Wednesday, 20 January 2010

The Joy of Tea (January '10 Webzine Blog)

One forgotten joy I reconnected with on my recent trip to England is the traditional English tea break. The tradition dates back over three hundred years, to when tea was first introduced to England from India (via Portugal), at the end of the 17th century. The drink became increasingly popular under Queen Victoria, when England controlled the majority of the tea trade, and afternoon tea developed into an elaborate ceremony amongst the upper classes. These days Britain has the second highest tea consumption per person in the world (Turkey is first).

Although afternoon tea can be an elaborate ceremony, the every-day tea break is usually a simple affair – a 15 to 30 minute rest for a cup of tea and maybe a couple of biscuits or some cake, before going back to work. As well as giving your body and mind some time to recover from the day's toil, the tea break is also a social occasion, often taken together with colleagues or friends. I had been in Korea a few months when I started to notice I wasn't drinking as much tea as I used to (in England I averaged about 4 cups a day, and I had taken a large stash of teabags with me to Korea). Drinking tea just wasn't as refreshing as it used to be. I cast around for the answer – was it the milk, or was the water different in Korea? I eventually decided it was the social aspect of the tea break I was missing, in Korea I simply didn't have a regular group of friends to take it with me (sadly, while my wife picked up a few English habits from her time in England, tea-drinking isn't one of them). To make up for this I tried joining in with a few colleagues in their post-lunch coffee, but the effect just wasn't the same – within 5 minutes we had gone to the instant coffee machine, drank the coffee, and were back at work – hardly a break at all!

This story of the loss of my tea-breaks may sound light-hearted, but I have decided it is very serious indeed. My trip to England over Christmas gave me some time to reflect on the last year, and I realised that too many times I had been stressed and exhausted by the multiple responsibilities of work and home. Not that there was too much to do – I was busy, but not impossibly so – rather that having to hold on to many different tasks had tied my mind in tighter and tighter knots. I usually consider myself to be quite a relaxed and easy-going person so I was quite puzzled as to the cause of these new stresses. I am now sure that they were down to the lack of tea breaks – which meant I had no time to clear my mind of one task before starting the next. Rather as a cup which is reused repeatedly without cleaning, my mind became stained and mucky.

Luckily, while in England I rediscovered the tea-break as the perfect way to clean my mind. So, since January is the time for new year's resolutions (which usually last until about February), this year I resolved to restart my old habit and give myself at least a couple of tea breaks a day. In fact, maybe it's time for me to have one now...

1 comment:

Hems said...

The joy of Mark! What a lovely blog, how many cups have you had today?