After my last post, there were a few responses that made note of the growing populations of youth in certain metropolitan areas that do appreciate tea. Thinking about these responses, I can’t help but contemplate the obvious discrepancy between youth in the average, middle-American town and youth roaming the cosmopolitan streets of San Francisco. Having myself lived in both a town of just under 6,000 people and larger cities (like Sacramento, California), I can see that while there are communities of tea lovers blossoming in the urban age brackets of 16 to 24, in most areas youth do not regularly consume tea, and tea is certainly not associated with chic. This sort of urban growth is to be encouraged, coaxed, and cultivated, by all means, but I stick to my original call to action. We can hardly do a case study of a few “alternative” social groups in a large city, where tea houses are certain to be found, and call the resulting data typical of the American whole.
The desire to spread tea culture must be realized, but it must be made manifest with delicacy and respect. The drive to share the coffee culture of the Pacific Northwest with the rest of the country was an innocent enough idea, but with the commercial expansion of Starbucks, that culture was diluted and misconstrued. The financial and marketing struggles now facing the once formidable juggernaut of coffee beverages serve as a prime example of the fatality of expansion without conscientiousness. Instead of enlightening the far reaches of the nation as to the true character of coffee, they failed to even serve an honest espresso. The flavor, robust and bitter as it is, was all but removed in liquid desserts, and the masses of potential coffee aficionados became instead targets for the scorn of true coffee drinkers. The attempted mechanization and mobilization of a culture proved to be disastrous.
Being mindful of such failure, we are presented with a paradoxical dilemma. To share the joy and benefits of tea culture with our youth, we must first convince them that they themselves desire such an exchange. By encouraging the development of tea houses with patronage, we help to establish an environment that appeals to teenagers, undergrad, and grad students, and the wider community. A tea house is a marvelous venue for escaping the dreariness of life at home or in the dorms, for socializing, for cultivating feelings of maturity, for fostering life-long habits, and, heaven forbid, for doing homework. In short, to create demand, we must create supply that is appealing to a generation otherwise marginalized.