A traditional Japanese tea ceremony is about much more than the tea: It's a ritual that creates a serene, meditative environment for the guests and the host, and focuses on the beauty in small gestures. Leah Forester, who runs the Venice Supper Club in L.A. and stars in There Goes the Motherhood, is a fan of tea ceremonies, and she hosts them for her women friends and guests on a regular basis. Leah prepares the food and brings in tea-ceremony specialist Baelyn Elspeth to create the perfect mood and lead guests through the ritual. "I was inspired to offer these Sacred Tea Ceremonies as a way for women to connect to themselves and others," says Leah. "We all live such hectic lives and we need a moment to stop and reflect on where we are and where we want to go." Here, Leah shares 5 tips for throwing a tea ceremony in your own home. Photos below by Ziv Sade.
1. Invite the right number of people.
"We host 20 people maximum at the Venice Supper Club Sacred Tea Ceremonies," says Leah. "Any more than 15-20 and you lose the sense of intimacy and the ability for guests to interact with each other deeply. I'm always amazed at how many people are looking for an experience like this and how completely different types of people universally love it."
2. Decide on the menu and the tea.
"Sacred ancient tea is a special type derived from trees that are thousands of years old. It's the ancient quality that sets it apart from regular tea," says Leah, who recommends sourcing the tea as well as pots, cups and accessories from Living Tea. As for the food: "My White Magic Menu is always a big hit," says Leah. "Guests love to mix and match the grains, proteins and garnishes to create their own custom bowl. Bowl-eating is very thematic for a tea ceremony evening; it's simple and nutritious and recalls the beauty of eating Asian food." You can find her suggested recipes here.
3. Set the mood.
"Create an area on the floor with cushions in a semicircle and a spot for the Tea Mistress. That can be anyone who wishes to quietly pour the tea and lead the circle," Leah suggests. "Set the stage with simple tea ware and hot water ready to refill nearby. Require your guests to leave their shoes, and their cares, at the door by creating an area for personal belongings outside. Think of your environment as sacred and others will, too."
4. Spend a quiet moment alone before your guests arrive.
Take time with yourself "to create some stillness internally as well as within the environment," says Leah. "Guests will sense the difference. Deep breaths and a calm presence are important for the hostess to set the tone. Light incense and candles, and put on a playlist of soothing tea house instrumental music on Pandora." Then set an intention for the group. "Maybe it's the theme of the full moon or self care or getting clear on one's purpose," says Leah. "Find a passage to read and open the circle with that. Whatever feels right for your group. It should be something meaningful for guests to hold on to during meditation."
5. Enjoy the ritual with your guests.
"The soothing silence of a tea ceremony is a great way to gather together with other women and explore heartfelt intentions," says Leah. "The experience usually lasts an hour and is conducted in complete silence. We sit on the floor and sip silently, inducing an awake/meditative state. It's very simple, but very profound." Check out this video of Elspeth talking about the tea ritual for inspiration on how tea ceremonies can be conducted. "After the ceremony, we break for supper and I set up my 'grain bowl bar,' an Asian- inspired meal. We gather at the table and have amazing conversation over healthy food and wine," Leah adds. "All these women from different walks of life meet and share their experience. It’s a perfect evening."
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