Conversations Over Tea: The Psychology of Tea
By Josh Chamberlain
We were sitting in my teashop, a small shop in which people had shared so many details of their lives. It is this shop that is ever evolving and that seems to have a soul that we chose to have that my mother and I sat down to have tea and talk about some of teas amazing characteristics. As we waited for the water to boil, I proposed this question to my mother: “Do you believe that tea has the power to positively influence family relationships?”
I’ve often wondered if drinking tea could influence behavior. A few years ago I was living overseas in Taiwan when I was introduced to the world of tea. It was my experience with the timeless tea tradition, the focal point for social interaction in many households in Taiwan , which inspired me to start my own tea importing business. Since my introduction, tea has become so many different things to me: It is a plant, a friend, a social lubricant, a commodity, a means from which I earn my living, a beverage, a tonic, an elixir of life, a pick-me-up, a digestive aid, a health enhancer and a conduit to meditation. But is it also a great cultivator of relationships?
In Taiwan, families are typically multi-generational, often with three generations living together in the same household. Yet in America, it is not uncommon for family members to reside hundreds of miles apart. Take my family, for example. I have grandparents in Chicago and grandparents in Florida while my mother and father live in Oregon, near my home.
America, in direct contrast to Taiwan, is characterized by migration. Rather than remain in one central location with our family members near by, we seem to prefer to be “free” and we emphasize this sense of freedom by traveling the country in search of a place where we feel most at home- a place where we fit.
I’ve often wondered what role tea played in the Taiwanese family dynamic and if the same benefits could be enjoyed by our own movement-obsessed culture, which is how I found myself sitting with my mother, discussing the psychology of tea.