This past week I had an amazing experience: giving a tea class/tasting to 15 teenage boys at the Friends of Youth residential facility in Renton. I contacted them because of my feeling that tea has potential to provide a place of retreat and comfort to troubled youth. I didn’t have a well formed understanding about Friends of Youth, only what my friend Jane told me–she has a daughter who is in counseling with this organization.
Friends of Youth helps At-Risk teenagers build a functional foundation to help them toward adulthood. The organization has been in operation for 60 years and now serves over 6,000 youths and their families every year.
So what would these kids want with tea…and why did I think it was something they would want to learn about? Tea has depth, history and connection to just about every country in the world. In our over exposed, media influenced world, connecting with tea can be feel very authentic. Once a person (of any age) is led beyond the ordinary tea bag, and introduced to the spectrum of teas and the breadth of tastes, I’ve found they become very attentive and engaged. True tea is so undiscovered in our society—even to those people who drink black tea regularly–that it becomes a delightful surprise beckoning for further exploration.
We had a wonderful hour of talking about and tasting green tea, oolong tea and pu’erh tea. I steeped the tea in two gaiwans—set on a small gong fu table brought along for this event. As we tasted, I encouraged the boys to record their perceptions of the teas—the tastes, aromas and colors. We talked about the Chinese gong fu steeping ritual and the history of tea in China. We also discussed the impact tea has had on the world and how it is part of everyday life in most countries. What makes this all more interesting is that my discussion was being translated in Spanish by Shmuel Rubenstein, the boys’ teacher. All of the youths seemed intrigued by what they were learning and tasting, and, I have to say that this was one of my favorite presentations since beginning my own tea journey. Many thanks go to Shmuel Rubenstein for arranging this tea discovery event and equally to the boys who gave me their attention that morning.
I plan to continue to explore and introduce the power of tea for youth—from all walks of life. I’ll keep you posted.