Bowl Brewing: the Quintessence of Tea Simplicity
Tea leaves -
A small bowl -
Such simplicity. This is the easiest way to begin a mindful tea practice. This method called "bowl brewing" goes all the way back to 8th century China where it was recorded in what is believed to be the first book on the topic of tea called, The Classic of Tea.
With this approach, there is no need for a fancy or expensive teapot and no strainer or measuring spoons are needed. Once you have your loose leaf tea, you have everything else you need in your kitchen already. Any small bowl (6-8 ounces) that you can hold comfortably in your hands will do. With this practice of tea brewing, you are drinking the tea with the leaves in the bowl. Your teeth could be considered the strainer, although we use a smaller amount of tea with this brewing style, so getting overwhelmed by tea leaves isn't a concern.
A good choice of tea for this practice is any tea that has a larger leaf. The smaller the leaf, the more likely you will be eating tea leaves. 😉 Before you sit for tea, gather up your tea leaves, brewing bowl, hot water, and a pot for collecting rinse water and used tea leaves.
To begin, I like to use freshly boiled water to warm my bowl. I fill it halfway and then slowly turn the bowl as I pour the water out into a pot. This way the hot water warms the entire bowl.
Next, I take a healthy pinch of tea and add it to the bowl.
I slowly pour the hot water into the bowl with the tea leaves at a 45-degree angle so that tea leaves start to swirl in the bowl.
Throughout this process, I engage my sense of sight, hearing, touch, and smell. I enjoy watching the steam rise and feeling the warmth of the hot water as I rinse my bowl. I feel the dry tea leaves and notice the sound of the tea as it moves between my fingers into the bowl. I take in the aromas. I pour the hot water into the bowl with the tea leaves and feel the warmth of the steam on my face. I delight once more in the aroma. I enjoy the sight of the tea leaves spinning and the color of the tea liquor.
Next, I slowly raise the bowl to my lips holding it with both hands. I breathe in and exhale. I set the bowl down on the table. I am present with the tea.
I lift it to my lips once more and just allow the smallest amount to touch my lips. This way I am testing the temperature and slowing myself down. I set the bowl on the table once more. I close my eyes and take a deep breath in, then slowly out.
I pick up the bowl and begin to slowly sip my tea, taking time to pause and breathe and notice the tea right in front of me.
And so it continues. With a quality pure tea leaf you can pour more hot water over the leaves and repeat over and over until you feel the flavor has left. When you are done, simply wipe the used tea leaves into the pot and slowly rinse out your bowl with hot water.
I think bowl brewing is one of the best ways to learn what it means to be mindful but also to develop a relationship with the tea you are sipping.
I like to brew one type of tea and sit with it mindfully every day for a week straight. Bowl brewing is extremely accessible and also allows us to get to know the tea more intimately than using any fancy tea gadgets. If you really want to know about tea, the best way to do that is to spend consistent, mindful time with it. You will learn about the tea and perhaps surprisingly, you will learn more about yourself too!
In as much as there is simplicity in this practice, there is also sublimeness.
"Mindfulness means moment-to-moment, non-judgemental awareness. It is cultivated by refining our capacity to pay attention, intentionally, in the present moment, and then sustaining that attention over time as best we can. In the process, we become more in touch with our life as it is unfolding."
~ Jon Kabat-Zinn