Tea Initiative Launches to Appreciative Crowd

UC DAVIS

The University of California Davis, world-renowned for its Department of Viticulture and Enology, has launched a parallel endeavor in the world of tea, the Global Tea Culture and Science Initiative.

Assistant dean of the UC Davis College of Letters & Science Charlene A. Mattison says the aim “is to bring the University’s premier research in agriculture, health, science, humanities and the social sciences to bear on the study of tea. We will pursue a robust interdisciplinary research agenda. This is an endeavor UC Davis is uniquely equipped to lead.”

Burnett presents miniature tea house to food and wine expert Darrell Corti

To launch the Tea Initiative, its inaugural colloquium, “The Basics of Tea—Tea and People,” was held May 12 drawing 400 to the Davis campus with initiative director Katharine Burnett, associate professor of Chinese History, presiding.

“We are thrilled at the very positive response we received for the launch of the Global Tea Initiative,” Burnett said. “Judging by the wonderful turnout and the level of engagement by participants, we couldn’t be happier. And the participants seemed just as pleased. There is an obvious interest and need for the kind of research and programming we propose, and we can think of no institution better poised to take this on than UC Davis.”

Each of the four invited speakers was introduced individually, starting with the internationally famous Darrell Corti introducing the legendary Wing Chi Ip, director of the China Tea Association, the Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware and the Loc Cha Tea House in Hong Kong. Due to unforeseen visa problems, Mr. Ip spoke via video hook-up on one of his specialties, Purple Clay Pots: Zisha Ware of Yixing.

Tea and Its Cultivars was the subject of the dean of the Tea Science Institute at Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China, Professor Yao-Ping Luo. One of Prof. Luo’s students provided expert translation and unbeknownst to most, another of his students was in the audience, Danielle Hochstetter, tea sourcing manager at Mighty Leaf who received a master’s degree in tea at Zhejiang University.

Surak presenting at Tea Initiative

Surak presenting at the tea colloquium

Carl Keen, Professor of Nutrition and Internal Medicine at UC Davis, addressed “The Potential Positive Cardiovascular Effects of Tea.” “Making Tea, Making Japan” was the subject of Kristin Surak, Professor of Political Science, University of London.

Audience members included Bay Area tea professionals Michael Spillane of the GS Haly Company, Ned Heagerty of Silk Road Teas and others from further afield including Bianca Shah, CEO of International Tea Importers of Los Angeles. Texas was represented by Kyle Stewart of The Cultured Cup, Dallas, and Jeffrey Lorien of Austin’s Zhi Tea. Even to well-informed listeners like these the talks were informative and filled with surprises.

At the reception following adjournment, the usual atmosphere of collegial good will extended from the tea professionals present to their new allies and colleagues from academia, as all agreed on the historic significance of the day.

Says Pratt: “This is a giant step in elevating tea culture and tea consciousness in this country and throughout the world. It will be increasingly difficult to underestimate its significance. Thanks and praise to Katharine Burnett and Charlene Mattison!”

Source: UC Davis