The idea of taking tea, stopping for a “brew” or a cup of “cha” is so quintessentially English that it is terribly hard not to sip (silently) a cup of classic “English breakfast tea” without holding the cup’s delicate china handle with one’s little finger delicately poised in the air whilst conversing in very best Queen’s English. No slurping or mugs allowed. Preferably with some cakes on the side. In fact, although the good people of Britain have been consuming ridiculous litres of the stuff for over 350 years (according to The United Kingdom Tea Council), the concept of putting leaves in hot water and drinking the resulting flavoured liquid infusion actually seems to have originated in China. Or so the legend goes.
For those of you longing for a few more facts, real tea is broadly any infusion including leaves of the “camellia sinensis“. Any infusion made without these leaves, such as classic rooibos (from South Africa) or standard herbal infusions like pure camomile, should not really be referred to as “tea”. I suspect that the heretics like me will continue to refer to them as tea in the absence of a better noun. I am hardly likely to ask my colleague for a “cup of liquid herbal infusion” when s/he goes on the mid-afternoon drinks run.
A tea break, or taking time for tea, is defined by the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary as: “a short rest from working, usually spent drinking tea or something similar“. Now, the same dictionary defines work as: “an activity…which a person uses physical or mental effort to do, usually for money” so it is completely possible for all the following to all be considered as “work”: household chores – the usual stuff like clothes washing, cleaning, cooking, house maintenance, food shopping; caring for children or chasing after/running around teenagers; caring for sick and/or elderly relatives; blogging or any other form of writing that gets the brain exercising; physical exercising (in whatever way takes your fancy); gardening; and conversing with difficult friends/relatives, to name but a few. Why? There is no requirement for payment to be received for an activity to be defined as “work”.
To my mind this is a great thing. It means that we never need to feel guilty about taking a short rest from the chores, from the grief, from the diet-enforced exercise regime or just from any activity we are engaged in (as long as we have been making an effort and we didn’t stop for a break only 2 minutes before). We are just as entitled to a “tea break” as the builder who stops in his efforts to build an extension/house/wall (feel free to add as needed). In fact, I would say we are more entitled to take a break and give ourselves some space than a paid worker would be, particularly if the worker is paid to work specific hours.
Sometimes it can be very hard to cut ourselves the slack we would give to someone else without a moment’s hesitation. But we need to treat ourselves with the same level of respect – to give ourselves permission to stop and “just be” over a cup of tea (or infusion of whatever legal kind takes your fancy).
Stopping and sipping that beverage will give you the chance to look again at the world around you. To look anew at the people as they rush by or the leaves swaying in the trees or the birds as they fly overhead. Perhaps by giving yourself permission to stop you will notice something you have missed before. Perhaps you will just have the opportunity to ponder and to dream. Or maybe you can just stop thinking at all, let the stress drain away and just exist.
Sip something refreshing: real tea, coffee, rooibos, herbal infusions, hot water (with or without fruit slices) and sit still while you drink it. Make it a time to stop rather than just a time to change activity. Whatever you choose to do it is YOUR space, YOUR tea break so make it your own.
There are many possible physical benefits to drinking real tea of the camellia sinensis, perhaps the benefits of the tea break are far greater than we could ever imagine?