18 marked the five-year anniversary of our teahouse, Essencha Tea House, just a week after the devastating news about the earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan. We had a week full of events and specials planned, finishing with a customer appreciation celebration on that Friday.

In light of the news in Japan, however, it just didn’t feel right to celebrate and have a huge open house in the face of such sorrow among so many of our close friends and colleagues. Up until that point, we had heard very little of anyone doing anything to raise funds in town, and even heard people say they weren’t too concerned about the situation because Japan is “a rich country” (although this wasn’t the time for a global economics lesson, some people could’ve really used one). Given this, we decided to turn our open house into a fundraiser for relief efforts by donating 50% of the day’s tea sales to the Red Cross.

The day brought more than a few surprises. There weren’t many reservations on the calendar, and I had originally intended to keep the day and evening very low key, although I wanted to raise as much as we We weren’t prepared for the marathon day that lay ahead, and didn’t realize that word of our event had spread quickly across town. One of my dearest friends was particularly down all week upon hearing about new developments each day in her home country, and really wanted to help, so she emailed everyone in her network, and we were overwhelmed with the outpouring of support on that day. I really didn’t know what to expect, but was so touched by how many people came just because they cared about my friend and felt empathy for her pain. We hadn’t anticpated such a crowd, and did our best to keep up, but it was intense. Ironically, the evening wasn’t unlike the first day we opened, reminding us of how loving and supportive the local and international tea community is. Our guests and patrons also came out to express their support, and by the end of the day we had the best sales day in our history – noteworthy, because it was a Friday in March! It was inspiring to be reminded how tea, sympathy, and little leap of faith can bring people together.

I am truly grateful to our fellow Cincinnatians and tea lovers for their continued support and patronage, and we will continue to try to raise money for relief efforts by donating 10% of our Japanese tea sales through May.