Wordstock – a writing conference in workshop format – was held at Portland’s beautiful convention center on Martin Luther King Boulevard. The first day, Friday, was planned with teachers in mind, offering small group sessions aimed specifically at teaching writing in the classroom setting. Sponsored by Borders Books and Starbucks Coffee, presenting workshops on everything – from Writer’s Block to Catalogue Poetry to Evaluating Student Writing – by great writers, teachers and poets. What’s not to like?

I arrived early, registered, and headed in to the ballroom to partake of “light breakfast” fare and a keynote speaker. Lined up were no fewer than six huge urns of Starbucks coffee; one urn of hot water, the ubiquitous assortment of tea bags, all flavored with “herbal infusions,” and several large baskets laden with sweet rolls. Choosing the least offensive of the tea bags (white tea with mystery flavor) and the most offensive sweet roll (something glazed and with a dollop of lemon goo) I made my way to a large table populated entirely by male teachers half my age. I have always believed firmly in integration by age and gender.

Soon the proceedings started. The speaker offered a “valuable prize” for anyone who could tell what “Starbucks” was named after. My hand shot into the air, and when called upon, I bellowed “Starbucks was the first mate in Melville’s Moby Dick! Applause surrounded me as the speaker’s eyes lit up, “You have won FIVE Starbucks gift cards – worth $25.00. Come up here, please!” On my way to the podium, I was congratulated by dozens of people, who pleaded, “You can give me ONE of those gift cards!”

That is just what I did: on my way back to my seat, I dropped a gift card on each table I passed, saying, “I drink tea.”

That act made me the most recognized and popular participant at the workshop – for almost four minutes. Two people did ask me if I had actually read Moby Dick. (Yes. But if you want the whale tale . . . be advised that Melville doesn’t get to the big fish until he’s almost 500 pages into the thing.)

And, in every workshop session I attended, when we did the practice part? I wrote about a world where there is a tea shop in every neighborhood. Comfortable places where one is given access to not only great tea, but also a vessel that heats pure, cold water to the perfect temperature, depending on the tea. Beautiful as well as functional teapot and cups are available in cozy little dens of near privacy where one can be alone or not.

Fiction. Alas.

Would you go to a teashop? Come on, be honest . . . as it is right now, you have developed a ritual of tea in your home. Your castle. Could you get a better cup of tea at a shop? How could a shop be better than your own home-brewed tea? Is there a non-fiction future for tea here?