By Astra Kim
Routine and Ritual
Happy Solstice, and I hope you’ve all had a chance to enjoy the Jupiter and Saturn Conjunction!
Now that winter has officially arrived, I’ve been reflecting on how the routine and ritual of morning tea has been critical for my sanity. I consume a lot of tea in general, but since I’ve been working from home and have access to all of my nice teaware and my very nice collection of tea, my tea drinking game has leveled up considerably. It’s a practice I inherited from my grandparents, and in a time where I am disconnected from my family because of quarantine, it has been an important point of connection that keeps me grounded and able to cope with everything that’s happening a little easier.
Drinking tea is something that connects me semiotically to my family history and my Korean heritage. My “grandfather”, a Buddhist monk, taught me how to make tea as a child. He taught me how the act of brewing tea requires intent and focus; it is an act of meditation and a continuation of history that our people fought hard to preserve in the wake of religious and political colonization.
My grandmother and I used to drink tea together. In that act, we created a safe space to talk and -moreover- *listen* to one another. It was in those times that I learned to deeply connect with people, learned to listen without judgment. It is with the spirit of that intent that I have and do share tea with others.
Over the years, I’ve learned the hard way that brewing good tea is an act that I must focus on singularly for a time. To let myself get distracted is to overfill my cup, to over brew my tea to the point of bitterness, to underbrew, to neglect it until it is too cold, to not understand the complex flavor profiles present in my brews.
Learning to brew tea has taught me to operate in the world with precision and awareness. Learning to taste tea taught me how to listen to my senses, to cultivate a craft.
Nothing is wasted where possible and all aspects of the process are honored: spent tea leaves are given back to the earth as compost to feed my fruit trees, my plants are watered with the discarded water, the edible green tea leaves are cooked and consumed.
And there’s always so much to learn, which also makes it intellectually exciting.
What have been some of your coping mechanisms this year?
Welcome to Steep Thoughts! The Aviary is the imaginary teahouse of Astra, CA’s Head of Logistics. When she’s not building conventions with her amazing team, she’s a life-long tea enthusiast who reads too many books on the subject and will talk your ear off if given half a chance.
Astra brews in all kinds of styles, traditional and non and loves pairing food and tea. You can expect her to write random reviews of all the different teas she tries, wax a little philosophical about tea history, and include interviews or updates from the lovely people of The Alchemist Tea Parlour. You can also find her on Instagram: tempestedbird@