In our hurried lives we are often drinking and eating to simply sustain our bodies. But it is only when we begin paying attention to the textures and flavours we experience that taste becomes a truly meditative and sensual experience. It is difficult to do this on a recurring basis because of life’s plentiful distractions. However, treating this activity as a mindful journey—from the smell, appearance and feel of what we are about to encounter, to the final destination where these elements meet the tastebuds of our tongue—is a worthwhile endeavour.
Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future. Live the actual moment. Only this moment is life.Thich Nhat Hanh
Fehreen Ali takes the business of tea seriously by creating special blends to suit varying palates, moods and occasions.
Teaologist Fehreen Ali of the Brisbane-based boutique Tea Coup, which specializes in organic, hand blended, Ayurvedic-inspired teas and tisanes, offers insight about her craft of tea-blending and how to incorporate the beverage into our daily lives in a meaningful way.
How can we slow down and make our own tea ritual?
Creating your daily tea ritual mindfully by choosing a specific time and a sacred space is the perfect way to slow down. Take time to brew your tea and drink it gracefully honouring all the elements that have been infused during this ritual.
What do you love most about your work?
I find working with nature, according to its seasons and lunar cycles, extremely fascinating. I love to create functional tea blends that bring joy and healing to the drinker. I feel extremely blessed to have found my passion and be able to pursue it. I’m also excited about passing this knowledge to my children and future generations.
How do you go about creating a blend?
The process of creating a blend is evolving all the time. I am a creative person and draw inspiration from people, places and scared moments. I blend these inspirations focusing on the healing aspects, as well as taste. There are always two sides to my tea blends.
When did you first fall in love with tea-making and how did you then become a Teaologist?
I fell in love with tea at the age of four when my South Indian nanny used to make sweet black tea. I became a Teaologist five years ago when I opened my Ayurvedic clinic and wanted to recommend herbal teas for my clients. Through my research I discovered that there was a real gap in the Australian market and it was impossible to find a tea with Ayurvedic herbs and spices. I really believe that when one finds passion and purpose, life reveals its pathway. It was just a matter of having faith and enjoying the process.
How does the landscape of Australia inspire you when working with ancient Indian practices?
In traditional indigenous Australian culture, healers have used plant ritual medicine for thousands of years. Australia, as well as the neighbouring South Pacific Islands, have an abundance of aromatic plants. I aspire to use many of the local ingredients in my Ayurvedic-inspired tea blends. I’m currently studying Medicinal Plant and Spiritual Evolution and learning how important it is to respect one’s environment for the survival of our planet.
Did you have any mentors or gurus along the way?
My parents and both my grandmothers have inspired me as they have been great advocates of clean health and well-being. As for Ayurveda, my master, Dr Ajit, came into my life fifteen years ago when I was in search of an Ayurvedic Doctor to formally teach me the ancient science of Ayurveda, my ancestral science. I have had a few tea masters over the years however a recent meeting with the Tea Master Wu De has had a profound influence on me.
You also blend tea according to the cycles of the moon. How is that different from other times?
The cycles of the moon play a crucial part in my tea blending process. I follow the lunar calender as I believe that this is nature’s way. On the crescent of the new moon, I formulate new blends and continue until the full moon night where I do the majority of my tea blending. I feel the energy during this time is very feminine as well as creative.
What’s a typical day for you at the Tea Coup?
The great thing about following my passion is that no two days are the same. However, typically, my day starts with three bowls of tea in silence. This meditation ritual provides me with the foundation for my day ahead. It has all the elements that I need: water, earth, space, prana, fire/heat and most importantly, it creates peace in my heart. This is the “way of the tea” for a humble Ayurvedic Teaologist.
What’s your advice for someone who wants to better learn the art of appreciating tea?
My advice would be attend a tea ceremony, observe, and listen to a tea master, and taste as many different types of tea from all over the globe.
If you weren’t a Teaologist, what would you do?
Maybe an artist or teacher.
Story by Jasmine Singh // Photographs of Fehreen Ali and her daughter Taharah Ali by Ngaire Naran