Melanie Warner Spencer photo

The abrupt transition into social distancing and self-isolation since the COVID-19 outbreak has many of us seeking creature comforts, distractions, tips and simply a sense of normalcy. I’ve certainly begun clinging to small daily rituals, such as meditation and journaling, cultivated to stay balanced and resumed those that fell to the wayside, such as afternoon tea.

Making a cup of tea to sip while you work is certainly beneficial, but I recommend ritualizing it and using it as an afternoon break. My version looks a lot like traditional English tea, which was just that, a respite to energize the aristocracy and the otherwise upper crust between the hours of 3 and 4 p.m. Thankfully, you don’t have to be an aristocrat to enjoy tea.

My ritual is simple and with each step, I relax a little more, so that by the time I’m actually drinking the tea, I’m in a pretty good place.

Here’s my process:

Step 1: Boil water in a saucepan or tea kettle.

Step 2: Pour the water over loose tea in a basket or use bagged tea. Steep it for the recommended amount of time, usually 3 to 5 minutes. I like several magical blends from New Orleans’ The Tea Witch. Additional local purveyors include The Spice & Tea Exchange, Tandem Tea Company and Orleans Coffee’s Royal Tea Company.

Step 3: If you really want to take it to the next level, pair your tea with chocolate or another treat. Honey Mama’s CocoNoNut bar is life changing.

Step 4: Add honey or some other sweetener and your preferred form of creamer if you take it that way.

Step 5: Find a quiet corner and sip. Allow yourself time to finish the entire cup. Consider cueing up music you love.

Reintroducing this one habit into my routine has enabled me to find a moment of centering amid even the most chaotic days. After, I come back to work refreshed, de-stressed and ready to tackle the rest of the day. It’s a tiny shift that has made a big impact in my stress level and makes me feel a little more cared for during what has certainly been one of the most surreal, frightening and uncertain times in my life and perhaps, in our shared human history. Let’s take care of ourselves, so we can take care of one another, one warm, consoling cup at a time.

(Note: A version of this piece published previously on