In the push-pull of the current moment, centering rituals can take on new meaning. For some, this means jogging. Others find solace in the kitchen. Haddonfield-based tea and wellness expert Alexis Siemons draws on her earliest memories when called to go inward. “My first memory of tea was my mom drinking it in the morning,” she says. Siemons mom was both a doctor and a mom—in other words, a superwoman deserving of downtime. “When it was nice, she would go outside, have her cup of tea and do morning stretches. I have this vivid memory as a child of looking out from a window and watching her have that five minutes of peace.”
These days, Siemons has made a name for herself in the tea world, teaching classes, writing for publications including Shape and Kinfolk and consulting with brands like La Colombe. Part of it stems from the magic in those childhood images. Yet her call to tea also involved an element of fate. Working as a copywriter in Philadelphia, circa 2007, she ambled into tea shop Premium Steap.
“I was enamored with all of the silver tins of tea on the walls,” she recalls. “I had only known tea as my mom’s English breakfast with soy milk, or ginger peach.” An eternal student, Siemons decided to blog about her personal tea education under the moniker Teaspoon & Petals. Things blossomed from there. “In 2007, there were not really a lot of Americans—let alone 20-something Americans—writing about tea. All of these tea gardens from around the world just started sending boxes of tea to my apartment.”
Tea, she came to learn, was culture. It was rich with narrative, science and possibility. Yet tea also evokes healing, tied to calm and well-being. With that in mind, we sought Siemons insight on the connection between tea and self-care in the current moment.
Tea Rituals at Home
While we can’t control everything around us right now, steady rhythms help, Siemons says. “Familiar, consistent rituals have kept me grounded.” In an ideal world, she carves time for morning, noon and evening tea—but morning is a great first step. “When you start your day with something soothing, you are much kinder to yourself. It sets the tone.” Here’s how.
Frame tea as a reward: Siemons cautions against treating tea as medicine during a ritual, unless you are unwell.
Sip early. With our days intersecting those of roommates, pets and family, being the first to get up is strategic. “By nature, the world is quiet, and you can really center.” If that’s not a possibility, try cold brewing in advance to avoid a rushed cup.
Clear space and commit. Siemons tidies counters the night before, but even a small square creates a focused framework. “Give yourself that visual to home in on,” she says. Then stay connected, from the moment the hot water hits the tea.
Listen closely. Boiling water, to Siemons, is a soothing sound. It also reveals a teamaking essential. “First and foremost, it’s about water temperature.” To that end, you don’t need a fancy kettle or thermometer. A simple pot and candy thermometer will do.
Breathe in. “In essence, tea is a practice of aromatherapy.” From smelling the dry leaf to taking in aromas over the cup, notice the little details.
Seek beauty. If you have a glass vessel, watch the colors change and the leaves unfurl.
Sip mindfully. Pay attention to both aroma and flavor as you drink, avoiding lidded cups, if possible, to maximize the experience.
Matching Tea and Mood
If one was so inclined, it would be easy to try a new tea every day. Siemons advice is to start small. “You don’t need to stock an entire new tea cabinet and spend a lot of money. Buy one really good tea to have in the morning. Then buy one really good herb to have at night.” Bonus: Good tea can be steeped multiple times. Here are a few of her favorites:
Oolong for flavor: Delicious hot or cold, Siemons likens oolong to fine wine. Subtle flavors range from leathery, baked and smoky to light and floral.
Chamomile, rose and lavender for calm: Think you hate chamomile? Get a good one and try it again. Many industrial versions are poor quality, old or ground too fine.
Matcha for energy: For caffeine with Zen, matcha fits the bill. No whisk? Use your blender for an iced version. Just watch the caffeine. “Being sensitive to caffeine during this time is important,” Siemons says.
Blends for fun: Buy loose tea or herbs and fill up to a ratio of about one tablespoon per cup. At night, chamomile blended with rose petals and fennel seed is Siemons’s go-to.
There’s more to tea than the mug. Here are a few ways to put your tea to work.
Sip it during Zoom happy hours. For bonding without the buzz, iced chamomile is a great stand-in for chardonnay. Cold brew it in the morning for an evening glass.
Share a cup with the kids. Afternoon tea (caffeine-free, of course) fosters mindful moments. It can also bolster homeschooling lessons. “Tea is culture,” Siemons says.
Bring tea to the kitchen. Out of stock? From soups to grains, tea is a delicious flavor agent. Also try Masala chai in your overnight oats.
Like others across the food system, artisan teamakers are reeling in the face of restaurant closures. Your support can offer them a lifeline. Purveyors on Siemons list include:
kettl: In addition to fine teas, Siemons likes their matcha chocolate.
Té Company: Don’t miss their pineapple liner cookies.
La Colombe: Try the ruby oolong, which Siemons like hot and cold.
For tea tips and seriously soothing imagery, follow Siemons on Instagram @alexissiemons.