This is something that's been on my mind lately as I've been hosting tea tastings and meeting people while traveling. It is something I try to practice on a daily basis, both in my personal life and in my business.
Inclusion is about ensuring that everyone feels comfortable, welcome, seen, heard, valued and respected as an individual, confident in themselves, and able to thrive in a given space - whether at home, school, a sports team, a community, or a workplace.
When we brew and serve tea for each other, we create a shared space and are therefore responsible for making sure everyone at the tea table feels welcome, and that it's a safe space. Being part of the virtual tea community (with fellow vendors, bloggers, tea drinkers etc) over the past few years, and having been warmly welcomed by tea farms abroad, I've come to find the spirit of tea to be very kind and inclusive overall.
Here are the ways in which tea provides an opportunity for us (as its ambassadors) to carry this inclusive spirit forward.
Simplicity of Brewing: Leaf, Water, Cup
Tea, especially the Chinese way of brewing, is often misconstrued as intimidating or inaccessible, particularly for those who are new to the world of tea.
But the truth is so far from that: Anyone can enjoy tea. And that is precisely the beauty of it.
Stripping away teaware and social constructs, tea is simply leaf and hot water. Whenever beginners are nervous about brewing tea, I always remind them of this. As long as you have tea leaves, hot water, and a vessel – even just a bowl or cup – anyone can enjoy tea.
You don’t need to be a certified tea master, nor do you require any special equipment to enjoy tea at home. Brewing parameters are gentle suggestions. Tea, you’ll find, is very forgiving.
There is something to be enjoyed about this simplicity and welcoming nature, as well as the contemplative and individual exploration tea encourages.
There's Something for Everyone
Secondly, the world of tea is so diverse that there’s always something for everyone. Whether you like your tea pure or with milk, delicate or strong, savory or sweet and everything in between, you can find it.
If you’re sensitive to caffeine or want to lessen your intake, you can consider the vast world of caffeine-free herbal tea (tisanes): Lemongrass, peppermint, ginger, rooibos, chamomile, chrysanthemum and more.
Celebration of Diverse Heritage
This next one hits home for me, and is why I love doing what I do.
Growing up in an Indian household with the multi-cultural backdrop of Hong Kong, I have always been exposed to tea from a young age - whether it be a simple masala chai with mom at home, or Hong Kong style milk tea at cha chaan tengs. It was only until my later years, however, that I came to appreciate and understand tea as a proud celebration of my Asian heritage.
It's a beverage that is ubiquitous across the continent and so integrated in culture, yet comes in so many different shapes and forms.
The amazing and mind-blowing thing about tea is: It all comes from one plant, Camellia Sinensis.
(Yes. Green tea, black tea, oolong, pu’er and white tea are all made from one plant!)
And yet, each country, region, and culture has created something of their own from it.
Besides the classic tea categories mentioned above, think of some famous tea beverages – like bubble tea, masala chai, Thai iced tea, Moroccan mint tea, matcha. Each drink is a unique interpretation of tea; a unique expression of identity and culture.
Within the world of tea we can find representation wherever we turn. Throughout my travels, tea has been my lens into culture.
Photo from a tea tasting for Microsoft Hong Kong, Sept 2019
Finally, tea builds community and connectedness. Be it families sharing tea at home or street vendors serving the neighborhood, this ability to bring people together has been shown time and time again.
Tea also has the innate ability to both comfort and inspire us, and therefore provides a wonderful vehicle for conversation. During the pandemic and isolation periods, I have found it to be particularly meaningful in re-connecting with nature, myself, and the community.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this perspective.
Do you find tea to be an inclusive space?
Are there any personal experiences you'd like to share?
Feel free to comment and ask questions below. ♥