The Social Practice of Tea

I walked into Michael Nannery‘s office at the Long Beach State University, School of Art, the other day. As is his wont, he offered me tea. Technically, an herbal infusion. Next to the ceramic vessel where the daily concoction was slowly brewing was a small sheet of paper with the printed title Tea of the Day and beneath that a hand-written list of ingredients.

"Tea of the Day" sheet listing tea ingredients

I’ve played with tea and mostly herbs for many years. This year Michael, with his Office Practice, and Kiyomi Fukui with her Gallery Practice, have inspired me to think more in terms of Tea and Social Practice.

"Tea of the Day" sheet listing tea ingredients

Is Tea Art?

“The Art of Tea” sounds like a marketing slogan from some company. But can the social practice of tea be “art”? Or is it “culture”? Or does it matter?

Does your mental state or mindfulness matter?

Does your cultural milieu matter? So if you’re a merchant, then tea is commerce, but if you’re an artist, then tea is art? What about a Geisha in Japan performing an elaborate tea ceremony? What is that?

"Tea of the Day" sheet listing tea ingredients

What if you grow herbs in your yard, and use them to prepare tea and share it with others? Is that “art”? Or “culture”? Or “friendship”?

"Tea of the Day" sheet listing tea ingredients

Virginia Heffernan has offered that Technology is the masculine form of the word Culture. Might Art be the active tense of Culture?

"Tea of the Day" sheet listing tea ingredients

In her book For the Time Being, Annie Dillard offers a non-fiction, first-person narrative that considers individual clouds and their moments in time. Might a website consider individual pots of tea and their moments in time?

Perhaps I will simply begin this walk, and discover over time what figure the ground beneath my feet might unfold…

"Tea of the Day" sheet listing tea ingredients

What are your educational insights?