Friday, August 22, 2008

Tea Time Tangents: Time To Breathe

A little while ago, I tossed around the idea of taking tea every afternoon, as a sort of calming ritual. Yesterday was my first foray into this English tradition, and let me tell you, it felt good.

Tea might have some potential beneficial properties, or perhaps not, but I'm not taking tea for those reasons. Neither am I taking tea to get an energetic boost from the caffeine therein. Rather it's the opposite - I want to find a moment in the day to relax. For a long time, I've been curious about European traditions which bely the American way of life in terms of work and play. A lot has been made of it, about how stereotypical American daily life consists of work, work, work for a continuous stretch of time and then it's home for perhaps another whirlwind of dinner dates, homework and soccer practice if you have kids, and eeking by on a few hours of sleep a night. That doesn't sound very appealing. Not all American households go through this sort of routine of course. In fact certain industries, especially the high tech and gaming ones, are famous for adopting a playful, relaxed environment at their places of business - which puts emphasis on their employees' comfort, and the basic human need for rest, or breaks, from the stressors of work during actual work hours. Some companies take those needs a step, or giant leaps, further. [Sniffle] I want that!

While most of us won't be able to take advantage of those kinds of perks and employer mindset, we can try to incorporate a routine into our daily schedules that mimic the idea of relaxation to increase productivity. Taking naps, or siestas, at mid-day after lunch is one such way. In the US, not many jobs allow for naps during the day, unfortunately - but many of them do [and should] provide a coffee break. If this little break in the day provides you with the best opportunity to unwind, take advantage of it and create a cozy routine for yourself, where you can rest your body and your mind. Bring your favorite tea cup or coffee mug, if coffee is more your thing, along with the yummiest teas or coffees that you like. Also treat yourself to a tasty nibble of some sort, whatever you like, to eat with your tea or coffee. Breathe. Relax.

When I took tea yesterday afternoon, a tad bit late at 5:00 pm but what the hay, I drank green tea [from a tea bag] straight with no milk or sugar involved. I poured water into my crimson Anthropologie tea cup, and heated it up in the microwave! I know none of this sounds like the proper way to do it, English style, but that's okay isn't it? It's the thought that counts and the end result was blissful satisfaction. The process will improve with time, less laziness, and the purchase of loose tea leaves, I'm sure of it! Oh, and also a tea pot. I need a tea pot. After the water was nice and hot, I submerged the green tea bag into the cup and let it steep, albeit improperly. I drank my little cup of tea along with an egg salad sandwich, with the crusts cut off. I normally don't cut the crusts off my bread, but in this case, I made the extra effort. The whole experience of taking tea was comforting in and of itself, and my desire to make this a personal ritual is very strong. If I am at home around tea time, I will take tea.

Warm tea is comforting, but the nibble accompanying it interests me far more. Tea sandwiches are of course always an option. Homemade baked goods like cookies, cakes, and muffins or scones are without a doubt excellent contenders for that coveted spot on the tea plate. I hope the baking bug bites me often! And if fresh ingredients aren't available, store bought yummies will do just fine. More than fine even. In fact, I'm going to have a Little Debby Oatmeal Cream Pie with my tea this afternoon. Why not I say!

[Photo of Spode tea cup is from Gift Collector, photo of a restful nap is from, and photo of luscious tea cakes is from BBC Good Food]

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