How To Ritualize Tea Time

Here’s how to develop your own tea ritual.

This is not a cosplay of “Downton Abbey”. While tea is being practiced around the world in ceremonies, protocols and rituals, the type of tea time is personal. Mr Rogers drank hot cranberry juice from his mugs so you can do anything (just avoid the hallucinogenic ayahuasca). The famous British version of afternoon tea can be as imposing as the fine bone china and the three-tiered towers of snacks. In contrast, goûter, France’s teatime equivalent, often contains a casual bar of chocolate in a baguette. Chado, Japan’s tea ritual, favors calm over decadence.

Tea is often paired with snacks, which can be sweet (pastries) or savory (finger sandwiches). Indian tea culture has a particularly large selection of snacks, including miniature samosas made from dried fruit and chakli, a fried spiral made from spiced lentils. For scones, Ms. Reeves recommends freezing them raw and baking them individually in a toaster.

Mana Reshamwala, a Japanese who lives in Durham, NC, carves an hour for tea time with a local friend every other Thursday, complementing a meditative activity like gardening or knitting. Their green tea, drunk from earthenware Hagi-Yaki cups, is traditional. The rest is personal. “It’s very mana time,” she said. “Just my time.” When asked what other personal time she has, Ms. Reshamwala, mother of two young boys, laughed.

Ataya, Senegal’s tea ceremony, can last three hours. However, most practical tea times are around 30 minutes. The most common time is 3:30 PM or 4:00 PM, but do whatever works for you. Maybe like with Oprah Winfrey, your tea time is a morning chai. For late lunches or those with particularly high stakes in the morning, the elevation at 11 a.m. may be more appropriate. But teatime can just as easily be a calming sip of chamomile before bed.

There is a lot of equipment. And apparently 24 million ways to make tea. But here are some guides. Boiling water will ruin green or oolong teas, Ms. Reeves said. Teas have different soak times, averaging three minutes, she added, but check the packaging instructions (oolong teas are great for multiple soaks). If you steep too long, you can add more water. Tea enthusiasts appreciate loose leaves over tea bags. A BBC research into optimal tea recommended five-minute steps and found that the same tea tasted sweeter from a red mug than from a white one.

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