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Tea is a social beverage. At times, our deeply-ingrained passion—especially when it deviates away from tea bags and appreciates specialty tea—can be isolating. Where can we find quality orthodox tea cafes outside of major cities? How do we connect with like-minded tea snobs (ahem, enthusiasts)? How do we learn about the myriad of tea cultures outside of our own? When a tea community isn’t easily available, we can create our own.
There are many well-established tea communities across the United States. In New York City, there are a plethora of tea groups to choose from: Tea Arts & Culture hosts tea events that intersect with art and culture over the summer in public parks, a local chapter of Global Tea Hut frequently hosts tea meditations, newsletter events within the city are shared by NY Tea Family, and there is the now-inactive NYC Tea Social Meetup. Of course there are virtual tea-themed groups which meet globally, such as Tea Book Club and International Tea Cuppers Club. Then there are hundreds of online groups which do not converge but are interesting to browse, such as the International Tea Talk (started by T Ching writer John Bickel) which is the largest Facebook group for tea enthusiasts.
Creating a Tea Community
For those who wish to have a personal and local touch, especially outside of large cities, the easiest way to join a tea community may be by creating one. The first step is to check your city and/or region to see what tea groups already exist. If an expired group exists, try contacting the previous leader to see if they are willing to transfer leadership. If there is none already existing, it is time to brainstorm for your own group. To start a tea community, one needs to: Select a venue, determine frequency, commit to a theme, and recruit members.
Selecting a Venue
First, one must select a venue. Will you hold the tea party at your home, at a college campus, in a public park, or at a local cafe? The advantage of hosting from one’s home or apartment is ensuring maximum control over external factors. The disadvantage is that one would not want to advertise the address when promoting the club due to safety concerns. For students in college, your campus should be able to provide a plethora of options to meet. Public parks are a peaceful change of scenery but warrant a back-up option (thus twice the planning) in case of rain or other inclement weather. Meeting at a locally-owned cafe or bookstore offers a unique option. Store owners are usually very supportive in scheduling events within their space. Prioritize Asian and Asian-American-owned and -operated cafes and venues. If it’s a space you already frequent, ask to speak with the owner about offering a space. It’s a business advantage for them to host, as it increases foot traffic, sales, and they’ll likely be able to recommend others to join via word of mouth.
Selecting a Theme
Then, reflect on the theme of the tea club; this can be reflective of the name chosen for the group. Will the themes change meeting to meeting or will the theme remain consistent? These are just some ideas for tea groups: Gongfu brewing ceremonies, tea book club, cupping comparisons, tea and food, creative writing group with tea, etc. This theme can determine which materials will be necessary for the group. Then, decide upon the frequency. Depending upon how many are interested, one can schedule monthly or biweekly meetings.
Finally, one must find members to join. Typically, word of mouth is the best way to find members who align with similar interests. Beyond this, taking one’s group to social media and sharing it on various platforms (Meetup, Facebook, Instagram), utilizing social media hashtags, and printing posters to place in nearby or thematically (especially locally-owned) businesses may help.
Your Tea Community
Have you started your own tea community? Tell us about it below!
- How long has it been running?
- Is it virtual or in person?
- What is the location?
- How many normally attend?
- And what has been the greatest success to date?
You just may find someone looking to join your group.
Photo “Tea cups.” is copyright under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License to the photographer “Portland Tea Enthusiasts’ Alliance” and is being posted unaltered (source)