Cha Chat GTI Podcast

by Erik Davis Fausak – August 10, 2019


Erik Fausak

Student Services
Student Services Librarian


In this Guide:

The Global Tea Initiative is a singular global phenomenon.  A neutral place for multidisciplinary tea scholarship.  this podcast, “Cha Chat“, is dedicated to this initiative.


About the podcast:

Erik Fausak is the primary host/editor/producer of the podcast but the guests really make the show.  The podcast is recorded on the Zoom H4N and often Shure SM58 dynamic microphones are used.  If there is a Skype interview, the Zoom H4N will be used with Audio Hijack (macintosh) by Rogue Amoeba.  Podcast editing is done on Audacity and GarageBand. The podcast is hosted on Anchor, a free podcast hosting service that also helps distribute content to podcast platforms like Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Castbox, Stitcher, RadioPublic, Castbox, and Pocket Casts.

Any accompanying video is recorded with an iPhone 6s and edited in iMovie.  Content will be uploaded to AggieVideo.

The current soundtrack for the podcast was retrieved from the Free Music Archive, Tea(Asiafied by Csum) by Gastronom 22 (CC License)

Images are taken by an iPhone 6s or Canon Rebel DSLR and edited on Photoshop Express.

The logo for the Cha Chat podcast originates from an add in the late 1920s for the Dutch tea (and coffee) company, Van Nelle ((drukker: Nathaniel Lloyd & Co; opdrachtgever/adverteerder: Nathaniel Lloyd & Co. (London), Erven de Wed. J. van Nelle (Rotterdam); i.e. onbekend (unknown) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons))

E-14-0610, 12-09-2003, 17:22, 8C, 6200×4354 (2688+4824), 150%, afficheextraza, 1/60 s, R83.7, G46.2, B44.8



Sep 27, 2018

The WaterBoy or dim sum?

We met at Hong Kong Islander dim sum restaurant in Sacramento, CA.  We even sat at the original table where Katharine BurnettAxel Borg, and Darrell Corti were seated when Darrell asked the key question,

“Katharine, what I don’t understand is why doesn’t UC Davis study tea?”

This discussion in 2012 launched a multidisciplinary effort to start the Global Tea Initiative.  Katharine brought in scholars in social science and art, while Axel as a post-harvest agricultural librarian brought in food scientists like Carl Keen, Ann Noble (Creator of the Wine Sensory Wheel), and Michael Lewis.

University of California, Davis is uniquely positioned to be the only multidisciplinary scholarly pursuit of tea. In the pursuit of tea, Darrell points out that California itself has a rich history in tea.

Darrell also pointed out an interesting juxtaposition where China has a burgeoning wine industry like California is beginning to develop its own tea industry. Both areas are starting to identify growth areas and terroirs, especially in a changing climate and ecology,

“If you don’t believe in weather change, all you have to do is ask a farmer.”

The Global Tea Initiative has really developed a broad scope of research and Axel recounts many diverse topics tackled by this initiative:

  • health benefits of tea
  • transmission of tea culture from China to Japan
  • The effect boiled water has on tea

“Be careful what you wish for” -Darrell Corti

The global tea initiative has been so successful that they have the colloquium on Jan. 24, 2019, and helped arrange speakers for the 150th anniversary of the Wakamatsu Farm.

The vision in the next five years is the transition from Initiative to Institute. The curriculum will expand to undergraduate and graduate coursework with a brick and mortar building that would have a sensory room and exhibit space.

Darrell explained the three items that Katharine brought to their first meeting, the incense clock, oil pot/water dropper, and tea pot:

Recommended Reading:

Book CoverBook Title/Call Number
Trail of Time 2005
SA Bedini
Shields Lib TS543.E18 B43 1994






In the bustling activity of the 4th Annual Global Tea Initiative Colloquium, we found a small room to have a little conversation at the University of California at Davis Conference Center.  I was joined by two speakers at the conference, Dr. Rebecca Corbett and Ryo Iwamoto.  We were also privileged to be joined by Melissa Lobach of the American River Conservancy.  What do they have in common?  Japanese tea culture.

Ryo states a large influence to have him enter a tea house was a traditional character in the TV series “Kuitan” which translates to the “gluttonous detective” who solves crimes by contemplating and enjoying food, maybe “epicurean detective” sounds more descriptive.

This led Ryo to ask his mother to enroll him in a tea school at the age of 9 years old. He enrolled at the large tea school, Urasenke, part of a group of tea schools called Sansenke. He is finishing his final year in college at Waseda University but is already developing a business around tea, with Tea Room, Inc. a dojo of tea aimed at creating a value on tea ceremony at the corporate level.

photo taken 2/5/2012 by Yuya Tamai (retrieved 2/18/19 from Flickr under CC license

During the morning session at the 2019 Colloquium of the Global Tea Initiative, he discusses his business, Tea Room, Inc. :

Additionally, Ryo spoke at the colloquium as Tea Culture as a treatment to a societal ill:


Rebecca joins us from University of Southern California, her research has been centered around the role of women in Japanese tea culture. Rebecca has always loved tea, initially being part of a more British tradition being raised in Australia. She did an exchange program in Japan and spent a year learning the Urasenke tradition. She became familiar with the Global Tea Initiative while doing post-doctoral Fellow at Stanford’s Center for East Asian Studies. While 90% of Japanese Tea Ceremony today are women, there is very little historical record of it. This is the focus of her book, Tea Spirit in Early Modern Japan and the 2019 Colloquium lecture. Like Ryo, Rebecca also attended the Urasenke tea school in Japan.

Below is Rebecca’s lecture on the role of women in Japanese Tea Culture:


Below are some examples of Urasenke Tea Culture in California:

Melissa Lobach is currently preparing for the sesquicentennial of the Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm.  She points out that it is the first Japanese colony in the United States, the first Japanese burial, and site of the first Japanese-American.  Melissa mentioned that she found out about the Global Tea Initiative at UC Davis through the groundskeeper at Wakamatsu.  Melissa also expressed enthusiasm about Katharine’s assistance in providing speakers for the sesquicentennial celebration at Wakamatsu, which will involve many aspects of Japanese Tea Culture.

I was curious, particularly from a lecture at last year’s GTI symposium by Paul Barry, if we impose too many rules and restrictions with Japanese Tea Culture.  Ryo responded that it is highly dependent on the audience.  When he introduces Japanese tea culture to Americans, he may mix matcha with milk.



Book JacketBook Title/Call Number
Cultivating femininity : women and tea culture in Edo and Meiji Japan 2018
R Corbett
also in print
Shields Lib GT2910 .C67 2018
Corbett, R., 2015. Crafting Identity as a Tea Practitioner in Early Modern Japan: Ōtagaki Rengetsu and Tagami Kikusha. US-Japan Women's Journal, 47(1), pp.3-27.
Rebecca Corbett (2009) Learning to be Graceful: Tea in Early Modern Guides for Women's Edification, Japanese Studies, 29:1, 81-94, DOI: 10.1080/10371390902780548
Book of Chanoyu 2016
R Channell Soei
Shields Lib GT2910 .C43 2016
Tea in Japan: Essays on the History of Chanoyu 1989
PH Varley, I Kumakura
Shields Lib GT2905 .T43 1989
Tea Life, Tea Mind 1979
S Shoshitsu
Shields Lib GT2910 .S4434
Chanoyu: The Urasenke Tradition of Tea Ceremony 1988
S Shoshitsu
Shields Lib GT2912.U7 C482513 1988
Literati modern, bunjinga from late Edo to twentieth-century Japan : the Terry Welch collection at the Honolulu Academy of Arts 2008
T Welch, P Barry, & M Michiyo
Shields Lib ND1054 .H66 2008
Honolulu Museum of Art



I met with Lydia and Tait of the Global Tea Club at Hutchison Hall Rm 50 at UC Davis. This is the site of the e-Learning studio created by ATS. There we sat at the podcasting studio to discuss the Global Tea Club.  Lydia is the current president of the Global Tea Club and Tait was the first president of the Global Tea Club. Lydia was with the tea club since the beginning and found inspiration in a mutual interest of the topic of labor inequality and her academic interest.  Tea has always been of cultural importance to her because she is Taiwanese.  Tait and his family in Kansas enjoyed tea and the way they stay connected. After introductions, Tait started discussing how the Global Tea Club formed.  Tait utilized his own resources to get the tea club started, including bulk tea he purchased in LA from Wing Hop Fung.  Tait also created his own pottery for the club at UC Davis’ Ceramics Studio which has a great kiln and wheels with many glazes which is accessible with a quarter (3 month) pass.   Tait’s pottery has also been commercially successful by selling his pottery at local tea shops.

The origin of the Global Tea Club began at the request of the Global Tea Initiative to pursue tea in areas the Initiative did not.   They had a great deal of feedback with requests to join, and wound up with a regular group of six.  They teamed up with graduate students in the program to answer a lot of health questions about tea.  Particularly, one graduate student was very helpful and was doing her own research on colon cancer rates and tea consumption as well as looking at the role of tea in the microbiome of the gut.  The 4th colloquium of the Global Tea Initiative in 2019 had a lecture from Dr. Yu-Jui Yvonne Wan:


Tait went on to discuss how the Global Tea Club then started tackling issues outside of the current bandwidth of the Global Tea Initiative by starting a discussion on labor inequality.  They also provided tea after the defacement of the mosque in Davis, CA, during a rally to support the mosque in 2017.

Tait and Lydia discussed how the tea club has had quite a few successful efforts including setting up pop-up exhibits in the Arboretum and a lecture series started in 2017 called, “Tea and Conversations” which has been successful and still going.   The attendance of these events had many from the community as well as students.   These tea events can get 150 – 200 people coming through their exhibit. Tait started by paying out of pocket and getting a discount at Tea Cozy to buy tea for the club. Lydia says that the Global Tea Club continues to get financial support and tea from a number of donors.   The events keep coming and getting planned which include painting tea cups, and more events at locations on campus.

We then discussed the making of tea, is there a right way?  Tait and Lydia discussed that there is a lot of education still needed in how to prepare tea, and expectations of how tea should taste.

Global Tea Club events:

We got a sample of the types of discussions in the Global Tea Club when discussing labor issues in the field.  Tait then discussed his interest in looking at tea and labor worldwide.  Tait stated that the Fair Trade labels on tea are most likely not representative of fair treatment of laborers and suggested purchasing machine cut tea.  Below is a video from 2018 that discusses the labor shortage in the tea industry:

Lydia felt that with improvement of labor treatment and this becoming an avenue for women to have empowerment in many countries, hand-picked tea should be purchased to support those laborers.  This was a small piece of a larger and very interesting debate.  While Tait and Lydia were speaking specifically of Taiwan, Debarati Sen discussed this very topic in context of India:

Attached is a small collection of readings on labor and tea available at the UC Davis Shields Library:

Book JacketTitle and Call NumberBook JacketTitle and Call Number
The Darjeeling Distinction: Labor and Justice on Fair-Trade Tea Plantations in India (2014)
S Besky
Also in Print
Shields Lib HD9198.I43 D3733 2013
Taiwan: The Culture of Tea 2011
J Rosendo
Shields Lib Media DS799.24 .T35 2011 DVD
Bonded Labor: tackling the System of Slavery in South Asia 2012
S Kara
Shields HD4875.S567 K37 2012
Flip the Coin: The Bitter Taste of Tea 2009
T Heinemann
Shields Lib Media
HD9198.A2 F55 2009 DVD
Everyday Sustainability: Gender Justice and Fair Trade Tea in Darjeeling 2017
D Sen
Also in Print
Shields Lib HD6073.T182 I474 2017

Science of Tea Technology 2013
PS Ahuja
Shields Lib SB272.I4 S35 2013


The Global Tea Club has been very successful at creating a new avenue of pursuing tea interest and has many interesting new avenues to explore.  They continue to have great speakers lined up like representatives from Peet’s Coffee and Mighty Leaf and Mike Fritz who is a local grower (but couldn’t attend due to the fires that really damaged his tea farm).




We all entered Harold’s Immersive Tea Space together and the impact was immediate.  Everyone automatically relaxed and enjoyed their surroundings.

We all introduced ourselves:

Greta Anders, Undergraduate in Anthropology, Linguistics and Italian.  She has worked for the global tea initiative and is Vice President for the Global Tea Club (see podcast 3).

Thiago Braga, Graduate student in Anthropology at UC Davis has a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations and a Master of Laws degree in Chinese Studies from Peking University.  He spend time in the Yunnan province where he received a “crash course” in the tea industry and became fascinated with the concept of , “Fake tea”.  His example is the current attitudes surrounding Pu’er tea.  He has come to appreciate that tea is not necessarily about the substance itself, but the ritual that surrounds it and that tea becomes more of a spiritual practice.  He enjoys engaging in tea as a participant observer.


Harold Linde is in his first year of the MFA program for Design.  He created the space that we are currently enjoying in the podcast and has an interest in spreading this aspect of tea culture in the United States.  “In a past life”, he was an environmental activist focusing on ancient forests.  He is interested in the symbiotic relationship of tea and humanity, where we don’t harm the tea trees and have a direct relationship with these plants.  Harold also comes from a background of Spiritual Psychology.

After we introduced ourselves, Thiago suggested that Harold should add cultural mediator as a term to describe himself.  Thiago went on to ask where the immersive experience occurs?  Harold answered by clarifying, “I am not highly skilled in serving tea”, but he is this way intentionally.  He sees the serving of tea as a shared experience and about that experience, not necessarily the ritual.  He cited an example of how sometimes, ceremony can be an impediment to the experience of sharing with people. He then quietly said, “What I’m most concerned about is you.”

Thiago raised another question, “Are we immersing ourselves in tea or immersing ourselves in the process or image of tea?”  Harold responded by the role of tea as a psychotropic medicine.  That the immersion is in a metaphysical space to be enjoyed by ourselves or together,

[tea] is a friendly, benevolent plant

Thiago then added “We are beings of things”, through engaging with tea and thinking of it as a plant, tea is also speaking to us.  He discusses the idea of a plant-animal bond and how both affect each other (a topic we picked up later in the podcast after he left).  Thiago challenged us by asking, “Are the ideas we have with these substances our own or not?” .  Thiago ended his thought that we have to,

Think of Human-ing as a verb

Harold thought about this and pointed out that our own existence is based on so many other lifeforms, like the microbiome of the gut.  Below is a video from the 2019 GTI colloquium where the microbiome of people and tea’s role is discussed by Dr. Yvonne Wong,



Thiago went on to discuss how like dogs and humans, tea has been affecting our species,

We’ve been shaping each other as biological bodies


Thiago had to run but we then went on to discuss the aesthetic of tea and how we identify ourselves with tea.  Harold stated that he wears a “uniform” of denim, because it is from cotton which is internationally utilized, highly functional, and unassuming.  We discussed that sometimes tea can become too esoteric. He stated

I still drink tea out of a teabag.  I enjoy it the way people in this country enjoy it.

The conversation then moved to discuss authenticity versus tradition, where something can be truly authentic without being traditional.






Some Reading:

Book JacketTitle and Call NumberBook Jacket Title and Call Number
Puer Tea: Ancient Caravans and Urban Chic 2014
J Zhang
also in print
Shields Lib GT2907.C6 Z4366 2014
How to Change your Mind 2018
M Pollan
Shield Lib RM324.8 .P65 2018
Zhang, L., 2016. A Foreign Infusion: The Forgotten Legacy of Japanese Chadō on Modern Chinese Tea Arts. Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies, 16(1), pp.53-62Lawrence Zhang's Blog On tea culture
Erik Axelsson, Abhirami Ratnakumar, Maja-Louise Arendt, Khurram Maqbool, Matthew T. Webster, Michele Perloski, . . . Kerstin Lindblad-Toh. (2013). The genomic signature of dog domestication reveals adaptation to a starch-rich diet. Nature, 495(7441), 360-364.