Tea For Change | Founders of Activist Teahouse

Tea brings people together, creating a natural space for conversations. That's why Activist Teahouse uses tea as a catalyst for wider world dialogue, activism, and positive change. Tea-loving founders Jess, Marco, Rie, and Jin each bring unique experiences to the table, enriching conversations about social responsibility, awareness, and equity. Check out our interview with the founders below.

Us Two Tea has partnered with Activist Teahouse's Project Tea for Change to support the Asian American community and offer a traditional tea tasting event on Saturday, April 10. 100% of proceeds from the Blossom Tea Set will go to the wife and children of Yong Zheng - a Chinese immigrant, bus driver, and the sole provider of his family - who was fatally stabbed while trying to stop a robbery in March. Register for the event here.

Why do the racial injustices of BIPOC matter to you? 

Marco: As a Mexican-Polish kid growing up in a residential childcare facility alongside many other individuals identifying as BIPOC, racial injustices had and continue to be an undeniable fact of life. We’re witnessing the continued growth of this systemic hate and violence. So, why wouldn’t this matter? Racial injustice permeates through the fabric of our society, and to reject that fact is to ignore the power dynamics at play and the harm done to those closest to me. 

In the context of tea, the leaves we brew can be the centerpiece of discourse and action that need to represent and empower human equality and justice. Reformations, such as the Women’s Suffrage Movement, were fueled in part by tea. Simply put, I cannot seek to understand myself or tea without fighting for and with others that do not have the same rights and privileges as me.

Why is the tea community less vocal about racial injustice? 

Rie: I’m glad I get to answer this question because honestly, I’ve been that “less vocal” person for many, many years. As I've had to learn, it’s a privilege to be quiet at all when injustice happens 24/7.

One reason for the silence is that the tea community is relatively homogenous. For example, you don’t hear many Black, Latinx, or Indigenous peoples' voices in tea, or underprivileged Asian voices, or LGBTQ+ voices. The same goes for people with disabilities or who are from a marginalized religions. These are the groups who could teach us the most, whose issues need the most visibility, and whose suffering demands that we speak out. Yet they’re conveniently not here in the tea space - likely because tea costs the kind of time, money, and stability that underprivileged communities can’t afford. Another reason is that may of us get into tea as a hobby to "switch off" after school or work, to relax and unwind. But things are changing. If we can find ways to learn together and do this difficult work together, the tea community can be a powerful and compassionate force of change. It’s about time if you ask me!

What health disparities exist in Asian American communities? 

Jess: As a healthcare professional, I believe in preventative care. But in Asian communities, many are underinsured or uninsured. Many remain undocumented. These communities have it ingrained in them to care for others, not themselves. At my hospital, we serve a large percentage of Hispanic and Vietnamese patients, many of who aren’t proficient in English and rely on their families to translate. These barriers disproportionately affect these communities, making screening and health education extremely difficult.

There’s so much more work we can do to close these gaps. I used to volunteer at outreach clinics, providing education and screenings for the underserved. But then what? Do we think about their working hours or how their communities lack access to healthy food or outdoor activity? What happens to that next level of care? I think about this so much. The current healthcare system is deeply flawed, overlooking those who need it the most. There’s a lot of work to be done.

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