In a recent Law Society survey of Junior Lawyers, 55% of women and 42% of men said they regularly felt unable to cope, with almost two-fifths experiencing a mental health problem. High workload and demanding clients were behind many of the problems, and the resulting stress led to problems with family life and relationships. This led the Law Society to launch a series of two-hour resilience and wellbeing workshops, created to help lawyers be their best at work, and away from it, focusing on personal coping mechanisms.
The Law Society’s Junior Lawyers Division has also hosted podcasts on improving the mental health of their junior lawyers. One of their recent podcasts focused on alternatives to booze culture and featured an ancient green tea expert, Rui Liu. The Attic met with Rui Liu, founder of ancient green tea expert collective Grass People Tree, who shares the ancient Eastern philosophy of “knowing yourself” and “staying relaxed” to help individuals in organisations to find calmness, joy and space and to achieve optimum mental health and work performance. Rui shares her experience and tips on how lawyers can benefit, mentally and physically, from ancient teas.
#1 How did Grass Tree People start?
I used to work in fashion which was a very stressful industry. One day, we shot for 20 hours, and I brought along a green tea packet my parents gave me. After brewing it in a clay teapot, the smell filled the whole room and reminded me of Guizhou, my native city in China. I started telling the story of the culture of tea and before long, it became a regular thing. After six months, I considered making it a business and went back home to do some research.
The cleanest tea comes from wild tea plants. Over this two-year trip, I visited over 200 villages, sometimes trekking for a day to get to the village. One day, I walked into a private tea house and with the tea master, I tried seven-hours brewed green tea. He shared the story of indigenous wild tea trees and I narrowed down my research to six different places where wild tea trees grow.
One of them is called the Tai tree. Its purple leaves, called fish hook leaves by locals, have more nutrients than most tea trees. Others, like bush tea trees, only reach as high as 15 metres high when they are over 1200 years old. We had to carry a ladder in the mountains to pick tea leaves. One the teas I offer, the Master’s Red Tea, comes from an 800 year-old tree.
Back in London, I had more than 25 notebooks with notes and I had to think: how do I tell the story in 15 words? The website Grass Tree People shares the story of where ancient teas come from and my personal connection with the land.
#2 What does Grass People Tree do?
Grass People Tree. The word tea in Chinese “cha” (茶) is made of 3 characters: grass + people + tree. Human is the element that connects grass and trees with harmony and tea embodies the relationship between humans and nature. When you have a good tea, you can taste nature from it.
We run predominantly B2B workshops, using tea as a language to improve people’s productivity, enhance their awareness or facilitate difficult conversations. We are quite resilient in terms of what people need for their team. One of the workshops with Nike was a team-building away day based on kindness, which was quite philosophical and spiritual in a way. If you can’t look after yourself, how can you look after other people?
I also work with a Kung Fu master to run synergy workshops, using the wisdom of Kung Fu to improve communication. In the B2B realm, I run Chinese etiquette workshops with companies that have interactions with Chinese clients. You learn to break the ice at the tea table. A lot of individuals, particularly very young entrepreneurs or business people, want to absorb as much knowledge as they can when doing business with China and business negotiations can be intimidating and confusing. Our workshops empower people to use the language of tea to make connections.
This year, I will run spring and summer retreats in China in the mountains. A qi gong master will teach people how to activate their tea, a tea master to talk about tea, a Chinese medicine master will provide insights into traditional Chinese medicine and a Buddhist chef will show how he uses local foraged food.
#3 What are green tea’s health benefits?
Western medicine differs from Chinese philosophy and medicine when it comes to the health benefits of green tea. In western medicine, studies report that green tea has more health benefits than black tea thanks to its lack of processing, making green tea higher in protective polyphenols. The major polyphenols in green tea are flavonoids, notably catechins and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) that function as powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants are known to protect the body against disease and are an important part of a healthy diet. As part of a balanced diet, green tea can be a good source of antioxidants. You can find other health benefits of green tea here.
In Chinese philosophy, everything has temperatures and there are 24 seasons. Winter, in particular, is all about restoring your energy and nourishing the organs which is where green tea comes in. It can help you feel better, restore you and make you feel revived. Green tea also has a cooling nature but if you need some warming tea, red or aged white tea are a great choice. Aged green tea, being very mellow, has a more cooling effect.
We have to ask ourselves how we really feel and use tea as a reflection tool. Seasons also influence how you can experience tea. We have to recognise that we feel differently during the week, much like the weather changes in the mountains. Lawyers can use tea as an instrument to check on themselves and see how they can connect with themselves.
#4 How can lawyers incorporate green tea in their routine?
Lawyers should ask themselves how they are feeling and then decide what tea they need. It might be that they don’t need tea at all, that they just need physical and mental space to be with themselves.
The general rule is that you should choose tea according to your needs. At 11am in the morning, if you feel drowsy and have a sugar rush, make green tea. If you are feeling cold, yellow tea might be a better pick. If you have digestive system problems, drink yellow or aged black tea and if you feel fragile and have worked long hours, have white tea. It will feel like a blanket hugging you, giving you comfort and strength. If you have a hangover, aged white tea is your best choice, particularly wild tea.
Even if you are a coffee person, green tea is also a great alternative to coffee but when choosing your green tea, note that green tea should never be or taste bitter. Green tea does contain caffeine, although varieties and brands may differ. An equal quantity of green tea contains less caffeine than coffee (one cup of green tea contains approximately 35-80 mg compared to approximately 100-400 mg in the same size cup of coffee), but it can still act as a stimulant. As a result, some people find that drinking green tea increases their energy levels, concentration and mood.
- Discovering green tea is well worth the effort if you are looking for alternatives to coffee and/or to the booze culture and alcohol consumption in the legal profession
- Beat the mid-morning slump with a green tea brew to revive your senses and enhance your concentration levels
- Green tea can help lower your levels of stress, boost your mental health and energy levels
- There’s more to green tea than tea bags. And more green teas than Lipton’s green tea too. Explore tea shops and find out about green teas that will improve your wellbeing as well as your physical health
- Green tea can help you reconnect with nature, an essential part of the journey to positive mental health and happiness