August Moon Tea located in a tiny penthouse hidden gem of an oasis in the heart of Hockley, Nottingham provides you with the opportunity to experience an ancient ritual practice, traditional Chinese tea ceremony.
I was recently invited to experience my very first Chinese Tea Ceremony with owner of August Moon Tea Estelle and a few others in her beautifully converted sanctuary…
Climbing the sets of stairs to the venue I was excited with anticipation to discover what awaited us behind the door, having never attended a tea ceremony before, I wasn’t sure what to expect, though knew with a combination of tea and meditation it would most certainly be right up my street.
Estelle was dressed in a beautiful white floaty dress and looked positively glowing and content as she welcomed us into her room of relaxation. Round cushions were placed on the floor surrounding the tea ceremony set up, ready for us to sit cross legged when ready. Natural wooden furniture with Chinese tea sets and Buddha’s’ were places around the room, candles and fairy lights all added to the ambience and I was instantly at ease.
After an introduction to the meaning behind the tea ceremony’s, a little about the history and culture explained very eloquently, we dived right in to the guided meditation.
Estelle guided us through, eyes closed a relaxing meditation allowing us to centre ourselves and block out the outside world for a few moments and well.. be silent. Something that many find difficult when in the presence of others, always feeling the need to make small talk and light conversation to fill in the silence. The idea behind the tea ceremony is that all of this is taken away and you are given permission to sit quietly with your own thoughts, but amongst others, giving thanks and gratitude to what you hold dear and appreciation for the cup of tea that you are holding and drinking. I first discovered mindfulness a few years ago and so I found this to be such a positive experience for me.
Firstly we were gifted an aged 2011 white tea, known for its amazing health benefits, I likened it to a wine tasting, taking the time to look at the colour, smell the notes and taste mindfully. Estelle explained that a vintage tea is often one of the best and more expensive using the phase-
“1 year white tea is just tea, 3 years is medicine, 7 years is treasure”.
Simply observing the way in which Estelle gracefully brewed the tea, poured and moved each item was mesmerizing in itself. She has a certain way that subtly demands you to slow down and be more aware of your own movements and urgencies.
We were told that the tea takes the farmers around 2.5 hours to collect the tea leaves from the bottom of the mountain to the tea field in China and the process is a lengthily one to get it ready for consumption, from sub drying the tea leaves, to heating with low fire to which the process is extremely weather sensitive – hot sun can burn the leaves and so depending on the season the tea leafs will be different each time, therefore timing is everything, also justifying the reason behind mindful drinking and showing your appreciation for the harvesting efforts.
The tea once brewed was served in traditional Chinese tea cups (known as Jun) served on dainty little silver leaf shaped saucers. The tea was delicious and we were urged to slurp from the cup- something we initially found slightly difficult given the British way is the complete opposite, but soon we were all having fun trying to ‘out slurp’ one another and it made the experience of tea drinking all them more fun!
The tea pots and cups, in fact all of the tea wares used during the ceremony were so beautifully designed and made and Estelle explained that she has matching teapots and cups for each type of tea (six in total) and all are important in their own way in representing that said tea and the culture behind it.
A delightful addition to our tea ceremony was the little ‘tea pet’ sat minding his own business next to Estelle (a pot monkey in this case – other tea pet animals are available), to which Estelle explained are a traditional Chinese accompaniment to a tea ceremony to well.. keep you company whilst you drink tea.
The tea used was spooned carefully into the teapot – no tea bags allowed, then brewed and poured into each individual tea cup and handed out one by one. Receiving your tea with two hands and a smile is considered the polite way and then tapping two fingers onto the ground twice gives thanks without having to say it allowed; both acts are a mark of respect during the ceremony. Then of course without speaking, we enjoyed slurping our tea.
Our cups were then collected and the process started again, repeated four times until the tea had gone. Each cup was slightly stronger than the last and deeper and richer in colour. We then had a short ten minute break and were handed