IN CONVERSATION WITH Jessica Bonin-Founder Lady Bonins' Tea
Q: You’ve been involved in a love affair with tea for the past 8 years. Describe your first experience that you recall of tea and the impression it make upon you?
A: It was my childhood circumstances that make it part of my every day life. In boarding school it was the way we connected, the ceremony where we shared so many moments of laughter, soothing sadness, reflecting on moments and just having fun. My grandmother taught me about its mysticism by showing me how you can taste love in tea, how the way you make it reflects the very nature of your mind at the moment through its flavour. When I had these realisations I looked at tea in a whole new way. It began a process of mindfulness and observation that created in me a serenity, equipping me to handle my every day challenges.
Q: Tea has such an ancient and rich multi-cultural history. How do you embrace the richness of the past and marry it with the contemporary?
A: I love the way ancient cultures harmonised with the world. They did not see a separation between themselves and the environment. Tea is a means through which I want to create a space where worlds collide, people connect and divides are severed. Tea is common to all the world… it has the magic to bring people together and bring people back to themselves. We do this by creating ways people can integrate tea into their daily lives in a contemporary way without overwhelming them or requiring extended periods of time to prepare and enjoy. We summarise the process that still allows a small opportunity to be present, thereby giving the beneficial effects, without disrupting or creating expansive effort. The tea really does the rest of the work.
Q: You talk about the healing properties of tea. Is this deeply important to you and does it somehow reflect your own personal journey?
A: Tea is an incredible way to achieve serenity, and serenity creates the ability for us to better handle our every day challenges. The samurai created something called Wabi - The Way. It was a process by which they attributed every act as an art. By being present one is able to calm the mind and simultaneously the body. This ability is what made the Samurai so formidable. They moved this mind practice into other arts and tea became an integral part of their means to attain serenity. The very process of preparing tea requires focus… presence. The very physiological effects produce the same conditions - uniting mind and body. When I am in this state I can better handle my experiences, taking into consideration the consequences of every thought, word and action, because it’s our thoughts, words and actions that create our experiences. Tea has over 2000 different beneficial chemicals in each leaf that has an interaction with the body, explaining why the Chinese founded it as a medicine over 4000 years ago, and why it’s still so prominent today.
Q: You’ve just opened a tea ceremonial room. Describe to us the power behind the act of ceremony?
A: The act of ceremony is a mindfulness practice. By bringing your mind in to focus with a choreographed set of movements and processes, you eliminate opportunities for the mind to become distracted with the outside word. This gives the mind less power and allows you to be an active creator in your world. It’s an act of meditation, a yoga. We hope to share this practice with people in our Cape Town and Johannesburg spaces, providing them with respite from the chaos of the outside world so they can also extend this into their home, inspiring change.
Q: You are a great reader. Share something with us that you recently encountered that you made an intimate connection with, an insight
A: I am a lover of philosophy and old world spirituality. I just read an amazing book on love called the 40 Rules of Love by Elif Safak. It delves into the life of my favourite poet, Rumi. It talks about Rumi’s process of discovering the nature of the world and the nature of himself through the ultimate nature of all things - love. As tea dictates, we’re not separate from our environment. This book explores this concept, and if we embrace this commonality, we can cultivate love as the core of all. And love is a beautiful place from which we can heal the many divides of this world.