Myths, legends, and modern-day naturopaths all laud tea for its restorative and health-laden properties. To me, the questions “what is tea?” and “why drink tea?” are best answered by each individual who tries it. What is tea to you? What interests you about tea?

Personally, I could say I drink tea for many and varying practical reasons, as well as the mindful exercises it encourages in my daily routine, and the sense of community it brings into my life.

PRACTICAL: I drink tea day to day because I enjoy the different ways it affects my physical and mental state, whether it be a caffeine kick to wake me up, an l-theanine boost to help me focus and relax, a digestive aid after a heavy meal, or a calming nourishment to help wind down. My tummy likes it better than alternate sources of caffeine, too (cough, soda … cough, coffee). My husband recently switched from coffee to tea because the caffeine in multiple cups of coffee was too much for him (he can scale the amount of caffeine he’s getting up or down by choosing between different types of tea). I’ve found out that he enjoys teas with strong, spicy flavors, like cinnamon and clove. My girlfriend just switched from coffee to tea because coffee upset her stomach (tea doesn’t!). She discovered many highly-caffeinated alternatives since her transition to tea.

MINDFUL: Tea also brings mindfulness into my life. I absolutely geek out with loose leaf tea, and appreciate when I have a slow down moment to really observe the dry leaf and compare the appearance and smell to the steeped leaf. Noticing the leaf itself and reflecting on its journey from earth to cup makes the tea drinking experience even more special. I enjoy the variety of different tea types, the history behind them, and the story of the person or company who grew or blended the tea.

COMMUNITY: When I started learning more about tea a few years ago, I liked delving deep into the different cultural implications behind cultivating and drinking different teas. The more I learned, the more that tea, to me, symbolized community – or an elixir that people used to socialize – that wasn’t alcohol or food. Broken down, tea is really just water combined with natural elements from the earth, activated by the person or people who enjoy it. When I started thinking about tea this way, I wanted to share it more with friends and seek to define to the “American Tea Ceremony”. Currently the “Tea Ceremony” I practice is when I – myself or with friends – take the time to slow down and enjoy a cup of tea. I’d like to see tea used here in the U.S. as a means for people to connect, much like many other parts of the world have done for years upon years.

What interests you in tea? How does it play a role in your life?