With the country in lockdown and in-person social contact restricted, it is especially important to be aware of how everyday actions can affect our state of mind.
Common advice for people in self-isolation has been to stick closely to your daily schedule, and it seems the tea-break has an important role to play in the quarantine routine. Our Master Blender Amy Reason explains that there are three main reasons drinking tea can be beneficial to our mental health.
The first is what she calls the “ritualistic component” of preparing the tea. This can be “as simple as putting on the jug and adding some milk,” all the way to a full-on ceremonial set-up, which is how Zealong presents teas for tasting during their guided tours. Things like using a favourite mug or cup, pre-warming the teaware, or quirks like turning the teapot three times all contribute to someone’s personal tea ritual, which can be calming and soothing.
Unfortunately, convenience has led to rushed tea-making. What’s important about the tea ritual is that you are creating a “self-care moment” by putting in time and effort, she says. By choosing good quality, whole-leaf teas over commodity teas, you become more mindful of the steps you take to prepare it, and of the quality of the product you’re consuming.
After the tea ritual is complete, we move on to what Amy calls “the magic of the first sip”. Drinking tea is a sensory experience, with aroma, taste, the warmth of the tea or holding the warm cup in your hands. Focusing on the senses can help to ground oneself, especially in moments of high anxiety. Thus, the cup of tea plays an essential role in enduring busy or stressful situations, creating a moment alone to breathe.
Finally, after drinking, tea works its magic on your mind and body. Studies have shown that drinking tea lowers cortisol, the stress hormone. Caffeine also helps provide energy, and together with a compound called L-theanine (found only in tea) results in a “slow burn” of energy throughout the day. This means that instead of feeling wired and exacerbating the effects of anxiety, the L-theanine helps reduce their severity, while still providing mental clarity and focus.
Usually, brewing a pot of tea to share can be a way to connect with others, which is also an important aspect of maintaining mental health. “We are social animals, after all,” she says.
In these unusual times, why not use your tea break to give a friend or loved one a call? Make it an occasion to look forward to: dust off your finest teaware, dress in your best, and have a video conference tea party! Or show someone you are thinking of them, even when you can’t be there in person, by having New Zealand-grown tea sent to their doorstep via contactless delivery.
Whether green, oolong, or black, it’s clear why Amy calls tea “the liquid that makes the world go around”. As if we needed another reason to embrace the beloved tea-break!