I am a firm believer in the power of rituals. They fix us in a time and space of our own choosing and can provide comfort us when the world surrounding us seems strange, uncertain, or entirely beyond our powers of influence. Rituals are repeated actions that convey a sense of solidity that some things in life do not change easily if we hold on them and bestow them with value. By practicing our most treasured rituals regularly, we restore coherency to our often scattered lives and regain confidence at the times of the day or year when we need it most.
Making tea and coffee, or a similar warm beverage of your choice, is one of the simplest daily rituals there is. Too often, however, we forget to reflect on what such seemingly mundane tasks mean to us. They aren’t mundane at all if we do them mindfully. This is what I discovered after years rushing through tea and coffee making just to get the warm liquid and caffeine pick me up into my body. I have now developed a daily ritual that varies somewhat with the seasons but that follows me throughout the day from early morning until evening, shortly before retiring to sleep for the night.
I begin my winter weekday mornings with one or two cups of Yogi Ginger Tea, which is available at a discount as a bulk buy on Amazon. I love the refreshing bite of the ginger and gentle heat of the ground pepper in the blend, but I also always am eager to discover the “daily affirmations” that appear on the back of each paper label of the tea bag. They always seem to know exactly what to say, and they give me a tiny jolt of happiness that helps me to start the day with fresh eyes and an open heart.
Midmorning coffee comes next, around 10:30am, following three hours of online work, which typically means some form of writing for me. After all that sitting in front of a laptop and searching the innermost recesses of my mind for yet another source of creativity and imagination, I am ready for a mental break. So, I head into the kitchen and take out a Soehnle Swiss-made digital kitchen scale, my 1ZPresso Coffee Grinder, and my Hario V60 Pour Over Setup. I measure 25 grams of organic single origin coffee from a local San Francisco Bay Area roaster, such as Ikon Coffee (whose”Hamesho Kebana” beans from Ethiopia are pictured above) and grind it at a medium-fine setting as I wait for water in my Cuisinart stainless steel electric kettle to reach 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, I make the pour over slowly over the course of about three minutes of brew time.
As I pour the water from the kettle over the ground beans, I savor the aromas emanating from the white ceramic filter before emptying the contents of the V60 carafe into a blue enameled ceramic mug that I purchased at Big Creek Coffee in Hamilton, Montana when I was teaching in Missoula about seven years ago. In the past, I used to strive for the “perfect” pour over that would match those I had enjoyed at high end, third wave coffee shops in Northern California, Oregon, and Washington I have visited in the past. Now, I am content with just a well made cup. In truth, it often takes me just as long to make the coffee as it does to drink it. But that’s probably the point. I am not striving for efficiency. I am seeking solace in the simple act of making an enlivening beverage of my choice by hand, using the tools in my kitchen and the simple but effective techniques I have honed over years of practice.
I also am not particularly attached to any one local coffee purveyor. My only criteria is that they roast locally, source responsibly, import organic, fairly traded beans, and be good members of their community. This means small businesses like Ikon, who do not sell on large e-commerce web sites like Amazon, but it can also included Verve Coffee in nearby Santa Cruz, whose Seabright House blend is part of Amazon’s winter 2020 offerings.
Afternoon tea comes next, generally around 1pm in the afternoon, following a 30-minute high intensity workout using light weights and a Kulae eco yoga mat for sit ups, which I repurposed from Bikram hot yoga days at Bomitra Yoga in Mountain View, closed since spring 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions. The green teas I prefer are always of the loose leaf in variety, and I am very exacting about quality. There is a lot of cheaply made bagged green tea on the market grown with heavy use of fertilizers and pesticides, and the last thing I want to do after periodic fasting all morning and then exercising is to further stress my body with unwanted chemicals or additives.
My current favorite tea companies are Rishi, based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Rare Tea Company, which is based in London and whose founder, Henrietta Lovell, is also an accomplished author of an award-winning memoir, Infused: Adventures in Tea. Both of their selections of black, green, white, and herbal teas are impressive, and their web sites are a wealth of information on how and where they source their offerings. They both have great social media presences as well and post special offers from time to time, although each now sell some of their products on Amazon, which gives you as potential buyer the advantage of convenience and the possibility that your order will qualify for free shipping.
Rishi Tea makes an excellent ginger turmeric herbal blend that is an excellent morning alternative to Yogi’s ginger tea, especially if want to enjoy the health benefits of raw ground turmeric and like its distinctive color and aroma. Rare Tea Company makes a superb jasmine silver tips white tea that is a special afternoon treat when I am feeling the need to decompress more fully after a particularly tough bit of online tasking, whether it be posting on social media or revising something I have written earlier that day.
High quality green and white tea, as well as oolong and some black teas, can be infused several times and still provide great drinking pleasure and potency, making them perfect afternoon beverages to get you through the tough hours before ending work and starting on the main meal of the day around 5pm.
Once the main meal is prepared, eaten, and the dishes put in the washer (run only one a day to conserve water), I’ll relax with a book, film, or streaming service on the couch with a cup of Mighty Leaf Tea or similar high end herbal blend. Chamomile tea is generally a reliable way to help put me in a blissful and reflective mood, so that I can better take stock of the day’s ups and downs and plot out my strategy for the coming day. Each and very time I sip I take reminds me that my day has not been the worst imaginable, because otherwise the evening tea ritual would have already been abandoned. I would either be working feverishly on my laptop trying to finish something in a rushed and hurried fashion, or I would be too agitated to enjoy the simple act of tea making and choose something else to drink instead.
Rituals are not meant to set the world aflame with their revolutionary powers or transformative potential. Writing this essay and posting it online won’t make me a millionaire, either. But it has given me the opportunity to share with you something special about my ordinary day, and that is something extraordinary, indeed. Thanks as always for reading. Enjoy a well made cup of tea or coffee for me and let me know what brands and varieties you like best. Cheers!