Rituals: known to be a series of practiced and repeated actions and behaviors, have been proven to have advantageous effects on productivity and focus. Many cultures have seen the benefits of engaging in this practice, which is why rituals are no stranger to the ancient world.
Tea rituals, originating in ancient China, spread like wildfire to neighboring countries, Japan and Russia. Each country established their own unique practices, but they all share one common ground; making it a ritual.
Being longtime rivals with China, the Japanese were not content simply copying China's traditions and rituals. Japan took tea rituals to new levels, developing a strict and focused ceremony that is still performed in traditional tea houses to this day. In feudal Japan, the tea ceremony played an important role in the island's economy and politics.
Long before the advent of corporate boardrooms or corner offices, the tea house is where Samurai lords would meet to conduct business, negotiate treaties, and even start wars. Using a tea house as a place of business may seem strange to us, but think about the majority of meetings you attend at your company. Odds are, they often feel unfocused and unproductive; it's just the nature of meetings. A Japanese tea ceremony avoided this outcome by demanding that Samurai enter the tea house in silence and civilly drink tea together before any business could be discussed. The tea sharpened resolve for strength in negotiations, while the familiar ritual cleared the minds of both friends and enemies so focus could be dedicated to the task at hand.
What if next time you call your team into the boardroom you began with a shared pot of tea rather than the latest water cooler gossip? A samurai warrior would applaud your intentions to bring productivity and focus to your meetings!
Although the tea drinking and ritual in Russia was much less formal than the Japanese ceremony, Russian tea habits were no less important to society and a productive family life.
If you want to judge the functionality and well-being of a Russian household, you need only ask for a cup of tea. Having tea ready at a moment's notice is a highly-valued practice in Russia. To accomplish this, Russians use a traditional device called a Samovar. Russians used the Samovar to not only brew tea, but to keep it hot throughout the day. A family's Samovar was the pride of their household and often placed in the center of their dwelling. Russian tea ritual was less about specific cutlery or serving methods, and more focused with the social situations surrounding the drinking of tea. For instance, serving day-old tea to a guest meant that the drinker had overstayed their welcome. Another being if family members resorted to drinking tea on their own, rather than together, it was a sure sign of domestic troubles.
Why do Russians drink tea instead of Coffee?
There certainly are Russians who drink coffee, but overall, Russia is a nation of tea drinkers. By the time Western European powers began importing coffee from colonies in Africa and South America, Russians had already been drinking Chinese tea for centuries. They had even gone as far to develop their own flavors and preparations. The growing demand for tea continued in the decades after the Second World War, during which, Russia was politically and economically aligned with China. Relations with the coffee-drinking West were rocky at best. And while coffee is becoming more available in a now-capitalist Russia, tea is still by far the country's drink of choice.
See our prior posts in the series below:
Start Your Own Tea Ritual or Change Your Boardroom Meetings: Try Zest Today!
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