Tuesday, October 15

Campus tea club brews up comforting, educational space

Students Tatt Chitrakorn, Chiana Yang and Belicia Tang (left to right) took part in an oolong tea tasting at Tealightful Club's weekly meeting where members drink tea and discuss their cultural relevance. (Isra Ameen/Daily Bruin)

Students Tatt Chitrakorn, Chiana Yang and Belicia Tang (left to right) took part in an oolong tea tasting at Tealightful Club's weekly meeting where members drink tea and discuss their cultural relevance. (Isra Ameen/Daily Bruin)

Tealightful Club’s tea appreciation is steeped in a rich historical lineage of cultural significance and specialized ceremonies.

Tealightful Club held its first weekly meeting during the third week of spring quarter, said club president Chiana Yang, a second-year psychobiology student. The club derives its name from a cross between the words ‘delightful’ and ‘tea,’ she said, which emphasizes its purpose of providing a friendly and calming environment to discuss, learn, teach and experience tea and tea ceremonies. Yang said the club invites tea fans to attend their meetings Thursdays at 5 p.m. at Ackerman Union’s Viewpoint Conference Room.

“There was no tea club at the time, so I thought that would be something nice to bring to the campus,” Yang said. “I started it to spread tea culture and provide a warm place on campus to share tea and snacks.”

Members sipped aromatic oolong tea and learned about its history, culture, health benefits and the tea ceremony associated with it during the club’s week seven meeting. While attendees tasted the Tang dynasty beverage’s nuanced fruity and roasted notes, board members spoke about the drink’s purported ability to prevent cancer, reduce obesity, control diabetes and add antioxidants to the body. The meeting’s ‘activiTEA,’ a teabag tossing game, required members to answer true-or-false questions about tea and throw a teabag into teapots of varying point values.

The activiTEA’s winner, Linda Kim, said her fondness of tea led her to attend her first Tealightful Club meeting last week. Although she grew up drinking tea, the second-year business economics student said she stopped upon her arrival at UCLA because of limited access to teapots. She gravitated towards the club for its availability and array of teaware and tea varieties, she said.

Kim said she was also surprised to learn that the same tea plant, Camellia sinensis, produces different teas through various methods of oxidization and fermentation. Looking forward to future meetings, she said she is eager to try Da Hong Pao, a heavily oxidized and dark oolong tea known for its history as a traditional royal drink for Chinese emperors and elites.

During the club's meeting, members drank oolong tea and learned about its historical context. Members also spoke on the Song Dynasty beverage's physical health benefits. (Isra Ameen/Daily Bruin)

However, not all teas are always so well received, said Belicia Tang, the club’s social chair. The second-year psychology student and former Daily Bruin contributor said a notorious rosebud tea elicited critical, yet honest responses from members at a prior meeting.

“When we tried rosebud tea, no one liked it, and someone said it tasted like bathwater,” Tang said. “But that’s okay because we are all about exploration, and whether you like or do not like something, it’s okay because it’s about getting cultured.”

While she was previously only accustomed to boba milk tea and standard green tea, Tang said Tealightful Club exposed her to new flavors such as oolong, jasmine and chamomile. She said she thinks the club offers a comfortable balance between a friendly, wholesome atmosphere and a welcoming educational space. Thursday’s meeting will include a presentation by Elizabeth Kiser, a former manager at Teavana who will share her experience working for the tea store, Tang said.

Tealightful Club also welcomes faculty members who are experienced in more traditional tea ceremonies, Yang said. The club’s educational element brings a heightened sense of value and awareness to drinking tea, since it is more meaningful to drink something knowing its history, background and cultural significance, she said.

“(There’s) a bit of mindfulness while drinking the tea,” Yang said. “It is attached to this rich history that is a very important part of what makes tea what it is.”

Beyond its cultural significance and tasty aroma, Yang said drinking tea can also be a form of self-care. The comfort of the warm beverage has helped her through difficult emotions of sadness or stress, she said. In this way, Tealightful Club also accommodates UCLA students’ busy schedules through flexible attendance and providing a calming space to study throughout midterms.

Yang said the club plans to embark on outings to specialized tea shops in Los Angeles, campus picnics by Janss Steps and fundraisers. Yang said she hopes the club will raise enough funds to donate to charities addressing education, homelessness and positive environmental action.

“Although we are pretty new right now and still figuring things out, I am really proud of what the club has done already,” Yang said. “There is something (special) about sharing a warm beverage that is healthy for the soul.”

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