Open Letter to the Tea Community: Tea and Racism
I’ve decided to take a break from working on my book to make a post on the blog, and address the tea community as a whole. While I still haven't completely returned from working on my novel, this is something that I felt needed to be said.
Lately, it’s come to the attention of many that the race-issue in America doesn’t exist only in America; it also exists in the tea community. Yes, that’s right. Tea. Usually, there’s been issues with Tibet/China and tea classifications among tea that are grown near borders of different countries. However, this issue is more in-your-face and is making its way into the tea community -- starting on social media.
Due to the crisis in America, it’s gained national attention and has sparked protests over the world. And it’s not only shown that equality is much needed, but it’s shown that America is so influential that when we’re not unified, the rest of the world stands behind us and looks to us to be unified. And when it comes to tea (a community that’s always been open to all), it’s now been open to people with platforms to voice their opinions rooted in hate, racism, homophobia, and ignorance (see photo’s below for very recent examples).
To preface, there’s been a wave of tea drinkers who have posted photos of white squares for ‘white equality’, tea drinkers who are lashing out towards minorities, and claiming they’re the problem and tea drinkers who are belittling and gas-lighting the community for believing equality to begin with. And when it comes to bonding over a cup of tea, that’s completely unacceptable.
Let's go back to 2018 when I got to attend and host a class at the Houston Tea Festival. Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the United States, and because so, you run into characters and people of all kinds. However, at the Houston Tea Festival, I was sipping a sample of cold mate when a man of color with neck tattoos came up and asked for a sample. Then, a white woman who resembled being from Beverly Hills came up and also asked for a sample. The vendor asked us all of our opinions, and the man and the woman then got into a discussion about their likes, dislikes, brewing methods, etc. all about tea.
So here we were at a festival in Texas, drinking a South American tea at a festival inspired by an Asian tradition, made by an American while being shared among a man of color, a ritzy white woman, and me (a gay guy) — all connecting and enjoying each other’s company over this one sample of tea. And while being in that moment our heritage, background, political beliefs, etc. didn’t matter because while in that moment, we were all unified by the experience of drinking that sample. We all got along and we all connected, and we were all happy. And in a sense, this is what the tea community is all about.
On social media, everyone is given a voice and everybody can be heard. And everyone has a platform — big or small; racist or not. And with this platform, people dove right into the world of tea. And with tea, we’re not only able to connect by drinking tea at a festive, but rather, we’re able to connect with people from all over the world. This is a huge gift in itself and is something we largely take for granted. And to add, tea itself is a gift given to us by mother nature. With how much of an issue global warming has been, we’re ALL very lucky to still be drinking tea in the way that we are now…
So what’s the point of this? The point is that we’re all lucky to be together over something rooted in such a minimal idea - hot leaf water. And when we all have the ability to connect, discuss, and drink tea together all over the world (thanks to the gift of internet social media), then there’s no place in it for racism, homophobia, and hate altogether. Saying you want equality doesn't mean you hate heterosexual white people — it means everybody gets to sit with you at your tea table. With the gift of tea and social media, I encourage you to use your platform and to spread love, to use it as a learning opportunity, and above all else, to use it to drink the drink we all love together — Camellia Sinuses, aka tea.
—Cody as The Oolong Drunk