Illustrations by Nicki France
Day to day, finding the time to really relax and enjoy the moment is challenging, but essential. After a long day at work, a rejuvenating routine is a great way to unwind or recharge for personal projects. That’s why building a habit around the process of brewing gong fu cha, or Chinese tea brewing, is perfect. Tea provides both stress relief and gentle energy, and can give you the focus you need to leave the workday behind and start fresh.
For some however, the process of preparing your tea, water, and teaware after a long day at work can seem like too much of a hassle to even begin. Here are some ideas on how to make gong fu tea a natural and easy part of your day.
1. Find a comfortable spot in your home in front of a window with natural light.
Pick a comfortable spot free of clutter and distraction, preferably in front of a window with natural light. If it’s dark outside, consider dimming the house lights or lighting a few candles. This makes a nice transition from bright fluorescent lights, which tend to dominate the work environment.
2. Put on some music.
Find some music that you find soothing, and play it at a low volume. We recommend instrumental music - jazz is a particular favorite of ours, especially Miles Davis’ album Kind of Blue. Classical music is also a wonderful choice.
After making your music selection, put the water on to boil. By the time the first song ends, your water will be ready to use.
3. Clear your tea space.
Gong fu cha can make use of a lot of small items - teapots, cups, gaiwans, tea utensils - and the process of using them can seem too complicated. To avoid this, keep your setup simple. Just pick your favorite teapot and your favorite cup.
While you are bringing out your teaware, try to tidy your tea drinking space. Tidying up as you take out your teaware helps you create a cleaner space, which is not only satisfying but soothing. We all feel better when our living environment is in order, and doing both at the same time saves you a step.
4. Choose your tea.
This is the fun part of the process, but if you are like me and have several different types of teas to choose from, it can also be stressful. Instead of getting lost in choice, I recommend picking out the first tea you lay eyes on, or better yet, closing your eyes and picking a tea at random.
Personally, when I can’t decide on a tea, I ask myself if I want to feel comforted, or if I want to feel invigorated. If I want comfort, I’ll go with a dark and rich black tea, like Gold Thread; if I want to be invigorated, I choose a light and refreshing oolong tea, like Alishan or Honey Orchid.
5. Pour your water, take some breaths.
When your water is ready, add it to your tea and take some deep, cleansing breaths. Give your neck a stretch as you breathe in and out, and feel the stress of the day leaving your body. By the time you’ve finished taking 3-5 deep breaths to clear your mind, your first brew is ready to drink.
As you begin to drink your tea, begin to think towards the rest of your day. The past events of the day are behind you; the time you have left in the day is yours.
Keep breathing to clear your mind as you brew a few infusions. Stop when you’ve had enough tea, or when you feel the tension ease away.
6. Enjoy your tea, and think about what you want to do next.
Now that you’ve cleared your mind of any lingering distractions, you can turn your relaxed and focused mind towards what you would like to do with the rest of your day. Keep some paper and a pen nearby to write down your thoughts or goals, if inspiration strikes.
Do you want to relax, and finally get to that book you’ve been trying to finish? How about catching up on your favorite tv show, cooking a nice meal to enjoy, or browsing your favorite website?
Maybe you want to turn your new focus towards a personal project. Do you want to take up a new hobby? Maybe there’s side hustle you’ve been meaning to develop, or maybe you want to take some time to organize the week ahead. This time is yours.
Whatever you set your mind to, the relaxation and focus of a daily tea habit can help you leave the stress of a long day behind, allowing you to fully take part in the activities you enjoy without any nagging worries about work.
We all have lives outside our careers, and often we can overlook how important it is to be present for ourselves. Time is precious, and in as little as ten minutes, preparing a simple cup of tea can help you make your time yours again.
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