I was invited down to a blogger get together organised by my friends over at RSVIP, a networking company. The evening was a Chinese Tea Ceremony and it would last around 1.5-2 hours with a selection of teas, meditation and snacks. I was up for it as it sounded completely different from anything else I’ve ever done in Nottingham and, realistically, it probably wasn’t something I’d seek to do on my own.
First Impressions of August Moon Tea
If you go to the bottom of Goosegate, it’s the very last door on the right hand side – directly facing Emmanuel House. You ring the door and a lovely woman, Estelle, will answer and buzz you in. Head up three flights of stairs to the loft conversion and you’re transformed into a Chinese Zen space. It’s got wooden floors, a small back terrace (fire escape I assume) that gave a much needed blast of wind every now and again, lots of bonsai trees and some relaxing music playing. It’s like you’ve walked into the start of a really good spa venue, it’s calming, chilled and beautiful.
In front of us were five cushions for us to sit on, in front of that was a long towel with tea cups and teapot decorations. Atop of this towel were 6 cups and saucers, 5 for us and 1 for Estelle.
Estelle told us to make ourselves comfortable, take your shoes off and sit cross legged if you could (I couldn’t as I stupidly wore freshly washed black skinnies).
The Chinese Tea Ceremony
We were given an insight into how the ceremony would go. It would be split into two halves, the first would be in silence. We were to concentrate on our breathing and just let our mind loose, don’t think about anything other than the breathing. Once we’ve had a small meditation we would drink a white tea, in silence but with lots of slurping. We were told to let our inner child out and enjoy the noise of slurping our tea which cools the tea and is good manners in Chinese culture.
The second half would allow us to talk, have snacks and enjoy a red tea. Here we would pour each other drinks and learn a little bit more about the culture and idea of tea drinking.
Before we started everyone was advised to have a quick toilet stop. The white tea that we were going to be drinking was from the mountains in China. Estelle’s family trekked two and a half hours to the tea fields, collected it, dried it and left it to age for 7 years. This ageing process increases flavour but reduces the amount of caffeine within the tea as a by-product, which was great news for me as I avoid caffeine as much as possible.
We were told that Chinese people believe white tea that’s 1 years old tea is standard tea, 3 years old has a range of medicinal and health benefits but 7 years old is treasure.
Then it was time for silence and a 10 minutes meditation. Estelle directed us with cues on what to listen to and focus on to make your mind as empty as possible. As somebody who’s never really given time for meditation before, it was fantastic.
After we were back in the room Estelle placed the tea leaves into a pot, and brewed it. The ceramic tea pot was given a bath in hot water to keep it lasting longer and to help the flavours of the tea within. After a minute or so the tea was strained from the tea pot into a glass pot, used for serving. This glass pot was then used to fill up all of our cups. We waited for permission to dink through a gentle hand gesture from Estelle and then we slurped. This routine happened around 5 times before we were moved along to phase two of the ceremony where we could talk.
The snack of the evening was a small plate of banana chips, nuts and raisins, simple yet much appreciated.
During the second phase of the ceremony Estelle put any excess tea over a clay monkey which was sat in a bowl of water. It turns out that this was her “tea pet”. A tea pet is something that keeps you company whilst you do your own tea ceremony. It can be anything, a small statue, a monkey, a peanut etc. but the idea is to keep you company whilst you’re in silence.
Our second pot of tea was a red tea, 3 years’ old that was reminiscent to English black tea. We had a few cups of this whilst talking about the world and then had a final cup which was with a rose bud. Surprisingly this small bud changed the whole taste of the tea, giving it an added fruit/sweetness.
The second round of tea saw us passing the pot between each of us and pouring tea for one another, another sign of respect in China. We had to ensure that each pass was two handed and each take was also two handed – this is ultra-important as it’s another respectful sign. Want to say thank you but find yourself in the middle of slurping? Tap your two forefingers on the floor/table twice and they’ll take this as a subtle “thank you”.
£10pp for tea and meditation
I would definitely go back and I’ve even recommended it to a couple of people already. They do standard tea ceremonies but on the last Friday of the month they also do a tea and poetry/music evening which sees people playing or reading aloud their favourite songs or poems. These music nights are £7.
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Love for you all x