Several years ago, I used to work with a very talented, Vancouver-based perfumer. We worked together for about two years and in that time I learned a great deal from her, not only about the many, often challenging aspects of running an independent business, but lots of other things as well. One of the most valuable lessons she has ever taught me is the importance of being completely in the moment, not just physically but emotionally and mentally as well. As a natural perfumer, my boss would be constantly connecting with her inner self and senses, working with her hands and nose to create olfactory stories out of plant essences and oils. She lives, eats and breathes her art in every sense of the word. Admittedly, the first few months of working with her were unlike any other working experience I had ever had and my senses were nearly always overwhelmed by the vividness of her studio. The walls of her studio were always lined with beguiling paintings created by her daughter, smoky incense was always drifting through the air along with whatever exquisitely delicious dessert had been baked the night before and our periods of work were spaced with intervals of drinking tea and indulging in exotic treats, often from Israel, the country that she was raised in. The tea parties were one of my favorite parts of our working days. It didn’t matter what we were doing, even if deadlines were looming, we would always take fifteen minutes to unwind with some fragrant, unusual tea (that more often than not, she would have blended herself – think elderberry, or green tea with fir needles and juniper berry) and halva (a delicious sesame dessert from Israel).
It would be redundant to say that we live in a society that encourages a work until you burn out mentality, but it would also be true. Of all of the articles written about achieving success, the focus is always on working hard one one’s careers. People don’t often think about the benefits that working hard on one’s happiness can have on the quality of a person’s life, in a personal and professional sense. Taking breaks are often portrayed as being a waste of time but what I learned working with my former boss was that recharging for a few minutes at a time throughout the work day is the best way to remain not only productive, but passionate about whatever it is one is doing (and the truth is that the best work is created when one is passionate and engaged). I also believe that taking breaks where one’s senses are fully engaged (as they would be during a tea party) helps pull people into the present. It’s difficult to be grinding a mental axe when your nose is filled with the creamy smell of jasmine scented tea or when a rich, dark chocolate truffle is melting on your tongue.
I take tea breaks on a daily basis and without them I doubt I would retain my sanity for very long. With the crucial importance of being in the moment and taking breaks on my mind, I have put together three tea and dessert combinations to help you unwind and let go this summer.
1. Lavender and Honey Iced Latte + Cardamom and Lavender Dark Chocolate Truffles
A sucker for anything lavender, these soothing buds are mellowed by the sweet taste of honey. I have always loved the combination of bitter dark chocolate and herbaceous lavender and there is something that is so decadent about indulging in rich, dark chocolate truffles mid day. Pack them up and bring them to work for a very sophisticated lunch break.
2. Mango Iced Tea and Matcha Swirl Cheesecake
Nothing says summer like the delicious taste or ripe mangoes. This blend of mango pulp and black tea is in keeping with the exotic flavor of this sweet (but not too sweet) matcha green tea flavored cheesecake. These two tropical treats would make a cheerful accompaniment to a summer barbeque.
3. Blackberry Mint Iced Tea and Black Currant Macarons
Having spent all of my summers since childhood on Mayne Island, where by early August, blackberry bushes are practically heaving with the weight of all of the berries, the sweet yet tart taste of blackberries immediately makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Blackberries taste great when added to any kind of tea (white, green, black, oolong, rooibos etc.) but I especially love them with a rich black tea. The addition of mint makes this drink even more refreshing during summer months. I found this recipe for blackcurrant flavored macarons a while ago and have wanted to try my hand at making them ever since. I think the syrupy heaviness of blackcurrant is balanced by the airy texture of this French cookie and complements the refreshing flavor of the blackberry and mint. Enjoy on the patio with the company of some girlfriends or simply a good book.
I hope that you enjoyed these ideas and that whatever you are doing today, you take time out to relax and be in the moment, preferably with a cup of tea and something sweet.