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When ‘hygge’ is a cup of tea

  • It matters little whether it is an expensive or an everyday tea
  • Every cup can be a moment to pause, to savour and to appreciate for the joy it gives

Tea expert Dan Bolton.
Tea expert Dan Bolton. (Photo: Dan Bolton)

I forgo the immediate pleasure of early harvest oolong, waiting instead the six months required to properly finish these remarkable teas. A standing order of 3kg arrived from Wuyi last week. It was a chilly day with snow underfoot in the Great White North. I eagerly sought to share it with my good friend Nan Cui. The tea is from a Wuyishan garden we have walked together. It is tended by Yihua Luo, a talented grower and retailer who spends as much time caring for his tea plants as serving tea in his shop."

This was the beginning of an email from Dan Bolton, tea veteran and editor of the digital magazine Tea Journey, in response to a question on how to best appreciate a tea.

You can’t hurry tea. Making it takes a patient tea specialist. There is deliberation in the making of the tea. And there must be deliberation in the preparing and drinking of it.

Bolton defines tea knowledge as the first step to refinement. This could be about where your tea comes from, how it was crafted and by whom. This is echoed by Elizeth van der Vorst, a tea importer from Brazil. She is particular about how responsibly the tea has been grown and made, the attention given by its producers to the plants, the people working for them, and the environment. Then comes the water. “Ninety-five per cent of tea is water, is it not?" she asks.

Training the palate takes time. Begin by paying attention to the aroma and flavour. All of us have a storehouse of olfactory memories, and when we are able to tap into it, we begin to articulate what we like about the teas, which flavours we recognize, our preferences, even the memories it triggers. This is what makes love for tea so personal.

Take your time with a tea. If it doesn’t feel right on the first try, try changing the water or the temperature or steeping time. How does the tea make you feel? If you don’t enjoy it, it’s not the tea for you. “Please do not buy a tea only because it’s in fashion or if you have heard it’s the finest tea in the world," advises van der Vorst.

Stay in the moment, writes Bolton. Tea is meditative because it asks you to be fully present. Explore the rich sensory experience a tea offers, without distraction.

Van der Vorst writes that her love and interest in tea stem from the way it connects her to people. In fact, her business is named Amigos do Chá (Friends of Tea). Drink fine teas in good company, is also Bolton’s advice. Tea lends itself to conversation, and the steps in preparing and sharing it with another are at once stimulating, cathartic, meditative, and most enjoyable.

It matters little whether it is an expensive or an everyday tea. Every cup of tea can be a moment to pause, to savour and to appreciate for the joy it gives.


The Tea Companion by Jane Pettigrew; Tea: A User’s Guide by Tony Gebely; and A Guide To Finding And Enjoying Tea by Peter G.W. Keen.

Tea Nanny is a weekly series steeped in the world of tea. Aravinda Anantharaman is a Bengaluru-based tea blogger and writer who reports on the tea industry.

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