Back in 2016, I set out to become a professional Tea Sommelier…
But let’s rewind back a little. I had loved tea for as long as I can remember, and since my childhood I was a sworn tea drinker – black, green, white, you name it. I loved the taste of tea, but I loved the ritual even more. It represented a short moment of escape, a moment that did not require me to solve anything. My absolute favourite would be a powerful brew of Earl Grey or Lady Grey – the stronger, the better.
I used to rejoice in its astringent quality and watch the tannins flock to the white walls of the cup.
I have suffered from headaches since my early childhood (they would come regularly, about 3 times a week!) ‘for no apparent reason”. I had done scans, consulted specialists, and luckily there was “nothing wrong”. Making myself a strong brew during a raging headache is something that I used to find solace in – and this is a practice I lived by for almost 20 years, no kidding.
Years went by, my relationship with tea had blossomed into what I thought to be True Love, with the addition of a regular daily intake of coffee (I mean, what kind of self-respecting university student isn’t pulling off an all-nighter with a cup of joe, or two??).
By the time I was 25, I was consuming on average 5 cups of caffeinated drinks per day.
Tea was a passion of mine, and after the birth of my daughter (when I started questioning my career path for the first time), I decided that Tea was the way to go. So I signed up for Tea School. Exciting times – I was commuting by train from Brussels to Paris on weekends, learning all about the wonderful world of teas and dreaming of my budding career as a tea expert. Needless to say, my return trip would always be accompanied by…a lovely migraine headache.
The following year I got pregnant, so the enthusiasm for caffeine died down a little (rather, a lot) by obligation and my tea studies stalled. My son was born and as I was breast-feeding, my semi-caffeinated vicious circle continued.
But then Ayurveda knocked on my door. Oh-Happy-Day!
I started seeing an Ayurvedic practitioner. I started learning about my body – about my birth constitution and about my current state of (in)balance. I started understanding what my body can and cannot handle. It turns out (you guessed it by now) that caffeine is one of the things that my body cannot handle well at all and most definitely not in the amounts that I have been exposing myself to. Since my childhood, I had been placing myself in a cycle of suffering: more caffeine – more headaches – more caffeine.
Caffeine present in tea and coffee is a strong stimulant for the nervous system. My birth constitution (as well as my state of balance at the time) was high in the air element, which, in many, points to a very sensitive nervous system.
I was constantly overstimulating what was already overstimulated.
My head was screaming for me to stop, I just did not get the message.
My solution was to quit tea and coffee cold turkey. It was actually much easier than I thought, perhaps because I told myself it was temporary. But as I quickly noticed, my headaches simply lifted. As I replaced caffeinated liquids with those that actually hydrate me instead of drying me out and making me jittery (herbal tea & warm water became my new BFFs) – I rather effortlessly put the chronic headache era behind me!
It has now been three years. Do I still get headaches? Yes. But they are much, much milder and only occasional in nature. Plus, now I am able to pin-point exactly why they are happening (usually this can happen in one of these three scenarios):
- Lack of proper hydration
- Messed-up sleep patterns
- Indulgence in a heavy meal the night before
Do I still drink tea and coffee? Surprisingly – yes! But now it is an occasional treat rather than a habit. I have learnt to interpret the signs that my body and my mind are sending me. I now KNOW when I can handle a good espresso and when it’s better to go herbal.
This is the gift that Ayurveda gave me – the ability to know and understand myself.
From this space, my daily actions can support my overall wellbeing.
This is also a perfect illustration of how something that has unarguable medicinal properties (let’s remember that coffee/tea is medicinal!) did NOT serve my body. It caused havoc instead.
Ayurveda’s bio-individual perspective allows us to devise what is our medicine and what is our poison.
And these might be interchangeable for different body types!
And as for all things tea – I still adore it and find the world of Tealand fascinating. It will always have a special place in my heart. But I admire it from afar. I keep in mind that I am better off enjoying a good cup of quality Oolong in the morning only, when and ONLY when I am feeling calm, centered and well-rested.
Are you a tea-drinker? How does your body handle caffeine? If you would like support and guidance in figuring out how to meet the needs of your body according to Ayurveda, I would love for you to get in touch!