Tea Time is Me Time

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Like I am sure is the case with many of my blog readers, I have a stressful job. I do love it, and I’m very happy there, but it has a tendency to follow me home. Sometimes I feel like my boss expects me to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He sends emails to all the members of his department—and expects our responses—well outside of work hours.And while I’d like to be that available and prove my dedication to my work, sometimes it can leave me feeling tense and burnt out.

My friends are always telling me to take a vacation. I do–I am sure to take my all of my allotted vacation days every year.Unfortunately,any work I missed is always sitting there for me when I return. I’m not exactly irreplaceable at work but nobody fills in for me while I am gone. The stress of catching up is often not worth the time off. Any restful, rejuvenated feelings I get from being away from the office typically disappear the moment I return. More and more, that Sunday nightlikefeeling of dread creeps into my vacation time as well.That defeats the whole purpose of taking time off in the first place. I felt like I needed to come up with something else, something that actually felt relaxing. I wanted something flexible that I could do as a quick rest or a longer break, something that would be easy to do either at work or at home.

I realized that I drink my favorite beverage at both locations, so I decided to make a relaxing routine out of my already established tea drinking habit. To make it a little more special at work, I brought a favorite mug from home (bye bye, gross and environmentally irresponsible Styrofoam cups!) along with a selection of my favorite types of tea. I put the teas in a cute little container on my desk right next to the mug where I can see them, to remind me to take a break every once in a while. I also set up a strict rule for myself: my tea time is me time. There is nochecking email or picking up the phone. The same goes for when I am at home—although at home it is more of a call screening than a complete avoidance. Friends or family I will answer; work I force myself to wait until I am finished with my break; and numbers I don’t recognize don’t get answered at all. The only thing that I am allowed to do, if the mood strikes, is to read. But it cannot be work related, it can only be for pleasure.

By forcing myself to take a few minutes several times during the day to do something I love helps me get through my day with a smile on my face and a lighter feeling in my heart. I didn’t realize how much I needed to carve that time out of my schedule until I actually did it, and I am so thankful that I did.

What about you? Do you have me time? If so, what does it entail? I want some more ideas to incorporate into my own time!

I’m a Little Teapot

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Some people collect shot glasses, cookie jars, or salt and pepper shakers. I am a collector too, but I prefer to collect teapots. I have some cutesy kiddie type designs, a few fancy china pots, and just about everything in between. My grandmother got me started when I was young when she presented me with a teapot shaped like Winnie-the-Pooh’s tree house. I have collected many others since that first gift, and some of them are high on my list of favorites–but that first one will always have a special place in my heart. I frequently look online and scout out garage sales to see if I can find something unique and special to add to my collection.  I like to say that I have a discerning eye because I don’t just buy every single one I see; instead, my goal is to curate a unique collection in a variety of shapes and styles to show off my eclectic sense of style. I have about forty right now; I keep telling myself that there isn’t enough room in my tiny loft apartment for more but I always manage to find space for the next one whenever I stumble across something worthy of joining the rest of my teapots.

However, I don’t want you to get the wrong impression of me. I am not just a hoarder. The teapots are actually part of my business model. I dream of one day opening a quiet little tea shop and café. It’s the perfect way to indulge in my favorite activity, get my own supply at a great rate, and talk to people about something I love all day long. Making a profit would be an added bonus. I plan to hire someone with pastry experience to bake sweet treats for the customers while they eat. I also want to have some books and magazines, maybe not for purchase but for perhaps for borrowing, like a lending library. I want to be able to serve all my customers with their very own little teapot. I think that will be a fun and unique way to present beverages. I also want the teapots to serve as décor. I have this vision of a shelf that goes all the way around the shop, lined with the teapots I am accumulating. I put every spare penny I have towards achieving that dream. I am maybe halfway there. In a year or two, I think I will start scouting locations. I already know exactly what I am looking for: aquaint main-street-stylebuilding with the tea shop on the first floor, and then I could live in the apartment above.

You’d come and have a cup of tea with me at a place like that, wouldn’t you?

Loose Vs Bagged Tea

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Some people have clear preferences on whether they choose loose or bagged teas. Loose leaf tends to be better in quality and flavor, but bagged tea has a convenience factor that is hard to overlook. At first, I was afraid to use loose leaf tea—I thought it was too complicated to be worth the effort. But once I purchased an infuser teapot and learned how to use it properly, I have really come to enjoy loose leaf tea as well. I have no problem going back and forth between the two—it usually depends on both what I want to drink and where I am.

Loose leaf tea is mostly made from whole tea leaves, and bagged teas tend to be crushed tea leaves. The whole leaves bring a depth of flavor that little bits of broken-up tea leaves cannot match. That tends to be why theloose leaf is a little more expensive—but to most people, the difference in taste tends to make the added expense worth it. It is just like any other higher-ingredient product. It’s either worth it to you or it isn’t. Sometimes I can afford to splurge and sometimes I would rather spend the money on something else. Bagged tea is also more convenient for me to buy because I can grab it at the grocery store along with everything else I need. It doesn’t require a special trip. I can definitely taste the difference, however. That means whenever I want to drink something special or a fragrant tea, I use a loose leaf tea.It just feels more special that way!

For me, drinking loose tea feels more sophisticated. I also enjoy the ritual of measuring it out, then steeping it. Bagged teas I kind of plunk and go, which means there’s no finesse involved. Having said that, bagged teas are great for places like work. There, I don’t have the time to measure out the leaves or have to worry about bringing in and cleaning an infuser from home. It is an extra step that I can’t always be bothered with at work, and sometimes I only have a quick minute or two on mybreak but still want my tea. I can run the hot water setting on the office single-use coffee machine and throw in a bag—done. So, sometimes bagged tea wins!

The great thing about both is that steeping time tends to be the same, which is something that most people don’t know or they just assume one takes longer. That’s not true at all! It depends more on the type of tea you’re drinking rather than the format of the tea leaves. Whichever I choose, about three minutes is all it takes for total tea perfection!

What about you? Do you have a preference?

My Tea Making Ritual

The Japanese have whole ceremonies dedicated to the art of preparing and serving tea. They believe that it is a sacred art form and have both formal and informal versions. Many other countries have something similar—for example, an afternoon or high tea. While I am not quite as formal as all that, I do love the ritual of making and drinking tea. I have my own ritual, now that I think about it. It starts with filling the kettle with water. Then there is the click and whoosh of the gas stove as it kicks on, the blue flames licking at the bottom of the kettle.  I love perusing through all the mugs in my collection—some gifts, some souvenirs, some just magically acquired, but all with a distinct memory attached—to choose the one I feel best represents me in that moment. Next, I peruse the many available varieties of tea that I have in my kitchen. I like to keep a mixture of loose leaf and bagged tea in the house at all times, in an assortment that contains both caffeinated and herbal options to choose from. I tend to pick something caffeinated in the morning, something sweet in the afternoon, and something soothing at night.

I will select my tea and gather anything else I need—spoon; a sweetener such as honey; milk if necessary; and, depending on the type of tea, my tea infuser. While the water is heating up, I prepare my cup. I wait for the sound for the sound of the kettle whistling before removing it from the heat. I love pouring the water into my cup. I watch as the tea slowly infuses the water, changing its color and flavor. The brand and type of tea determine the length of time it is submerged in the water. I like the sound my spoon makes as it rhythmically hits the sides of the cup. I can do these things on autopilot; it is so familiar to me. But I do each thing consciously and mindfully. It is as close to a meditation or prayer as I get.

Once the tea has been prepared, I will bring it to one of my favorite spots in the house to be savored. That usually means that I bring the cup with me into the living room. Then I will curl up in one of the armchairs with my tea and something to read. I have small end tables next to both armchairs specifically to hold my cup while I sit. I breathe it in the way some people select a wine. My very favorite part is my first sip. The payoff to all of my meticulous preparations. I remind myself that even if I have a busy day ahead of me, tea time is my time to let responsibilities go and just savor the moment.