I have come up with a concept.  It isn’t unique or even entirely original, but it is certainly bold.  And why not be bold?  Don’t a lot of great things happen that way?  I’ve decided to promote an annual worldwide event to honor Camellia sinensis and all those who work so hard to bring this versatile, labor-intensive wonder to our tables and to our awareness.  The first event will be May 8, 2011.  This post is about the process of “creating” this special day.

For a little over a year, I have been organizing face-to-face tea group activities in San Diego.  I recently started tea activities in San Francisco.  I plan to start in the greater Los Angeles area this summer.  The groups all have the same basic mission – to create community through tea, to help people learn about tea, and to support tea businesses, especially the local ones.  An unspoken mission is to promote tea education by anyone so inclined.

Like most Meetup organizers, I belong to some Meetup groups myself.  One of them is composed of almost 600 group organizers in the San Francisco Bay Area.  The first activity I attended was a presentation in Silicon Valley by Scott Heiferman, a CEO and co-founder of Meetup, and his associate Andres Glusman, a Strategy VP.  They had come to Silicon Valley from New York and found the time to meet with the group to introduce a brand new feature called “Meetup Everywhere”.

Meetup Everywhere” allows organizers to schedule face-to-face events all over the world on the same day, allowing me to use this feature to easily expand my mission with tea worldwide.  I still needed to give the day a title and choose the date. I did some online searches to learn what special days have already been set aside for tea.

International Tea Day” has been celebrated on December 15 since 2005.  This day is mainly celebrated in the tea-producing areas of Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia, where tea laborers often live at or under the poverty level.  The objectives of “International Tea Day” strongly emphasize unionization and governmental regulation of the tea trades.  There is a focus on improving the quality of life of tea workers and improving the position of small tea growers relative to the large corporate growers.  Another emphasis is to bring Fair Trade-certified and ethically produced tea to consumers in our increasingly global economy.

Another day that celebrates tea is “World Tea Appreciation Day”, also referred to simply as “Tea Appreciation Day”.  In 2005, Steven R. Jones traced the origins of this day on the Tea Arts blog to a Taiwan Wu-Wo Tea Mother’s Day “Family Tea Celebration” held in early May that dates back to 1991.  He wrote that by 2005, the day had taken on a broader meaning to include any kind of tea party, even one that included people who did not know each other.  Since it is not widely known, I will explain here that in Wu-Wo Tea, the goal is to reach a meditative state that lacks mental, physical, and emotional attachment. It is an egalitarian ceremony where participants rotate around to serve several others in the group rather than a single tea master serving everyone from a central position of control.  I got a rare opportunity to participate in a Wu-Wo Tea ceremony at the 2009 Northwest Tea Festival in Seattle.

I have combined elements of both of these celebrations into one, with a strong emphasis on the spirit of the latter, and folded my broadly defined personal mission with tea into the mix to keep my message consistent.  I will celebrate my revised version of “Tea Appreciation Day” each year on the second Sunday in May and I am inviting others to join me in this worldwide celebration on May 8, 2011 in any constructive manner that is consistent with at least one aspect of the stated mission of the day, which is to help people:

•    Create community through the shared enjoyment of tea (Camellia sinensis).
•    Learn about tea.
•    Teach about tea.
•    Support the tea trades.

How the “Meetup Everywhere” facility will work is that anyone who wants to join in the celebration can sign up on the Tea Appreciation Day meetup site as a participant.  They can then choose to be a local organizer or leave that position vacant for someone else to fill.  Now their location (city) is “on the map” literally and others may join at that location also.  When the local events are announced, everyone will be notified.

I will lend my support by designing local events.  I consider any activity that brings two or more people together in face-to-face community over tea to be a success, but there is no limit to the size of your event as long as there is face-to-face interaction, not just web-based communication.

You can also participate by joining the pages on Facebook or Twitter, but this will not document your support on the world map on Meetup Everywhere, which can be important for gaining sponsors.

Those who make a profit from “Tea Appreciaton Day” activities and sales are encouraged to donate a portion of the proceeds to a cause that benefits the tea trades or tea education.  I would appreciate being told how much is donated so I can track the results.

In addition, I am open to collaborating with others on the celebration and will consider altering the mission or design of the activities if convincing arguments are made.

I hope to celebrate 2011 Tea Appreciation Day with you!

Official Tea Appreciation Day pages can be found on the following social networking sites: Meetup Everywhere, Facebook, and Twitter.

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