Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tea Breaks Are Good Business

 Photo / Thinkstock
Some time ago there was concern in New Zealand that the Government might 'force' employers to give rest breaks.
What Robyn Pearce can't fathom is why employers would need to be 'forced' to do it! Perhaps they and many of their employees don't know about the health and productivity gains we all get from regular breaks in our daily routine.
Robyn Pearce works with people around the world - both face-to-face and via webinars. Because 'sanity breaks' are part of her message she almost always ask her audiences if they take a regular lunch break, and how many take tea breaks - not just the 'grab a cuppa and take it back to the desk' kind of tea break, but a real one where they give their brain a rest, away from their desk. Typically more than 70% of the room don't do either on a regular basis. The next questions are 'how effective are you in the afternoon?' and 'how tired are you at the end of the day?' The look on most people's faces is classic - a kind of bemused 'why didn't I notice that connection before?'
Here's the explanation. Various biological rhythms flow through our body all day, all night. Ultradian rhythms are some of them. Loosely translated ultra = many and dian = day - the many rhythms of the day.They cycle continuously through our body like rolling waves - 90 - 120 - minutes up; 20 minutes down - repeated day and night.
The down cycle is not a negative thing - instead it's the rest cycle that our body needs to recharge, rebuild and to grow. If we keep pushing through these down cycles, if we don't give our body a chance to recharge, we push the poor old thing into flight or fight.
The consequence? Stress, burnout, and eventually sickness - sometimes very severe.
Without exception, every person she's challenged on this has agreed that when they push through down cycles of tiredness, thinking perhaps that they're being lazy or that it's not 'ok' to slow down for a short while, they become less effective in the afternoon and end up dragging their weary bodies home at the end of the day - not much use to themselves or loving family waiting for their share of time.
So what to do about it? Morning and afternoon tea breaks and a lunch break away from your desk - they're some of the simple solutions. And what about Winston Churchill's famous technique - the one that kept him operating at full steam through all those tough war years? He was famous for his power naps. When tired he'd pop upstairs (when he was working at Downing Street) and hop into bed for about 20 minutes.

This may not be feasible in your situation but a cup of tea is always at hand.
Not only will employers get higher productivity by making it appropriate for people to slow down but fewer mistakes will happen.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Pyramid Sweepstake

Our in-house hobbit, Tea Baggins, took it upon himself to run the sweepstakes this year, as he's done the last couple.  He arrived in the lunch room with our horse names encased in tea pyramids!  Apart from the flexibility of controlling our own production, an in-house pyramid manufacturing plant allows us to be a little creative from time to time.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tea, Sympathy and Home Baking

I have spent many hours at home recently, contemplating the choices of tea in an alcove we had made specially for the purpose when renovating some years ago.  Shoulder surgery to my right arm has rendered me somewhat useless at the day to day tasks I take for granted, driving being one of them, hence the time spent in the confines of our house.  Fortunately I have been blessed by a stream of visitors who have helped pass the tedium of home detention.  They're all tea drinkers and excellent bakers.  My luck.

I can still fill the kettle one handed and with a little help, get the lid off the tea caddy, fill my chosen teapot and generally go about tea making duties.  As I contemplate the various offerings in my tea alcove it has become painfully obvious my tea choices are of a narrow focus.  No longer do I house an array of flavoured black teas, greens and the odd herbal to round out my preference for traditional single estate black teas. Over the last eighteen years as The Tea Lady my tastes have morphed from drinking anything and everything to a preference for the subtle nuances of grade, country of origin and time of picking.  In the afternoons I might add a pinch of Lapsang Souchong to my Ceylon tea or branch out wildly and have a Vanilla Rooibos after dinner.

My visitors are perplexed at the lack of exotic choices but they're unfailingly polite about the tea proffered, either with milk or without but rarely with sugar.  It would seem a shame to detract from the flavour of home baking that is bought, shared then left behind for our consumption.  Pumpkin and date cake, coconut and coco rounds, fruity slices and an assortment of biscuits all lovingly baked, artfully presented, unfailingly delicious.

The time honoured tradition of tea, sympathy and home baking as a way of nurturing and caring for friends resonates strongly with me.  I relish a rainy afternoon dedicated to baking, inviting friends to join us for a slice of something and cup of something else.  The bestowing of these blessings in return has lifted my spirits and no doubt aided my recovery.

The power of tea, sympathy and home baking should not be underestimated.
Anna Salek

Monday, August 12, 2013

Tea and Tanks

The news out of Syria has been one long, terrible stream of horror and atrocities. But even in the midst of war, the country's fighters have been captured putting aside their weapons for an afternoon tea.  READ MORE below for a startling collection of images from Reuters.

Free Syrian Army fighters use poster of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad to start a fire for heat and making tea in Aleppo.

 A group of unemployed Iraqi men drink tea in Sayydeh Zenab, an Iraqi neighbourhood near Damascus. Since the start of the U.S.-led war on Iraq in March 2003, Iraqi refugees, who fled the country, have started to create their own community inside the Syria. An estimated 1.4 million Iraqis are now living in Syria..

 A member of the Free Syrian Army blows a fire under a teapot, as he stands near curtains used to provide protection from snipers loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in Deir al-Zor.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Bespoke Teapots

In my opinion there is nothing more beautiful than a bespoke teapot.  I'm not a great collector of teapots preferring function over form when it comes to tea making although there are a few meaningful pieces dotted around our house.  A blue and gold whimsical piece given to us for our wedding, a gnarly old fairy astride the spout of another made for my fortieth and a teapot entitled 'The Lovers' which I paid off over a couple of months having just started in the tea business.  All have significant meaning not just for their beauty but also for the sentiment behind the piece and yes, they all brew nicely.  Obviously I'm not alone in my love of bespoke teapots as I happened upon a New Zealand blog entitled Pots and Tea.  Below are photos from their site.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Women In The Tea Industry

The tea industry in India is one of the oldest industries and one of the largest employers. Over 12 hundred thousand permanent and almost the same number of casual and seasonal, workers are employed in the tea industry. Over 50 per cent of the workers, and in some operations like tea plucking, over 80 per cent of the workers, are women.
There are broadly four categories of personnel on the plantations – management, staff, sub-staff and workers. But the workers who work on the plantation comprise the bulk of the workforce of the plantation. The ‘field workers’ are engaged in plucking and activities related to the maintenance of the plantation and the bushes. Nearly all of this most difficult and hazardous work is performed by women workers. Women carry heavy loads of green leaf on their backs every day for years from very young and later whether they're pregnant or old. 
Over 90 per cent of the tea workers are either Scheduled Tribes or Scheduled Castes – the lowest in the caste, ethnicity, class and resource hierarchy. Most of the families of the workers have been forcibly or fraudulently brought to the tea gardens several generations ago.
The work of tea workers is arduous in addition to being low paid and insecure. Tea pickers are on their feet all day with heavy baskets on their backs, often on uneven terrain and in harsh weather conditions. Injuries are common, as are respiratory and water-borne diseases.
Over the years, however, the majority of workers came to be members of one trade union or the other. Most unions in India, including those in the tea plantations, are affiliated to and controlled by political parties. What this means for workers, their wages, and their rights is a different matter.
Though women workers constitute the majority of the workforce, most top level leadership consists of men. The higher level positions in the union are generally occupied by non-(tea) worker male leaders, mainly middle-class men. Either there are no elections, or elections are held which tend to be uncontested, and the same (male) leaders get elected over and over again. This could be one of the reasons why a vicious cycle of ineffective trade unions and non-representation of the interests of the majority of workers exists. 
In a process that the Progressive Tea Workers’ Union (PTWU) began in April 2010, a series of workshops were organized where over a 100 women from about 30 tea plantations participated. All the women workers had participated in several struggles and in the process of organizing.
This resulted in a process whereby women workers from different plantations and also different ethnic groups began meeting and looking at common issues, including questioning the union on why women are not represented in their committees. This is a new beginning and an ongoing process.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Why I drink tea

In a recent interview, a journalist asked me why I drink tea.  I paused for thought.
I drink tea to relax, for that 'ahhh' moment after the first sip.  I drink tea to find a moment's peace and to create a little space for myself.  I drink tea to replenish and do myself some good.  I drink tea for the pleasure of the ritual that is making a pot, waiting and finally pouring.  I drink tea to savour the taste and to accompany food.  I drink tea because, for me, there is much joy in sharing a pot of tea with friends and family.
Anna Salek
The Tea Lady

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Dangerous Habit of Tea Drinking

Teas is considered both a popular pick-me-up and a health elixir so it's hard to imagine that sipping tea was once thought of as a reckless, suspicious act, linked to revolutionary feminism. Quelle horreur!

The feminist complaints came from 19th century, upper class Irish critics who argued that peasant women shouldn't be wasting their time — and limited resources — on tea. If women had time to sit down and enjoy a tea break, this must mean they were ignoring their domestic duties and instead, perhaps, opening the door to political engagement or even rebellion. In the 1800s, tea was an affront to the virtues of frugality and restraint, which underpinned rural Irish culture.

In a dialogue between two women of that time it is clear that tea-drinking was considered lavish, irresponsible behavior that could be habit-forming. Though the characters don't know the language of addiction, they use the phrase "hankering after it" — as if to suggest that once you'd had your first cup of tea, it would impossible to stop or control your longings.

The reformers' campaign against tea took on another moral outrage too: slavery. Since tea was typically sweetened with sugar at the time, reformers in Ireland tried to convince people that tea-drinking was akin to drinking the blood of slaves who were forced to work the plantations where sugar was produced.

Fortunately for tea drinkers these 'dangerous habits' are now deemed perfectly normal and perhaps even virtuous.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Church of the Tea Pot

I was trolling through different tea blogs recently and came upon this press release from the Church of the Tea Pot.  Too silly not to share I thought.......

Press Release – The Church of the Tea Pot
The Church of the Tea Pot, a recently excommunicated branch of the Catholic Church, will be holding a rally at Te Aro Park (Pigeon Park) Wellington, at 3pm on Saturday the 9th of February 2013. This rally will launch our campaign to get the faithful to indicate their support for the Tea Pot faith on their Census form this year.
The Tea Pot faith has found itself in a difficult position when the recently elected Pope Benedict the 16th declared the branches’ belief in a Tea Pot orbiting the Sun somewhere between Earth and Mars, and the Tea Pot’s son the Invisible Unicorn who came unto the disciples Bertrand Russell and Richard Dawkins, to be inconsistent with the Catholic faith.
Father Clive Earl Grey has announced he is able to attend the rally on the 9th and said that “this year will be a tipping point for the faith. I can imagine we will see literally dozens of people being converted to the Tea Pot faith as our Census Write In campaign launches in February. As Bertrand Russell’s acclaim rose through the Monty Python drinking song, so too will the ranks of the faithful in our church swell in this desperate attempt to gain publicity.”
May the Tea Pot be with you…

Monday, January 7, 2013

Tea Inspired Hobbies

Summer holidays always inspire me to start a project or two, something about warm weather, long afternoons and a more relaxed schedule.  Often my projects are tea inspired, as you might expect.  In this case my inspiration comes from a tea blog I follow as well as the creativity of my sister in Wellington.

Not a lot of skill required to create these lovely cake and biscuit platters.  The first is simply a glass candlestick glued to a glass plate but isn't it effective?
The second design could be used either way up, again all you need is a decent quality glue and modicum of imagination.  The local second hand bric a brac shop is fertile hunting ground for pedestal platter materials.
Lastly something a bit more difficult.  Not anything I've tried at home but found on the internet whilst browsing.  The perfect tea lovers accessory, teapot wind chimes.
My glue of choice is Gorilla Glue, available at most hardware shops.