Friday, December 07, 2018

Last Annual Tea Tasting

Enjoy these teas with my Honors students on Wednesday, December 12. From 3:20 to 4:10 that afternoon, we will be in the Atrium of the Conant Science Building (now known as DMF), where the Ben Linder Café could one day be located.

From China and Ceylon, by way of Tealuxe in Providence
clockwise from top-left
Golden Monkey Keemum (black)
Ti-Quan Yin Iron Goddess of Mercy (oolong) 
Dragon Pearl Jasmine (green)
Yalta Evergreen Estate Ceylon (black)
Background

I spent my 2012 sabbatical both learning more about coffee and expanding my interests to include tea. As part of that process, I was an informal observer at a meeting of the U.N. Intergovernmental Group on Tea. The meeting was much smaller than I expected -- even the hotel staff did not know what it was. The convener welcomed the 38 attendees as the "Captains of Tea." Plus me, the Coffee Maven. I think I was one of four U.S. citizens at the meeting, and I still remember a delegate from India who, when I asked how many people worked for him casually replied, "one-point-two." Meaning 1,200,000 tea workers!
IGG-Tea Climate Committee: Serious business in a casual setting
I spent part of that meeting as an observer of the Committee on Climate change, a top tea agronomist from each of three major producers: India, Sri Lanka, and Kenya. We gathered around the pool where they wrote -- and allowed me to provide some input as a geographer -- a preliminary plan for the global tea industry to respond to climate change. The Captains of Tea adopted the plan unanimously, a pleasant surprise in the city that is the principle locus of climate deniers on the planet. That experience led me to offer a one-credit honors colloquium, with the intention of helping the IGG-Tea to implement that plan.

This proved far too ambitious for a one-credit class, but the students enjoyed learning about both tea and climate change, so I continued to offer the course as an opportunity to explore both topics. I did so with increasing attention to the notion of climate justice, which I learned about from Dr. Mary Robinson during that same sabbatical.

Each semester since the autumn of 2013, students in this colloquium have explored tea, climate change, and the relationships between the two. They have done a variety of projects in response, and in the past couple semesters have had a terrific new resource: the IGG-Tea group has published a final report. It is quite different from what we envisioned, but in many ways more useful and robust. Students this semester have been delving into that report and will be presenting some of its more interesting findings in our brief tasting event.

Lagniappe

This "last annual" tasting is also the first to be offered by students, though I did provide a tea tasting for faculty colleagues at the CARS Celebration in 2013. The Tea & Climate Change colloquium has had a good run, but after 11 semesters it is time to move on. I could offer a class on chocolate, but instead will use the colloquium to explore a great city that I know only from afar: New Orleans, A Global City.

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