For as long as people have prepared and consumed tea, Camellia sinensis has been used to promote sociability and community. In fact, the process of sharing tea with another human being is sometimes a way to make social differences feel less important. Perhaps you have sat down to tea with a stranger, or someone you did not know very well, only to realize that the act of drinking tea brought the two of you closer together. Tea is often consumed for social reasons, yet it is perceived to have other powerful qualities as well. For instance, many people drink tea because it creates stability, order, and familiarity in a world full of chaos.
While it may be the perfect drink for many social occasions, it is also ideal for intensely personal life events. In the book, Letters to Olga, readers learn about Václav Havel, a Czech human rights activist who was imprisoned for four years for his social and political writings. While serving time in prison, he wrote letters to his wife, Olga, on many different topics, including tea. Havel wrote of his attempt to bring order to his life through self-care, which incorporated this versatile drink.
Although he never drank tea much until he was sent to prison, Havel started drinking tea for its ability to cure, stimulate, and warm. Most importantly, Havel considered the preparation and consumption of tea to be a material symbol of freedom. To Havel, tea allowed his spirits to unbridle, so he could focus on inner freedom in such dour circumstances. Although this is a rare example, people from all walks of life drink tea for similar reasons, and sometimes for different purposes altogether. Why do you drink tea? It may be for more than just its taste!
Originally published at http://www.tching.com