Keri was introduced to a new way to practice mindfulness – a Chinese tea ceremony.
Having a cup of tea is considered a rather British past-time, but when was the last time you sat back and really enjoyed a cuppa, rather than sipping tea as you work or while you’re pottering around the house trying to get jobs done?
(Thankfully) the majority of us are putting more importance on mental health and one aspect of looking after yourself is to stop, take time out and relish the moment. This concept of mindfulness can be brought into almost anything and that includes truly enjoying a cup of tea.
Introducing the August Moon Tea shop, Cheltenham
I was reminded of this when I visited August Moon Tea, a tea shop in Cheltenham, one rainy evening earlier this month. I’d come to take part in my first ever Chinese tea ceremony and wasn’t sure what to expect. What I discovered was a sanctuary of calm, where I sat in comfortable silence and simply took in the sounds, smells and tastes involved in drinking tea.
With Justin having recently come from hospital after having (unexpected) major surgery and me juggling work full-time alongside carer duties, I’d been going non-stop for weeks. But when I got inside, took off my coat, my shoes and sat down on a pillow, I made an unconscious sigh as I came to terms with the fact that for the first time in what felt like forever, I had nothing to do but stop, sit, and relax.
The funny thing was, all five us who came along that night did something similar when we sat down. All freelancers, our lives are go, go, go, and we were now faced with a blissful hour of a half where our goal was to do nothing but enjoy some tea and our time together.
A passion for all things tea
August Moon is run by the lovely Estelle Liu, a diminutive lady who originally hails from China and has brought across with her a delightful passion for tea. As well as running the tea store (you can also buy her teas online), she regularly hosts a series of events, from tea tasting sessions through to Chinese and mindful tea ceremonies.
Once the five us had got comfy, Estelle began to set everything up to begin. Distilled water was poured into a gorgeous silver pot which was then placed onto a portable heater next to her on the floor. As she turned over our china cups, she began to tell us about the history of tea in China and how the concept of the tea ceremony came about.
Experiencing my first Chinese tea ceremony
We began the evening by drinking an aged white tea. Estelle taught us that these are one of the best kinds of tea to drink in the evening, as they have the least caffeine and can actually help promote better sleep. Green is at the other end of the scale, so best keep that to mornings, fact fans. After a few cups of the white however, which changed in colour and flavour with each brew, Estelle also shared with us a black tea. I loved both but I have to say there’s something special about the lightness of the white we supped.
The tea ceremony is essentially a form of mindfulness, focusing on each act as is comes. The smell of the dry tea, pouring the water into the pot, after brewing pouring the tea through a strainer, smelling the pot, pouring the tea into a cup and so on. I have to say, I almost became hypnotised by the water as it fell from the silver teapot.
A new way to practice mindfulness
Our first few cups, served by Estelle, were enjoyed in silence, and then in time we became more involved in the ceremony; serving the person next to us, learning to slurp the tea (you get more of the flavour!) and just enjoying the moment. Some of the time we chatted, with Estelle telling us stories of her home town and family, while other times we sat in comfortable silence, relishing the moment to its full.
Estelle also taught us that a tea ceremony can be taken at anytime with any amount of people – it doesn’t have to be saved for special occasions. Whenever you want to, or feel the need, take out your tea set and enjoy. Spend time choosing which crockery you’d like, which tea you wish to enjoy and then embrace that time you’ve given yourself, whether alone or with friends.
Why you should visit August Moon Tea
I’m so glad I took the time to drive over to Cheltenham, meet Estelle and take part in my first ever Chinese tea ceremony. The short time I spent there reminded me of the importance of taking time to look after myself and also just to enjoy the moment. We were all loathe to put on our shoes and coats and leave the sanctuary of her cosy store but I can say we all left much more relaxed.
If you’re in the area I highly recommend a visit to one of her tea ceremonies – perhaps you might even see me there as I’ll definitely be back. Venturing back out into the dark, rainy night we prepared to return to our busy worlds, but it felt like whatever we might face it would be ok. “You know where I am if you need me,” said Estelle as she waved us off, “pop by anytime and I’ll make you a cup of tea”.