These days, just being able to drink my tea while it’s still lukewarm is an accomplishment. However, I’m finding that the days are both long and ultra short, and I’m in disbelief that we’re already in our sixth month of shelter in place mandates. Instead of allowing myself to be carried away by the day’s mountain of tasks between working from home and taking care of my family simultaneously, I’ve been carving out time for an afternoon tea party of one. Some days, I’ll have 30 minutes; other days I’ll only have five. However, the ritual is the same, and there really is nothing quite like the ritual of brewing up your favorite leaf blend and taking the time to pause and ruminate about something or nothing at all while you sip a hot drink. If you take the time and set your intentions to slow down, I think you’ll find that afternoon tea time will become a favorite part of your routine. Here are my tea essentials:
1. A tea kettle
If you need hot water and you need it fast, an electric kettle is essential. Bonus points if you can control the temperature (because different tea leaves taste best at different temperatures) AND it looks good on your counter, like this Stagg EKG+ Electric Kettle by Fellow.
2. A teapot
My preference is a Japanese Kyusu, like this one from Kinto, which has a few benefits over a regular teapot with a strainer. Not only does a Kyusu ergonomically feel better and more natural in hand when you’re using its handle to pour tea, it’s designed so that your tea leaves have space to bloom, allowing the tea to deepen in flavor. Loose leaf teas are also a preference over tea bags, which have the most limited space (but work great in a pinch or when you’re on the go!).
3. A tea cup, a ceramic tumbler, or a to go tumbler
Depending on my mood, the occasion, or if I have guests, my vessel of choice differs. A traditional tiny tea cup is my parents’ preference and feels ceremoniously formal, in a good way that makes me feel connected to my ancestors. This one has a similar form and has a double wall design to keep your hands safe. My favorite vessel is a ceramic tumbler. I love feeling the warmth of the mug in my palms and the handmade nature makes it feel extra special. Finally, if I have to take my tea on the go, this minimalist tumbler is a favorite.
4. A carafe for cold brewed matcha tea and carrier
Even though it’s summer, I still love a cup of hot tea but when the mood strikes, an ice cold glass of cold brewed matcha tea is extra refreshing. I add a couple teaspoons of ceremonial grade matcha green tea (I get mine from Junbi) and water to a carafe, whisk as much as I can to dissolve the tea, and refrigerate. I’ve been known to take this carafe to the park to share with friends. I use a wine bag like this one to make sure it transports safely since the topper of the carafe is not leak proof. I send a text to BYOC (bring your own cup!) and we all get to enjoy some tea in the shaded grass (six feet apart, of course).
Another cold brew concoction favorite of mine is jasmine tea with kumquat slices (or orange slices if you don’t have any kumquat on hand) and mint. Simply slice up a handful of kumquat rounds (or orange slices), add one or two tea bags of jasmine tea (depending on your strength of preference), some mint leaves, and water to a carafe and refrigerate. You can also sweeten with a simple syrup. It’s a refreshing, citrusy tea drink that’s a go-to of mine year round.
5. A serveware tray
Even when making tea by myself at home, I still use a tray. Yes, functionally it does protect my surfaces, but more so for me, it elevates the experience to have my tea served up and seeing all my tea wares collected on a beautiful tray. I have a few that I rotate but a wooden tray brings me back to having tea on a chabudai (a traditional low table) on a tatami mat in Japan.
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