Tea, Camellia sinensis, can take on many different shapes, colors and characters. It can be offered loose leaf, in small bags or as part of an herbal cocktail. From Morocco’s mint green tea to Britain’s black tea to the USA’s Lipton tea bags, tea can be found all over the world and is loved by millions. One plant has found its way into almost every home around the world! The major exporters and tea producers of the world include countries like China and India. So it’s likely that the tea in your cupboard is the same exact one found in a home in Mexico or Russia.
The same tea coming from the same plant and likely from the same country is being offered everywhere! Camellia sinensis, has invaded homes and captivated hearts everywhere and she promises to offer peace! Let me elaborate on how tea can be an amazing representative and median of peace. When we offer tea inside our home we are firstly offering something that has been given to us. Whether we realize it or not, purchasing tea connects us to the country of origin, to the people there and to their cultures and beliefs. We have tea because someone helped it grow in a garden, someone picked it, someone processed it, dried it and then packaged it for our convenience. Really, this is true for anything we buy, we are inseparably connected to each other whether we like it or not. Everything we have, we have because of someone else’s work, and that someone else has their own set of experiences, values and beliefs. We may or may not share those experiences, values or beliefs but by accepting their work, we find common ground, we engage in an exchange where we both get something out of it.
Second, by offering tea we practice hospitality towards an individual regardless of who they are. People all over the world, regardless of economic or social status, have a set of unspoken rules when someone enters their home. Regardless of who the guest is, if they are best friends or strangers, hospitality is majorly kicked off with the offering of a drink- usually coffee, water or tea. This has been a common practice all over the world for centuries and probably isn’t going away any time soon. Even restaurants always begin by asking their customers what they would like to drink. This small, seemingly trivial gesture carries with it much deeper significance that we give it credit for. If we stop and think of why we offer a drink when someone comes into our home, we will see that we are not really trying to hydrate our guest, we are trying to welcome them. By offering a drink we are hoping they see that we are not trying to harm them, we are telling them that we accept them in our home for the time being. Most do this even with the people who they would rather not be in their home! Out of respect for the person and as an attempt to keep the peace, the proper thing to do is to offer the drink. It’s likely that we will not agree with each point with every person who walks in our home but for their brief visit many make the effort to not let the drama unleash and instead drink tea.
Many countries are united by their love of tea, Russia, China, Brittan, Japan, Iran and many others. They all have their unique tea cultures and customs, some add milk and sugar, others add herbs and spices and some have it plain. Although these cultures are drastically different from each other, each of them offer hospitality through tea, they use tea during all kinds of celebrations and festivities and is a median for creating many wonderful memories. If both Russian and Iranian young adults were studying abroad in the USA they would likely soon start missing home and begin to search for places that can provide the comforts of home. A tea house is likely to be a place where these two students would cross paths, they may not share a common language or religion but they could share a cup of tea that reminds them of home, a beverage that connects them to each other. They could experience a moment of peace that reflects their two countries coming together, two worldviews, two drastically different life experiences seeing eye to eye.
People are losing sight every day more and more of the reality that we all share a common humanity. Yes, some people are wrong and need to be corrected, some people do evil things and must be stopped- but even the most vicious of criminals is still a human being. All humans share a common history, whether you believe humans evolved from a common ancestor or that God created the first human beings. These two views, as drastically opposed as they may seem, do indeed share a common ground- all humans have a shared beginning. All humans collectively have created what societies are today, from the simplest of pencils to the most elaborate air craft we all share in the creation of our everyday lives. We are all the same in that we can feel pain, happiness, anger, fear and frustration as well as a deep longing for peace and unconditional love.
Seek to find that humanity in each person, as hard as it may be, as foreign as it may look compared to yours, it is most definitely there. Offer the tea (or coffee or water) share it with whoever enters your home and remember that the point is not to hydrate them but to invite them to share a few hours of peace in a world of turmoil. Accept the tea when you yourself are at someone’s home, drink and remember that this connects you to a farmer thousands of miles away, it connects you to millions of people on the globe sharing that same tea, it connects you to the soil, to the Earth and its Creator and it connects you to your host.