The abrupt transition to remote work since the COVID-19 outbreak has sent many of us into new territory, while others are wading back into the familiar waters of work-from-home jobs from the past. I fall into the latter category, having been a full-time freelance writer and photographer once upon a time. I’m at once relieved at having the type of job allowing for remote work, and feeling guilty and, of course, heartbroken for my loved ones and the millions of strangers around the world who are suddenly unemployed. Our New Orleans hospitality community is, of course, my first thought, then my mind tumbles through the countless other industries and communities suffering right now. It can seem unimportant to write lifestyle stories at a time like this, but we are all seeking creature comforts, distractions, tips and simply a sense of normalcy amid the chaos unfolding around us on a seemingly minute-to-minute basis. I’ve certainly begun clinging to the small daily rituals, such as meditation and morning pages, that I’ve cultivated over the years to help me stay balanced and have resumed those that fell to the wayside, such as afternoon tea.

As a freelancer, I controlled my schedule, so taking tea in the afternoon was as easy as getting up and walking into the kitchen. There are times when I’ll have a cup at the office, but it isn’t something I do daily the way I did when I worked from home full time.

The first week of Renaissance Publishing’s migration to remote work felt like getting sucked into a swirling vortex of texts from coworkers and friends about everything from remote work logistics and troubleshooting to the onslaught of coronavirus news, as well as responding to Slack messages and fielding work emails, while simultaneously trying to get my actual work done. I noticed that my jaw was clinched, then my chest began to feel tight and finally, I had to just step away from the technology. It sounds cheesy, but as I brusquely shut the laptop and flung aside my phone, the words “chamomile tea” popped into my head and without even pausing, I strode into the kitchen and made a cup of tea. It isn’t an overstatement to say that it completely changed the course of the rest of my day.

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 or upper crust to enjoy tea. It is widely available and inexpensive. But, you can certainly spend a lot on luxurious tea sets and accouterments and fine tea. That’s up to you.

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. (If you are into Japanese-style tea, Marie Kondo has a beautiful tea ceremony post.)

Tea Image 2 By Melanie
Photo by Melanie Spencer

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 it with chocolate or another treat.

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 that 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 next onslaught of Slack messages. 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 is certainly 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.




Design Diary


Design Fix: Eclectic Home is sharing tips and advice on its Facebook page with “Daily Dose of Design,” posts.

Living Décor: Get fresh flowers delivered or via pickup from Pistil & Stamen by following the farm’s Facebook updatesFAIT Nola announced home delivery last week, so you can bring a little green into your home.

Makin’ Groceries: Get fresh produce delivered from Crescent City Farmers Market via Top Box Foods or order and pick it up from River Queen Greens.

What’s Cookin’: Joy the Baker and NOCHI are conducting online cooking classes ($28 and pay-what-you-can, respectively) and SoFab has free Facebook Live classes beginning this week.

A Day at the Museum: The Ogden Museum of Sothern Art and NOMA are both featuring online virtual tours and exhibitions.

Tippling Point: Join cocktail historian Elizabeth Pearce’s boozy book club on Facebook.