Nearly 90% of millennials drink tea, with similar trends projected for Gen Z consumers (born 1997-2012). Given this interest among young adults, tea promoters would be wise to expand their outreach to places where these folks congregate: colleges and universities.
Universities provide many avenues for tea education. Student organizations focused on culture, environment, health, nutrition, sustainability, vegetarianism, and wellness could all provide opportunities for collaboration. These groups often welcome guest speakers, tea tastings, sponsorships, and interaction with their local communities.
Beyond student groups, university counseling services, health clinics, employee wellness programs, and human resource departments may also be willing to partner with outside companies or organizations to offer health-related content. Moreover, continuing education and extension programs frequently invite guest speakers and may even host tea tastings.
For example, at Temple University in Philadelphia, we have more than 300 student organizations, many of which could have some nexus with tea due to its cultural breadth, health benefits, global origins, and sustainability. Our student and employee wellness programs have welcomed tea education. Our horticulture department recently hosted a lecture about tea and its history.
I focus my talks on tea and mental health, given increasing levels of student anxiety. During Homecoming Week, I partnered with our Confucius Institute to give a talk, White, Green, Oolong, or Black: Understanding tea and how it can de-stress you. I also supported our student affairs department by hosting a similar discussion during law student wellness week.
In these talks, I give an overview of tea and then suggest how to include tea in a college student lifestyle, such as trying tea instead of alcohol at social events, getting into the “tea mind” while practicing mindfulness or visualizing pleasant memories, journaling with a cup of tea nearby, and, well, just taking care of yourself by drinking something that is good for you.
Prior to these talks, the student organizations and university departments had not made the connection between tea and comfort, tea and wellness, or tea and the environment. Yet once they learn how tea is a natural fit to advance their own missions, opportunities for collaboration and additional programming can come about.
Here are some ways to reach students, even if you have no affiliation with your local college:
- Visit the student affairs website and find groups where there may be synergies. Reach out to the faculty advisor or student representative listed.
- Search the university website for their wellness initiatives, mental health resources, and other programs where you might be a match, and contact the person in charge.
- View the course catalog to see if there is a course where you could speak, and then send an email to the professor with a proposal.
- Check if the business school has a Small Business Development Center or entrepreneurship clinic, as if you are a tea seller, students can assist with marketing plans that include college outreach.
- Contact the student newspaper and see if you can write an article, advertise, or sponsor an event.
In short, there are plenty of ways to get involved.
Tea education is not a common part of U.S. college life. Yet if you partner with the right people who share mutual interests, you can raise awareness about all that tea has to offer and help make it become a part of campus culture.