Vietnamese Tea Meditation in Auckland, New Zealand
(Image: a morning tea meditation followed by art journalling)
"Tea meditation is the art of finding stillness in a cup of tea, and enjoy yourself on a journey of self-discovery" ~ Sierra Truong.
In January 2023, coming back from our 40 days trip to Hanoi, my home city, I started to run tea meditation sessions in Auckland. And it wasn't a big surprise to me that everyone doing the session really enjoyed the stillness in just a normal cup of tea. It was not a cafein thing ( though it could be if I steep the tea for too long) rather than the calming process of preparing and tasting the tea. In my tea meditation session, we first start with a mindfulness practice of doing the tea ceremony then followed by a short silent meditation by the end.
Meditation has always been a big part of my life for over a decade up to this point but it was never easy for me to sit still to meditate in silent. Regardless of the fact that I have been meditating for years, being an entrepreneur does require me more practice on a daily basis so that I could continue do my life better. As an entrepreneur, my brain is way more active than when I was a nun, and also when I was working a 9-5 for a company. My brain is constantly filled with both exciting ideas and at the same time a huge amount of anxiety. To be able to relax more yet still being productive, I started to look at designing my daily life as a meditation practice. Every single task I do will be connected as a flow of being in the now from this moment to the next. And this was when I looked at my morning tea as something a little extra. My morning routine gets a bit longer but my whole day also gets more productive. My assessment on productivity isn't based on the quantity of tasks get done. It is based on my most important task being completed in the state of being present.
Vietnamese tea ceremony is one of the simplest tea ceremonies in Asia. It isn't about the clothes you wear to be part of it, it also isn't about your knowledge and skills on preparing the tea. It is just about you and the cup of tea. That's why I love using this simple tea ceremony in my tea meditation workshops in Auckland. I am no tea master. I am just someone that loves meditation and sharing the art of mindfulness & meditation through this ancient tea practice that I have a direct connection to. Every house in Vietnam has a set of tea pot and cups and they drink tea ( most commonly green tea) almost everyday. When I was little, I sometimes wondered why the adults in my house always drink such a boring liquid. Now I totally get it. It is simply because the process of it is very calming. You can't rush pouring hot water into the pot. You can't rush transfer water from your pot to all the little tea cups. The preparation slow you down. And by the time it is ready to enjoy the cup of tea, you would want to hold the little cup with both hands, give it a sniff and take little sips to awaken all of your senses.
This is how you can do a Vietnamese green tea ceremony at home:
Vietnamese traditional tea is tea with loose leaf. We don't use tea bags for this practice if we have the tea leaf option.
Step 1: Rinse teapot and cup with hot water.
This helps sterilize the teapot and heat the teacups so when you have your tea ready, the temperature won't be affected by cold teapot and cups.
Step 2: Rinse the tea
- Put your tea into the pot. Depending on your tea, sometimes it is nice to close the lid and give them a little shake to awaken the aroma.
- Pour about 85 degree c boiled water into the tea. Vietnamese doesn't use boiling water 100 degree c for tea.
- Quickly tip all water out. This step is to wake up the tea leaves, helps remove impurities while frying the tea, and keeps the pot hot.
Step 3: Make tea
- After rinsing the tea, you quickly pour in a sufficient amount of boiling water into the pot and cover the lid to keep the stable temperature.
- Cover the pot and continue to pour water over the lid so that the tea infusion in the teapot keeps a stable temperature.
- Wait for about 2 mins - 3 mins. The longer it gets, the stronger is the tea. You can totally control how strong your tea is in this step. The first water of green tea can be just 2 mins so your tea won't be too strong. The second water onwards can be stronger depending on your preference. If you don't do well with cafein, it is highly advised to steep your tea in just 2 mins.
Step 4: Pour & offer the tea
- Some Vietnamese tea set has a second tea pot with no lid. This can be where you transfer your tea from the main pot into while brewing the next water. The act of transferring hot tea into this second pot will also help your tea to cool down to a perfect temperature to drink and not burn your lips.
- Pour the tea into cups. Before pouring, you should arrange the teacups close together into a closed circle. Pouring all cups in a row for 2 -3 times. First round can be just half a cup each, then second & third.
- Offer each tea cup to each person with both hands.
(Image: an illustration of a Vietnamese lotus green tea offering)
So that was a simple green tea preparation & offering in Vietnamese culture. There is no right or wrong in how you do it. You can be as creative as you would like to be and make the session as fun as it could be. The main thing is to sit with your tea and not rushing to the next moment.
As a meditation facilitator, I have always researching on how to make meditation a regular practice for my clients. To form a habit, it is not about how long it would take, but it is about how many times we show up until it sticks. The word meditation could scare quite a lot of people. Many of my clients have come to me and share that they can't meditate. What if the practice is just about you coming back to the present through whatever way that is most interesting to you?
Tea meditation is the introduction of mindfulness and meditation to anyone that is interested in exploring their inner journey through the way of tea. And it also reveals your possibility to design your own practice, perhaps with your cup of coffee or with different activities of your interest.
You can find my tea mediation workshops/ sessions here:
Vietnamese Tea Meditation in Central Auckland, New Zealand