized by its distinctive fresh smell. It is a common treatment for mild digestive issues as well as headaches. L-menthol, a compound in peppermint tea, has an effect on the nasal sensory nerve endings. As a result, peppermint tea can give you the impression you’re breathing easier. This benefit can enhance your tea meditation.
Chamomile tea is a popular caffeine-free choice for people who have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep. There have been several small studies that found a relationship between drinking chamomile tea and sleep quality. This makes chamomile ideal for an evening tea meditation.
There is almost something magical about the stillness and contemplation that come with drinking tea. With its wide variety of tastes and properties, tea has been charming people around the world for thousands of years. Up until the 18th century, tea was far too expensive to become widely consumed. Isn’t this one more reason to enjoy and be grateful for a lovely tea meditation?
If you are curious about exploring other types of meditation, take a look at these seven beginner-friendly meditations.