LIVE

Just add boiling water.

By Stacey Ballis
Updated April 16, 2020
Advertisement

All over the news and social media everyone is talking about structure and schedule being a part of surviving this sheltering at home period. Whether it is about keeping homeschooled kids on a daily routine for learning, or keeping some discipline about the structure of your days for working at home or, even worse, not working at all, everyone seems to agree that making sure there is some continuity in how your days are spent can be mentally reassuring.

Even I, who’ve actually worked from home full time for 13 years, am finding myself looking for new ways to anchor my days against the mental chaos of current times. And now, I’m here to share, my new, favorite anchor:

Afternoon tea.

Confession: I have always been a tea drinker. I start my days with a morning caffeinated cup with breakfast, and often end my evenings with an herbal blend or fresh tisane to bring calm before sleep. But the mid-afternoon tea break has become the one essential to the texture of my sheltering days, and I think you might find the same could work for you.

What’s to love about afternoon tea

Let’s start with a given: If you, like I, enjoy a caffeinated tea this time of day, then that afternoon cup is a gentle energy burst and refocusing chemical updraft. And if you’re trying to log in several late-day hours of productivity, this could be just the lift your brain needs.

But I feel that the afternoon tea break itself is the greater gift. Making a good cup of tea takes just the right bit of time—a few minutes to boil the water, then 4-5 minutes to steep your cup—which forces a break from your screen, your anxieties, your life. That alone is a healthy sanity rescue. Then, of course, sitting down to enjoy the tea (and staying away from your work!) can be an additional 10 or so minutes of alone time, or chat time with a fellow shelterer in your home. Or relishing a few more pages of the novel you’re hankering to read.

Whatever you choose to do with that break, it comes at an ideal time in the day when most of our brains are yearning for some fresh stimuli. For me, I’ve decided that my afternoon tea marks a transition from my work day to my home day, where I turn my attention to chores and preparing for making dinner. Having that 20 minutes every day with my favorite blend and the peace surrounding it powers me up for the next wave of sheltering at home, and I’ve grown to love and rely on it. I even set my alarm for 3pm every day to signal tea time!

How to build your own afternoon tea ritual

Of course, if you want this to be about tea, there’s so much fun to be had! Stock in some brands of tea for rotation and think about having both loose leaf and bags for variety. This chamomile and bee pollen version is a favorite, and always feels special, but a basic breakfast tea is also in the regular repertoire. If we are feeling fancy and want to go with a nice loose leaf, we will use an infuser like this one. For our hot water we use an electric teakettle, and like this one especially. If it’s just you, it’s probably a one-cup project, but if you’re steeping for 2 or more, think about investing in a teapot (or finding the one you got as a gift a few years ago) for making better use of the tea and adding an aesthetic grace note to the table. As for your favorite cup, it can be the delightful experience of a classic teacup (chances are there’s an heirloom one kicking around your kitchen), but any cup or mug will serve perfectly well—this adorable one from Williams Sonoma benefits Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign.

Foods to pair with afternoon tea

Afternoon tea can be a veritable canape and petit four extravaganza, but we’re not going there every day. That said, a small snack to accompany tea is a great idea that will provide a small energy boost for heading toward the evening. I like to construct a small plate of something that takes as long to pull together as it takes the water to boil, keeping everything neat and elegant in its efficiency. Some of my favorites include:

  • apples with almond butter
  • cheese and crackers
  • a slice of cinnamon toast or fresh bread with butter and honey
  • a handful of nuts and dried fruits
  • hummus with vegetables

What if you don’t like tea?

Afternoon tea is a concept as much as it is a literal thing, so don’t get hung up on the liquid. Your afternoon tea could be a coffee, a hot chocolate or chocolate milk, iced tea or iced coffee, a chai, or golden milk. But pick something that takes a little assembly, a little attention, for the break to really work psychologically.

Whatever goes into your cup, enjoy that you stopped the crazy world to make it. And then sit down, inhale the aroma, take a nibble, and enjoy this new, precious daily break.