On Mondays at 4 p.m., the King Intercultural Center comes to life with chatter, and the aroma of brewing tea. Senior Jordan Lyseng and Karis Thompson, assistant director of Intercultural Affairs, busily refill cups and stop to talk with different groups discussing global and local issues and events. Groups stand and sit discussing different issues. One group deeply discussed the first amendment rights of students. Junior Emily Kimball engaged in the dialogue, sharing that the Tea House was a “great time with really excellent conversation.”
Lyseng, who founded the Tea House, was inspired by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts’ Tea House exhibit last spring. The exhibit focused on Japanese-style tea houses, and worked with room space and set-up. Lyseng wanted to bring the tea house, specifically the style of “Wabi Sabi,” a Japanese aesthetic described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent and incomplete,” to Concordia through his time with Concordia Intercultural Affairs.
One of Lyseng’s biggest challenges was creating a space for the Tea House. He and Dr. Susan Lee, assistant professor of Japanese art, worked to make the space both more inviting and intimate. He painted the walls purple and worked to complete the room by buying authentic Asian art, including a screen print of orchids.
“I am happy with the space. It has lots of potential; I tried to make it come out,” Lyseng said.
ICA often rearranges the furniture to keep the atmosphere fresh and impermanent, true to its “Wabi Sabi” nature.
“We hope that by experimenting with time and space, it will offer students more chances for organic engagement,” Thompson said.
The goal of the Tea House is not only to create discussion over tea, but also to reorient and de-compartmentalize from the Midwestern need to be on a schedule. The Tea House begins at 4:00 each week and people are free to come and leave. This time management is a part of the “Wabi Sabi” style and experience.
The Tea House is described by its founders as a hybrid of both Japanese and Chinese Tea Houses.
“In China, tea is more social and less formal compared to the Japanese,” Thompson shared. “In China, they have portable teapots to share with friends; it’s the idea of extended conversation and engaging in a meaningful way.”
The Tea House, in this regard, offers different topics each week to fuel discussion. In the past, different groups and speakers have hosted a theme. Most recently, SAGA hosted to fuel conversation on the subject of gay marriage, aligning with the Theater B performances around the Fargo-Moorhead area. Tea House has also hosted philosopher Cornel West and has celebrated the Day of the Dead. Not only does the Tea House celebrate a variety of topics, but true to its name, it celebrates numerous teas as well.
“Oolong tea is my favorite, so I make it the most,” Lyseng said, “but we have also served Arab coffee, Turkish tea and many more varieties”.
“We are also still learning the art of brewing,” Thompson chimed in.
Both have experimented with different tea seeping times and have attended tea demonstrations to further their understanding of tea preparation.
Not only is the group brewing tea, but on a different level, they are BREWing in the community. On Nov. 15, they plan to bring the Tea House to a homeless shelter; the tea house is on the move, going directly to where the issues are in order to spread light, conversation and understanding. This is the first time the organization will venture outside of the King Intercultural Center.