Students to travel the world in search of tea

College students across the United States will spend the Summer in a variety of ways. Some will work, some will play and others will continue their education on campus or in a variety of summer options that involve travel. At Harding University in Arkansas, some will discover that the things we drink play important roles in our culture as students travel the world in search of tea.

“It’s a way of approaching history by studying a drink and its role in culture, society, politics and economics ” Jeff Hopper, a professor of humanities at Harding told

Earning 9 credit hours, students will trace history over the summer through the movement and changes of tea, studying how each culture incorporated the drink into their lives. The six-student group will stop in China, Indonesia, Russia among other countries where tea played a critical cultural role. Four of the students were on a similar journey last year with a coffee theme.
“Many more people in the world drink tea than coffee,” Hopper added. “Tea is thousands of years old. Coffee is not. It takes us back further, it’s embedded much more into religious ceremonies and cultures.”

They will even stop in Boston where the group will commemorate the original Tea Party and its backlash on the East India Tea Company.

“The East India Tea Company was the largest in the world,” Hopper said. “That would be today like spilling a tanker load of Exxon oil on purpose. Tea was a symbolic commodity in the relationship between the colonies and Great Britain.”

The trip will end in London, where they will visit the Twinings Tea Museum and enjoy high tea at Fortner Mansion.

“High tea is a British term for a celebratory, ceremonial drinking of tea with special food and treats,” Hopper said. “They have sandwiches, biscuits and cookies and it’s traditionally held in the late afternoon. If I were a British gentleman, and I wanted to entertain you, the most elegant way short of a dress-up dinner would be to invite you to tea at 4 p.m. The amount of amenities, jellies and currants determines the formality.”

There are no plans for a third beverage-oriented trip next summer although another coffee-themed trip may be organized.

Flickr photo by Maks Karochkin

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