How to Serve Tea
The tea ceremony is not only about sharing tea - it's about getting people out of their heads and into the present moment with each other.
What we do at Immodestea is dubbed "California" tea ceremony, which means we nod our heads towards tradition but ultimately have carved our own unique tea drinking experience. This How To is about creating your own tea drinking experience to share.
Set & Setting
The space you are in effects the feeling and flow of your experience. Tea pairs well everything so almost anywhere will do. Don't be afraid to go somewhere different or try something new.
Parks are beautiful places to get together and enjoy tea, nature and company side by side.
Inviting people to your home will always be a great way to share tea. Whether grand or humble, your home itself does not matter as much as the way your tea is presented. Beautiful wares go a long way, and surrounding your tray with small things like stones, flowers, anything you fancy will make the space special. Sitting on pillows around a coffee table is another simple way to make something unique.
Tea is also a great offering to bring to other people's events. If bringing tea to a social gathering with lots of people, it can be nice to find a nook away from the main festivities for people to settle into.
In order to share tea you must, of course, make tea. The details of doing this will vary by leaf, and is covered in How To Brew Tea.
Smell, Brew and Share
Brewing tea can be as simple or theatrical as you wish, but people enjoy being part of the experience either way. It's best to have the water boiled before guests arrive, but the tea itself not brewed until you all are sitting together.
Offer the dry leaves for people to smell. This creates curiosity about the tea, starts opening the palette, and really just smells great.
Brew your tea. During the first brew I like to tell everyone a fact or small story about the tea we will be drinking. Knowing more almost always makes it taste better.
After everyone's cups are full, you can offer to have others smell the brewed tea leaves, either by wafting the pot lid or the open pot itself. This, again, opens the palette and just smells really great.
Keep Cups FIlled
Throughout the session, be sure to keep an eye on emptied cups and keep warm tea flowing into them. This level of attention to the drinks of your guests will not go unappreciated. If you wish, you can teach them the traditional signal for requesting tea: cups face up are filled with tea, cups face down recieve none but may be returned face up at any time.
Facilitating an Experience
Now that people are primed, present, and you're at the head of the tray, what sort of experience do you want to see? Something playful, intellectual, emotional?
Set an Example
As the person at the head of the tray, and likely the host as well, you have the ability to set the tone for the evening. By being open and acting in the way you want others to engage, you give them social permission to do just that. Don't over think it though, just let the way you are happen.
Tell a Story
Telling a story is a wonderful way to set a tone and invite people to share themselves. Tell something about yourself, about the tea, about something you want to see, or anything about the topic you wish to discuss.
Ask a Question
Questions are another wonderful way to set a mood and are engaging right away. Here are a few questions I find are great for just about any scenario.
What inspires you?
If an action figure was made of you, what would it say when you pulled its drawstring?
What animal is most like you and why?
Enjoy Your Creation!
Remember that when you are behind the tea tray, this is your domain. This article outlines what works for us, but what is most imporant is that you bring your own flair to the table. Anything you create will be great. Thank you for sharing your experience with the world.