Apart from loving Tea, I also enjoy being outdoors and in the garden where tea plays a vital role in the day of working on garden tasks. In fact one of my favourite tea moments is sitting on a garden bench, piping hot cup in hand, taking a breather after heavy work, and collecting one’s thoughts on what to do next. It is restorative and gratifying.
A good cup of tea is a simple way to revive, refresh and provide a pick me up because this simple beverage can elevate one’s mood, fire up your energy, relieve stress and boost brain function. And of course, it tastes great, is warm, soothing and quenches thirst.
The classic times where Tea is the perfect beverage are numerous and memorable. When being given a hot and comforting tea to sip completely rejuvenates. Those times in life are familiar to us all. I’m thinking of; a hospital room or when someone is in shock or comforting a friend. Perhaps when Tea is shared after a long walk or strenuous climb, a tea enjoyed by the fireside or bonfire, or at the end of a long drive. Tea can completely alter our mindset, create a diversion from trouble and settle the mind plus the added alertness creates possibilities for problem-solving and a fresh approach to just about anything.
The mid-morning tea break is one of many small pleasures in life and there are certain places where having tea is uniquely our own perfect diversion from daily work. Times when a tea makes all the difference to mood and energy. When soaking up the sun on a winter’s day on a garden bench, perched on crates sipping tea out the back of a work area or sitting at the desk or park bench. Tea in the shearing shed is a must as is tea on a long shift of night duty or on a picnic. Perhaps a short visit to a cafe for a morning tea and the best one is the early morning cup of tea in your favourite mug and extra special if made for you.
Why is it we love these breaks so much? Is it the fact that we are relaxing, sitting perhaps with feet up in pleasant surroundings? Or is it the tea itself that improves our mood, quenches our thirst and gives us a breather from our work all at the same time?
With Tea being the number one drink worldwide after water, scientists have begun to study the effects of popular tea drinking and the chemical compounds found in green and black tea from the Camelia Sinesis plant. They have found that drinking green or black tea lowers the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body.
Tea is full of nutrients that you don’t find in many other beverages, The nutrients come from the chemical compounds; an antioxidant called epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG and an amino acid called L-theanine. It is thought that EGCG in tea makes people feel calmer and improves their memory and the ability to focus. Similarly, L-theanine, when combined with the caffeine in tea, is known to improve one’s mood, mental alertness and cognition whilst, at the same time, increasing feelings of relaxation.
That’s quite a side effect of an enjoyable beverage. There is no doubt that the social aspect of a tea break and the obvious effects of sitting down to rest play an important role in why we feel good after tea as well. Although rest alone will not create that increased feeling of mental alertness that the compounds in tea uniquely create. You can read more on the Health Benefits of tea here in a previous post including references.
Tea is often a way we manipulate time by creating intervals throughout the day. It can become a ritual to pop the kettle on between classes, meetings, clients or away from the keyboard or spreadsheet. No matter what work you do, it is good to take a moment and reassess the morning, enjoy a tea to revitalise before continuing.
A tea break was once called a Smoko. According to the Urban dictionary, a smoko is a slang term in Australia, New Zealand and the Falkland Islands for a short break from the daily grind of work- a moment away from work to be yourself, perhaps grab some fresh air, stretch your legs, relax your mind and rehydrate.
Smoko dates back to 1857 when the term originated in the British Merchant Navy. In Australia, the term was and continues to be mainly used for sheep shearers and the building trade. A time for the workers to eat, have a cigarette and a cup of tea. It became a strong element of workers’ rights to be able to stop work if one was a smoker.
There is another story or myth that states that the origins of Smoko are from a rural tradition when workers or stockmen would look out for the smoke rising from the fire that was used to boil the billy. The boiling of the billy was a signal to stop for a tea break. Smoko was then adopted everywhere in Australia, though farmworkers, miners and mill workers would often alternate between that and ‘crib’: a term that meant the food in the crib bag the labourers would carry with them. Today we rarely hear the term crib, but Smoko and boil the billy are frequently used to mean taking a break.
In New Zealand, the smoko break was not emphasised around smoking but tea. Morning and afternoon Tea breaks were considered a crucial aspect of a day’s work for manual labourers and farmers alike and were a hard-won right that they believed was essential to keep them energised throughout the workday. It is still common today in Australia and New Zealand that rural farmers start the day at 6 am and return to the homestead for a cup of tea around 10.30. During harvest, this break ‘smoko’ would be taken in the paddock under trees or near the tractor. An integral aspect of farm tea is the thermos; the vacuum insulated vessel that keeps boiling water hot. Next time join me for more about the history of tea and the thermos.
All content Di Baker 2022
All images from Pexels.com