Nov 042008

There’s something so primal and satisfying about a warm vessel of infused herbs in my hands. Sipping a honey sweetened brew of flowers, roots, barks and leaves brings back ancient memories and also spirals me fully into the here and now, fully present in each nuance of taste and aroma. Curled up in Autumn’s growing dark with the scent of Sweet Clover and Rose wafting through the air, I am reminded again of my own essential need to still, to sink into the earth and pay close attention to my surroundings. To the soft sand between my toes, the sun going golden as it sets over the canyon wall and the steady heat of the blue mug beneath my fingers.

Drinking tea is one of those simple yet profound acts that can be both personally healing and communally inspiring. One ceramic pot of water and leaves can take us inwards or bring together a circle of friends. It has much in common with the mystique of food in being elemental and ultimately wild in its roots, but there’s also a unique medicine to tea. While a meal can be called a necessity, tea remains a luxury — a call to purposeful rest, if only for a few minutes. It’s a moment between worlds and tasks dedicated to pleasure and self-nurturing. It’s also something in the mix of the ethereal and material, of taste and trance all blended up into a miraculous burst of flavor, scent and ritual.

It’s not just in the drinking either, more than half the process lies in the creation of the tea. Whether a single handful of Nettles or complex mixture of many herbs, there is a great magic in the intentional choosing of flavors and properties — for the enjoyment of the senses and the nourishment of the self. Loba and I take great joy in our semi-annual task of blending together a large batch of special canyon tea for supporters and friends. We pull out jars, crocks and bags of our favorite herbs to be tossed together into a giant silver bowl. Every year the mix is a little different, sometimes the dominant flavor is Hibiscus or Chamomile or Tulsi, occasionally it’s just a simple blend of a few choice plants and sometimes a complicated cornucopia of spices and herbs. When the recipe is perfected it’s sealed into pretty jelly jars and decorated with ribbons and hand painted labels. The end result is an ephemeral yet precious gift that that each recipient will receive again each time they pour steaming water over colorful bits of flower petals and crushed leaves.

From the delicate form of expensive and rare blooming teas to the simple allure of a hardy brew of Oatstraw, we remain fascinated and comforted by the magic and medicine of tea. Perhaps most of all because of the way it calls us into the present, primary moment. It reminds us of the essential importance of the tangible, touchable world we inhabit. It asks us to participate in an age old rite of plant and human intertwining through the elements of fire, water, earth and air. Through the blessed union of earth and us.


I also just finished an essay on Falling in Love with Flowers: Redefining Healing Through Relationship that you might like to read.

  8 Responses to “A Blending of Elements: The Primal Allure of Tea”

  1. There’s a wonderful passage in the original “101 Dalmatians” novel (ie the pre-Disney version) where Pongo and Perdita are taken into the house of the old man (by his dogs) during their search for the puppies on a cold winter night. They sit in front of the warm fire being fed a dinner of tea and hot buttered toast – both made over the fire. Their canine host remarks that there is no better dinner than that. I’ve always remembered that passage and couldn’t agree more 😉 Ahhhhhhhh the simple, primal pleasures…. 🙂

  2. You have put it SO well, my friend. (: By the way I have been enjoying all of your posts so much recently, though I haven’t commented– me and Amber at Nourished Mother are waist deep in starting an online biz selling vintage clothes, can you believe it???– but we are always talking about your posts and sending much love to you through the e-mail of the heart…

  3. how do you feel about tea versus infusions ? Would you do daily infusions as well as teas ?

  4. Wonderfully said! Tea does bring out the muse in us, doesn’t it? Maybe all the people who were so uptight before the elections should take some time to destress with a pot full of soothing herbs, eh?

    Thank you again for putting your heart into this website. You have truly gifted me in my search for a balanced, whole life.


  5. Hey Sasha, I’ve missed your comments, glad to know you’re still reading!!

    Siobhan, I do lots of nourishing infusions, and sometimes combine my beverage teas with my infusions by making a base infusion with oatstraw or rrl or whatever and then adding tulsi or dried blueberries or basil or roses or whatever else I’m fancying at the moment.

    Thanks Marqueta, I’m so glad that my work has been a help to you! Thanks so much for reading.


  6. your writing is so special to me! i too have blended special tea with my close sister friend
    we called canyon tea! we lived remotely in a canyon in washington. we used horsetail, rosehips, elder flower and dried berry and wild mint. it soothed us long after our time living there and we still gather to make this tea and we teach our daughters to do this also.
    i am so inspired and your work is very important to us that have to “work”, as you take the time to blog your most important and nessecary information.

  7. Kiva you are a treasure. You remind me to remain grounded and connected as I go about my busy life (I see Sasha has written about what’s been sucking our time away from here, the plants, slowing down- fortunately it hasn’t gone as far as causing us to neglect our tea…)

  8. Thank you Kiva to remind us about the magic of tea and for putting into words what we all feel deep inside…You inspired me to write about tea as well ;).

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