Tea offers so many gifts, and who more than the denizens of college dorms could benefit from the relaxed alertness, social lubrication, and mood enhancement that tea provides?
Tea is not only fast becoming a beverage of choice to help college students with late-night study crunching, it is also a source of community-building in the dorms. As a bonus, getting “tea drunk” provides fun and amusement without the unhinging headaches, bilious blackouts, and subsequent regrets that seem to follow alcohol-related campus binge drinking.
For Alex Strauch, a tea aficionado from the San Francisco Bay Area who is now a junior at Cornell University, it was Winnie Yu of Teance in Berkeley who first inspired him to appreciate fine loose leaf teas. Through the Teance Teen Tea Club, Strauch learned the art of brewing tea with a gaiwan—a skill for which he now receives high marks from colleagues at Cornell, including those of the opposite gender who express “amazement” at his knowledge of tea and the deftness of his brewing skills.
As a freshman and sophomore ‘tea-vangelist’ at Cornell, Strauch established one of several campus tea groups—his group comprising 10 to 15 tea friends who met twice per month. Many would bring teas for Strauch to brew in his gaiwan during their four-hour tea sessions. While no one seemed particularly interested in tea culture or history, Strauch says, it was the more traditional, ritual tea brewing that kept them intrigued and coming back with new teas to share with the group. And while they enjoyed watching him brew teas with a gaiwan, most tea group members were inclined to seek more convenient vessels like mugs or tea tumblers for brewing teas themselves.
White and oolong teas were most popular, while puerhs still felt a bit unapproachable. Like a skilled tea master, Strauch would consider the preferences and palate of his student guests in choosing teas for their education, starting them off with bolder tasting floral teas like jasmine white, then introducing them to more subtle high-end teas like silver needle or perhaps even a Phoenix Mountain or Dong Ding oolong.
Gifting for College Students
If you have a college student on your holiday shopping list, tea and its paraphernalia can make great gifts. Encouraging the exploration of loose leaf teas for their higher quality and smaller carbon footprint can be achieved through gifting. For the college student, think: convenience + sonic tea drinking + simple design.
An electric kettle with several steeping temperatures—like the Cuisinart “PerfecTemp” or Bonavita “Gooseneck Variable Temperature Electric Tea & Coffee Kettle”—offers a fast, precise way to heat water for tea. It also facilitates experimentation with different brewing temperatures for different teas. The post-boil, “auto-off” function of an electric kettle makes it a safe kitchen tool in the dorm room. Bonus: works well with Top Ramen.
Double-walled glass tea tumblers for on-the-go tea steeping and sipping, and porcelain tea mugs with porcelain interior tea baskets are easy and approachable. Both of these items can be found at tea shops, specialty gift and cookware stores, or online, usually for under $20US. Pair either of these with a special tea or a sampler of loose teas and you’ve got your tea gift covered.
Monthly tea subscriptions and gift certificates can often be purchased and used online through a number of tea shop websites. Teance (http://teance.com) has some great options.
Great stocking gifts include mini puerh tuocha and colorful, handcrafted tea balls that become beautiful tea “flowers” when steeped (and are most impressive when unfurling in a glass teapot, wine glass or drinking glass.)
While you’re perusing the selections on offer, you may as well sit yourself down and have a cup of tea. There is nothing like a rest during the holidays, and if you can do some emotional multi-tasking while shopping, all the better.