8th Annual Global Tea Initiative Colloquium 2023

For eight years U.C. Davis has been building on its founding promise to build a multi-disciplinary program that would meet some of the unique needs of the Specialty Tea Industry in the U.S. and be proudly competitive with college level academic tea programs around the world. This year’s gathering celebrated more steps toward that goal. GTI is moving even closer toward becoming the Global Tea Institute.

Many tea lovers and T Ching readers question the value of this partnership between academia and the global Specialty Tea Industry. It may be as difficult to understand this relationship as it is to appreciate the differences between the Commodity Tea Industry and the Specialty Tea Industry. 

What is the Global Tea Initiative?

The driving force and visionary for the Global Tea Initiative is Dr. Katherine Burnett. She is the founding director and a professor of Art History at UC Davis. Nested the an academic environment internationally recognized for work in both wine and coffee, she saw the importance of Camellia sinensis having a place at this table. U.C.D. graduate students wanted and needed this curriculum. And Katherine Burnett passionately blended her fine arts and Asian studies focus to work with tea entrepreneurs to voice the benefits of nurturing academic study in the fine art of tea.

She organized professors in many disciplines at U.C.D to expand options for their student body, supporting research in tea and nutrition, the agriculture of tea, and the business of tea. U.C.D.’s intern program placed graduates in jobs with several major tea companies. But the program also invested in bringing tea expertise from around the world to meet face-to-face with students and be available to support their studies. This happens in several different events, including the annual Colloquium.

They describe their program with four main principles.

Our efforts rely upon four pillars or principles:

1. function as a social good that can help improve people’s lives and livelihoods around the world

2. emphasize cultural understanding, recognizing that with humanity’s many similarities and differences, the study of tea (and “teas”) can promote cultural understanding and build community — and within the community, friendship, and from friendship, perhaps even, world peace.

3. build on UC Davis’s success in agriculture – and in fact, on UC Davis’s own long-standing history in tea agriculture, having conducted in-depth research on tea since the 1960s. Aiming to be a pioneer of tea agriculture in the United States, GTI constantly looks towards the future to discover innovations in tea sustainability, cultivation, processing, and more.

4. build on research and teaching, not only in health and wellness but across the disciplines.

But Colloquiums are not limited to U.C.D. students, faculty and industry members of GTI. The industry/academic partnership finances these event for the public without charge to promote tea – Camellia sinensis. All are welcome. 

Below is the schedule from the most recent program. In the near future, recordings from this event will be available on their website. 

Who are the GTI Colloquium’s For?

Everyone is welcome and I can say with confidence (having been every year) that there is something for everyone. Within the diversity that they celebrate with excellent choices for presentations, everyone is likely to leave saying  … “I never knew that about tea.” And they are quick to appreciate the opportunity to meet other tea lovers from around the country and the globe.

Dr. Stephanie Y. Evans, Professor, Institute for Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Affiliate Faculty, Africana Studies and Center for the Study of Stress, Trauma, and Resilience, Georgia State University

Black Tea History: Roots of Wellness in the African Diaspora

Listening to the hour-long presentations isn’t anything like gathering for afternoon tea and sweet pastries. But, without a doubt, there is something for almost everyone … even tea tastings and some lovely refreshments. Rare these days are gatherings where “tea people” of all interests come together with this kind of focus and camaraderie. Lovers of the famous tea blend, “Paris”, have the opportunity to meet members of the Harney family and taste the new Harney and Sons flavors.. Innovators of new equipment to grind your own personal matcha demonstrate their products. Specialty tea importers and distributors like International Tea Importers are on hand to sample and discuss ways in which they support new and inspired tea entrepreneurs.

Missing this Year . . .

One of my favorite things from several of the past years were graduate student presentations. But the good news about interactions with the U.C. Davis tea community is that their Tea Club is back. This group meets on campus but is often visited with guest speakers from the professional community and always offers an informative tea tasting. 

In Conclusion:

The Global Tea Initiative is filling a great need for our community by inspiring scholars, connecting these scholars with businesses domestically and globally. And they share the elegance and inspiration of this process with us to sip along. 

As Dr. Burnett says,

“Tea represents a nearly universal component of the human experience.”

and she generously invites us to share this experience with each other every year.