During my freshman year of college, I was assigned to personally explore the phrase “you are what you eat” for my liberal arts’ honors program. I was to critically look at myself, my emotions, my identity, and my relationships with others in the context of food. Little did I know that this writing assignment would spark my vocational passion for agriculture, communications and food culture. Enjoy this flashback into the mind of freshman Abby.
Earl Grey. Pu-erh. English Breakfast. Chai. Jasmine. A collection of teas from across the globe. A collection of teas that have brought me joy and created memories. A collection of teas I delight in savoring. Since I was a little girl, drinking tea has been a pleasure. Although a cup of well-prepared tea was a treat in my younger years, it is now my drink of choice for reasons reaching beyond mere taste.
Tea serves as a commentary to who I am. Possessing a rich history, tea is steeped in a tradition of kindness and delight. From properly boiling the water to pouring the first cup, the fine technique of tea preparation reveals the gratification and benefit that can be derived from adhering to purposeful tradition. Tradition is something I cherish for it reminds me that I am apart of something that transcends the present. While making a cup of tea, I remember that people have made tea for centuries, and I am apart of a ritual which celebrates friendship and enjoyment. Moreover, tea serves as a beverage of hospitality. Who doesn’t enjoy a cup of tea? Tea urges me to pause my hurried schedule, look to those around me, and invite them to join me in the journey of life. Acting as a catalyst, tea reminds me to invest in people and serve them. Finally, tea implores me to appreciate living. While drinking tea, I am reminded of the beauty found in simple things. Tea gently shows me that all good things were created for me to enjoy for God’s glory. Truly, tea is an informant to my identity because it shows me the value of tradition, it aids me in cultivating a hospitable heart, and it acts as a sweet reminder that all things should cause me to glorify God.
Furthermore, tea is an integral aspect of my life because I often enjoy it with the people I love— specifically the culture of the Christian church. By the culture of the Christian church, I simply mean the collection of people from around the world who claim Jesus Christ as Lord of all. The church shuns ethnocentrism and embraces authentic multiculturalism, which is founded in the truth that all men and women are gregarious, creative, inherently equals beings. Tea is a tool that allows me to rise above cultural differences and embrace others in love. With a cup of tea in my hand, I have spent countless hours with an array of people listening to their stories and gaining insight into their individuality. In the same way that I have learned to enjoy exotic teas such as jasmine, chai and pu-erh, I have learned to savor, relish, and relate to the diverse culture of the Christian church.
For me, tea, culture, and identity come together in a mixture of situations. Perhaps, it is when my family hosts an Iranian pastor in our home and I assist my mother in preparing him a cup of English Breakfast. Maybe, they intersect when I meet my friend at the local Starbucks and we discuss our personal struggles while sipping an Earl Grey Latte. Conceivably, they meet when I am offered pu-erh and jasmine tea whilst I slurp soup from a traditional Chinese hot pot in Kunming, China. Possibly, they convene when I am lovingly offered a mug of Chai in an African dung hut as I hear a first-hand account of the Kenyan lifestyle. Regardless of how they converge, their intersection beautifully exposes my identity and the unique relationships I have with tea and the culture of the church.