The Ultimate Guide to Enjoying a Tea Ceremony at Home
Modern life has a tendency to keep us moving without stop. A moment of refreshing mindfulness can replenish the internal balance lost to the rat race. A perfect way to slow down and reset is to create your own tea ceremony: a set practice of making and enjoying tea.
The Purpose of the Tea Ceremony
Traditional Japanese or Chinese tea ceremonies both involve the ceremonial preparation and presentation of tea. These formal tea ceremonies requires years of training, but in this article, we will show you how to easily create your own enjoyable practice to bring about a deeper sensory experience through tea.
The purpose of the tea ceremony we introduce in this guide isn’t about formalities. It’s more about removing ourselves from the ordinary flow of life and setting aside a bit of time to remind ourselves that we are valuable and deserve tender care.
Incorporating a Tea Ceremony into Your Daily Life
In the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tse says, “The slow overcomes the fast.” There’s great power in slowing down. Practices of mindfulness (even in small doses) have been clinically shown to strengthen our immune systems, decrease depression, improve mental acuity, and relieve chronic pain.
Tea rituals, even when done within just 15 minutes, can create a beautiful moment for us to reground while also giving us a health boost.
Everything You Need to Enjoy A Tea Ceremony at Home
Quality loose leaf tea
It’s important to choose high quality tea for your tea ceremony. As the main component of the tea experience, good tea is essential to enrich your taste journey, but the benefits go beyond the taste buds. Quality tea offers a refreshing fragrance that connects the whole experience to your breath and creates a holistic pleasure that is simply beautiful.
There is a way for new tea drinkers to tell if a tea is of good quality by learning some basics via sight (leaf shape, liquor color), smell (wet leaf aroma) and taste (liquor flavor).
There is an old saying that, “water is the mother of tea, and the vessel is the father of tea”. Good water is what brings out the delicate flavours and complexity of the tea. There is no good tea without good water.
According to the sage Lu Yu (author of the Classic of Tea in the eighth century), the best water for brewing tea is spring water from the mountains. It might be difficult to fetch pure spring water from unpolluted mountains, but bottled spring water makes it easy. However, if that seems excessive, just use a good water filter and avoid using plain tap water which often has impurities that can interfere with the tea.
A Kettle to heat the water
There are a million ways to heat water, but we recommend using a gooseneck kettle. Its long spout allows for a gentle, controlled pour that awakens the leaves instead of shocking them. Any kettle will do the job, however. We just emphasize using a kettle instead of the microwave, which affects the water differently.
This is a simple tool help you better measure the tea and smoothly transfer it to the pot.
For a personal ritual, we have a strong preference for small tea pots (also called gongfu tea pots). The small size yields a more concentrated and tasty tea, producing much more pronounced flavours with each different infusion. This allows the tea to open to its full potential gradually. Between each steep, we can enjoy the aroma, taste, mouthfeel, and aftertaste. You cannot have the same experience with the same tea leaves if the tea is fully brewed in a single step with a large teapot. At Magnifissance, we usually use teapots that hold 120ml to 200ml of water (1-4 small servings).
As the vessel holding the tea, tea cups are an important tool for your ceremony. Growing up in the west, we might be used to drinking tea from giant mugs. And the more giant the cup is — the better! However, we recommend using small tea cups to enjoy the rich notes and different layers of tastes. Each sip becomes important and something to savour.
In gongfu style, the general rule is, more leaves, less water, quick infusions. With each subsequent infusion, the taste changes and evolves. The small cups allow you to really appreciate the unique flavour at each stage of the tea. At Magnifissance, we usually use small and light tea cups that hold anywhere from 50 to 100 ml.
The intensity, color and fragrance of the tea will be different with each steeping. And even within one small pot of tea, the top and bottom of the pot will have differences. A fairness pitcher is a vessel larger than the pot that allows each brew to mix and even out its flavour before being poured into cups. This is especially important when serving two or more friends so that everyone at the table experiences the same flavour (hence, the ‘fairness’ moniker).
A filter is necessary to ensure the purity of the tea. The fine holes filter out tea leaves and other solids that can detract from the drinking experience and leave a gritty taste in the mouth. Moreover, tea filters with special designs can be a pleasant and beautiful decor for your tea experience.
Steps to Create Your Tea Ritual
The structure of the tea ritual is simple. The real trick is to grant yourself permission to slow down, breathe, and appreciate the joy of the moment. Everyone can develop their own nuances to their own rituals.
Now that we have everything we need, we’ve talked about the significance of each element, it’s finally time to enjoy our tea. Gather all the utensils, vessels, tea, and water. Take a breath and realize that the next few minutes are all about you, all about your own senses, your own pleasure. Create a space that feels calm and orderly. As you practice your own ritual, this step becomes more and more important and refined. This is the part of the ceremony where we let go of the demands on our time and attention. Through repetition, the mind and body will grow accustomed to this step and immediately begin calming down as soon as the preparation begins.
2. Scoop the tea
Use a bamboo or wood-made scoop to place the tea into the teapot. For gongfu pots, fill 1/4 or 1/3 of the way full with leaves.
Smell the dry tea leaves. Touch them. Familiarize yourself with the colour and texture.
3.Heat the water
Different teas do best at different temperatures of water. The lighter the tea, the less heat it needs.
|Green, white, yellow||75 °C – 80 °C
(167 °F – 176 °F)
|Oolong, black||90 °C – 95 °C
(194 °F – 203 °F)
|Pu-Erh, dark||95°C – boiling
(203°F – boiling)
For a purer taste, use filtered or mineral water. Please don’t heat your water in a microwave or use the instant hot water dispensers attached to many sinks. Boil your water in a kettle or on a stove.
4. Pour boiled water into teapot
Use a small circular motion when pouring the water gently over the leaves, allowing them to awaken. A simpler method is to pour down the side of the teapot like when trying to avoid foam when pouring a carbonated drink. Try not to pour water directly into the centre of the teapot.
The little tip is to throw out the first brew. Typically, people don’t drink the first brew because it has no real flavour. The leaves are still “waking up.” Use the tea liquid from this first brew to rinse out the tea cup and tea pot. You only want to leave the water in the pot for a few seconds, just to awaken the leaves. Pour it out, and smell the leaves, noticing how much more aroma they have than when they were dry.
With the first brew done, fill the pot up once again while the leaves are still warm. This time, bring it up to the brim where the lid can meet the water and minimize air in the pot.
A gooseneck kettle helps to control the pour. It allows the practitioner of the ritual to draw circles slowly over the tea leaves. You can watch the leaves expand as they awaken, and enjoy the release of their initial bouquet of aroma, which transforms again and again throughout the process. Take time to notice the differences—especially if they are subtle.
If you’re like many people who’ve made it this far in the process you will notice that the more you allow yourself to have mindful moments with tea, the subtleties of its nature will surprise and delight you again and again.
5. Pour tea into a fairness pitcher
Place the tea filter on the fairness pitcher. This will catch any leaf debris that might escape while pouring. Once the liquid is completely drained out of the teapot, remove the lid and smell the pot. This will help build sensitivity to the flavour development of the tea after each brew.
Take note of your steep times and look at the fairness pitcher to see the color of your brew. For future brews, you will develop your infusion preference of lighter or darker. It is a pleasure to play with different strengths of infusions and notice how they are different for each type of tea leaf.
6. Pour from the fairness pitcher to tea cups
Smell the tea. Sip the tea. Take note of the experience and allow the descriptions to come to your mind. Earthy, fruity, woody, etc. Take as long as you want to drink the cup. The serving is small, so it only takes a few sips, reminding you to enjoy each one.
7. Steep the leaves again
Repeat steps 4 -6 until satisfied or the tea leaves need to be replenished. Another benefit of the small gongfu teapot is that you can steep the same leaves 7 or 8 times, and each infusion has different characteristics. Enjoy the subtle differences of aroma and colour of the tea in each brew.
8. Practice your ceremony regularly
Make the ceremony your own, and remember it’s just about enjoying yourself. These simple steps can help you create a healthy habit that will beautify your life and reground you to take on the world each day. Sit back, smile, and enjoy the world of flavours held in each cup.