The Ritual of Tea

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Walk into a friend’s home and you will likely be offered a beverage.

The ritual seems universal. If you confess that you’re not feeling well, chances are that beverage will be a cup of tea.

We all find tea physically soothing and emotionally comforting; perhaps that’s where the association of health and ritual began. Our mothers and grandmothers certainly weren’t privy to scientific research confirming the health benefits of tea, but through folklore had discovered its healing qualities.

Science has not fully explained why the ancient ritual of tea is a calming influence. Public concerns about health, obesity and stress do not fully account for tea’s new-found popularity. I believe tea has a broader and deeper meaning to many of us.

In a world that appears to be spinning out of control, most of us are searching for ways to reduce stress and bring peace and comfort back into our lives. We might not be able to improve the fiscal problems that are wreaking havoc around the world, or reduce the rate of global warming, but we can embrace a practice that holds a promise of comfort, health and inspiration.

Jesse Jacobs, the founder of Samovar Tea Lounge in San Francisco and a prolific writer on the benefits of ritual says “The simple act of brewing, sipping, and savoring tea leaves in a cup elevates you above the chaos in life today. Filling you with flavor, calm, and vitality, the tea ritual is a vehicle for both inner peace and health, and interpersonal connection and happiness.”

“This basic infusion of water and leaves connect the drinker from the moment to the artisan farmer thousands of miles away. And to the sun, soil, rain and wind that helped grow those very leaves. This simple experience allows the drinker to pause for just a moment, and to listen to their heartbeat. To perceive their surroundings and their life and to savor it all,” says Jacobs.

Is tea really healing? Civilizations over millennia have used tea to treat illness in the body, mind and spirit. Science is slowly catching up to the intuitive wisdom of healers around the world and actively investigating the profound health benefits of medicinal plants and herbs. It’s not uncommon to pick up a magazine weekly and read about a recent scientific finding confirming the remarkable properties of a given botanical. The beloved Camellia sinensis is the current media darling, demonstrating great promise in protecting us from disease and improving our health.

This September the Fifth International Scientific Symposium on Tea & Human Health will bring researchers from all corners of the globe to Washington, D.C. to share insights into their latest research. They will present compelling evidence that tea nourishes and protects our bodies, aids digestion, reduces cholesterol, even fights cavities. But in every instance these benefits depend on consuming three, four or even five cups of tea a day. This is where the ritual of tea plays such an important role in promoting good health.

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