People began to gather in the atrium of Armstrong around 6 p.m. on Friday. They brought a dozen tables, several trays of food, signs and banners and enough cups to hold an ocean. The Tea Tasting event was set to begin at 7 p.m.
Hosted by Miami Activities and Programming and the International Student and Scholar Services, the event, happening for the second time ever, brought various student organizations together under the banner of brewed beverages.
Tables representing various countries sat in a semi-circle in the atrium, and participants were encouraged to make their way from station to station, experiencing the taste of teas from around the world.
Since the event was smack in the middle of the Armstrong lobby, people who were simply passing through were able to stop and sample if they wanted, and those who came out specifically for the event were able to take it all in with ease.
After swiping my ID at the MAP station and chuckling at the giant teddy bear with a name tag that read “Drew Bearymore,” I walked to the one end of the row of tables and began my globe-hopping, tea-sipping journey.
Starting in China, I was served both green and black tea by students from Miami’s Confucius Institute. At the booth, students dressed in elaborate gilded gowns and ornate folded robes showed me the step-by-step ceremonial process of serving the tea. Although the tiny paper cups made poor stand-ins for the smooth china on display, the tea was excellent.
In Malawi, I learned that the country’s inhabitants only ever take their tea hot. As I proceeded to scald my tongue on the molten beverage, I learned that they take their tea excruciatingly hot.
At the table for Moldova, Angela Trubceac and Maya Popova, Miami students and Moldovan natives, served tea made from a plant called elderflower and offered chocolate that Angela claimed was far superior to American candy.
Angela said that she’d heard about the event happening last year and thought it’d be interesting to participate.
“We wondered why we weren’t a part of it last semester, so when ISSS asked us to participate this time, we said absolutely.” Angela said.
Chai tea from India, ginger tea from South Korea and green tea from Japan were also offered, and by the end of the circuit of tables, I had amassed a stack of paper cups almost half a foot tall.
A friend who had accompanied me to the event went back to the Thailand booth four times for extra helpings of Thai chai tea. By the end of the evening, nearly 14 cups in, she had entered a state that I’d describe as “tea drunk.” Repeating words, stumbling over sentences and giggling uncontrollably, she eventually had to be cut off.
Jing Luo, the event’s coordinator on behalf of ISSS, said that she hoped the gathering would serve as another step toward further integrating Miami’s local and international student populations.
“[At ISSS] we’re always thinking about ways to bring students together,” Jing said. “Many countries drink tea in many different ways, so we figured that a tea event would be a good way to showcase many different cultures.”
Jing said that she hopes to continue hosting events like the tea tasting, and that the ISSS can expand its role in helping bridge the gap between Miami’s students.
“We hope that a small thing like a cup of tea can open a much bigger conversation.”