The pleasures of a good cup of tea extend beyond simply drinking it. In Japan, tea drinking has been elevated into a formal ritual. But even if your approach is strictly casual, the experience can be enhanced by mindful participation.
The traditions and rituals of tea date back to at least 2737 B.C. in ancient China. A popular myth claims that tea was born when a Chinese emperor and herbalist was boiling water and leaves from a nearby tree fell into the water. He discovered that when the leaves were infused in hot water, the beverage created was delicious. The Chinese then went on to explore what they referred to as "tea mind" -- a calm, yet alert state they achieved when drinking this concoction.
This exploration continues today -- amazingly, tea is the second most widely-consumed beverage in the world, behind only water. Tasting tea has become both an art form and a science. There are so many kinds of tea available today that it can be a little overwhelming to find your way.
One consistent fact is that all tea comes from the same species of plant, Camellia sinensis. (Other plants are infused like tea leaves but are technically tisanes, not true teas.) Differences arise because diverse varieties are grown in different places and in different ways, different plant parts are used — and there are different processing methods. But in all cases, the aromatic beverage that results when the cured leaves are combined with hot or boiling water is what tea drinkers celebrate.
The state of mind many tea drinkers cultivate is to relax, slow down and "appreciate the moment." Finding the right tea for that moment is an individual quest. By trying different kinds of tea you will be able to decide what you like best for different occasions. You might want to buy small quantities of a tea to sample it before buying a large amount. Buying bulk tea offers you this opportunity — as well as the highest quality tea, since tea bags usually contain siftings from leaves.