The Way of Tea and Justice: Rescuing the World’s Favorite Beverage from Its Violent History Becca Stevens
You know how easy it is to ignore problems other people have? It is easy until you stop seeing the people as other. Until your eyes are opened to the truth. Thoughts like this were why I didn’t want to start reading this book about tea and justice. I love tea. And when my eyes are really opened to the problems that still plague the tea industry, I may have to stop drinking one of my favorites. This makes me sad, and yet I believe I was created to live in relationship with creation and with all those God created. I need to be informed. I need to let my eyes be opened. And so I began to read…
In these pages the author weaves together many stories, and it works. While tracing the history of tea, we journey with the women of Thistle Farms and Magdalene as the idea of a teahouse called The Thistle Stop Cafe is birthed into being. In these stories my eyes were opened to stories different than my own. And yet in the differences, I also found similarities. In these pages you’ll meet women who are seeking to be all God has created them to be. You’ll read about the struggle to create a tea shop where stories and justice are served in each cup. You’ll see faith and the stories of the Bible interpreted through the eyes of one who is called by God to love others, seek justice, and walk humbly with God. And if you are anything like me, you’ll find yourself laughing, smiling, crying, and cheering for the success of this little cafe and all the amazing women. You’ll make yourself another cup of tea and keep reading.
My early fears were calmed as I read on in the book. Yes, I need to do more research to determine how my favorite cups of tea were farmed and how all those who brought that cup to me were treated. And although she didn’t say this in the book, the words I heard recently keep coming to mind. A women I met recently said, “I hope you’ll see that most everyone out there is just doing the best they can. So be kind to each other and to yourself.” And that is what I take away from this book. Look out for each other. Use your money to buy that which brings you joy and is as kind as possible to the earth and all who call the earth home. Be kind to yourself too.
“Thus tea becomes a beautiful symbol of the theological truth that we are all connected and although each kind of processed tea has different effects and flavors, it’s like love: It all comes from the same source but can be expressed a thousand ways” (26).
“Community is a gift in which the sum is greater than its parts. The entity of community is what keeps us accountable and holds us up when we need support. Groups of people force us to think bigger and come to a new place of understanding” (47).
“Time is a gift we offer when we think we have tons of it. We can lavish time on friends and listen to their stories and walk and sip tea. It’s when time feels scarce that we make a run on it like rationed gas and find ourselves with less and less of it to spare. Tea opens us the time to have conversation that brings us to intimacy and community with our tea-drinking friends” (53).
She compares communion and tea drinking. “Both rituals ask participants to believe that in the practice we become what we hope to be–more at peace and closer to God” (61).
“Like no other drink on the planet, tea invites us to stop and rest our weary souls. I wonder if Jesus would have liked to raise a cup of tea when He promised His disciples that His yoke is easy and HIs burden light. Tea would have been the perfect drink for that lesson. We can bear the injustices in the world and the stress of trying to live well when we sit with fellow travelers and prepare tea for one another” (117).
“Tea helps you dream quietly. Advent should be listed on a list of theologically endangered species in a whirl of a Christmas culture that pulls you in a like a carny to a sideshow. Advent is supposed to be four weeks of preparing our hearts, minds, and bodies to receive the incarnate gift of love. When we dream of how love can become flesh and bone, it feels like there is usually a divide between who we are and who we long to be. Between how things are and how we long for them to be. Between the reality of the world and the way we dream of the first garden of Eden” (144).
“May all those we grieve be our inspiration to live deep in the truth that love can change the world and heal broken hearts” (167).
“The story of the transfiguration reminds us that before, during, and after their retreat, the disciples were the same, they just became more themselves. Part of the point of that story is to remind us that heaven is no more in the mountains than it is in the valleys. Retreats can be the bridge between having our heads in the clouds and our feet on the ground walking toward justice. We can be inspired on the mountain, but all inspiration fades without action, no matter how vivid the dream” (174).