What exactly is an Appalachian Tea Ceremony and why might you want to come?
Well, tea ceremonies have been around for thousands of years, honoring the plant Camellia sinensis, better known as Tea, but in the Appalachian Tea Ceremony, we take the idea of tea time to another realm. An herbal infusion is the liquid that we imbibe, and each ceremony honors a different plant, depending on the time of year.
This idea of an Appalachian Tea Ceremony came to my friend and mentor Jessie Wilder in 2016, who invited me to co-create one with her at an annual summer gathering we attend. We did so for a few years and in 2019, I got the inspiration to host them every other week, so that we can continue to steep ourselves in plant wisdom year round.
Due to the logistics of making an herbal infusion, I make the brews before the ceremony and have them ready to serve in carafes. There will always be a single plant highlighted that is served first, and then later in the ceremony I will serve a blend which has the highlighted plant in it.
A more adequate name would be an Appalachian Herbal Infusion Ceremony but that doesn’t sound as catchy:-) An infusion is allowing the plant material to be steeped in hot water for half an hour to hours; herbal tea or tisane is when the plant material is steeped only for a few minutes, similar to how Tea is prepared. This is a local, medicinal, caffeine-free, open-hearted herbal opportunity for acknowledging the sacred in everyday. A time for slowing down and giving thanks and being present with whatever is bubbling up inside of you that day.
The Ceremony is as much an infusion of the people who attend as it is of the herbs themselves. Each time it is a different feeling and experience. Depending on the weather, we offer the ceremony in Veritas Lodge or on the grounds/gardens of this beautiful farm. I make a center piece, flowers, a candle- it changes. We sit on pillows on the floor or ground, although there are chairs for anyone who would like them- the most important thing is to feel comfortable. We take a few moments to be still and quiet and feel our breath moving in and out of us. We choose a mug, bow and call in our ancestors. We practice deep listening. We go deeper with the plants. Sometimes I sing a song. We share tea. We share story. We share.
In the end, I offer a salutation, we give back any remaining tea to Earth Mother, and we move into the next layer of the day, hopefully with a more calm, peaceful way of being.
But please do come and find out for yourself! And check out this interview on the ceremony in the EatWeeds Podcast. Or on our local radio station. Or read a wonderful description of it in the second edition of Steve Lorch’s book “How to Make and Grow Tea in the United States.”