In a quiet room in the Riford Library on a Sunday afternoon, you’ll find a small but passionate group of locals partaking in a ritual that’s thousands of years old. They call themselves the “La Jolla World Tea Enthusiasts,” and they bring their own. Tea, that is. And cups and saucers.
“Lipton” is a dirty word here, and tea bags are absolutely not allowed. And forget about paper cups, even if they are environmentally friendly. It all has to be authentic, right down to the Tetsubin cast-iron kettle boiling the water.
The club was recently started by Greg Anthony and Maryanne Miller after they attended a similar, but short-lived, event at The Athenaeum during the summer. They bring only imported rare and exotic teas that Greg purchases to serve — at least two different varieties each week.
“I pick out teas from online suppliers,” he explains. “The teas are high-class teas from around the world — Ceylon yellow teas, aged puerh teas — teas that most people don’t drink. I seek out those specialties.”
Greg also brings an antique furogama to heat the water, which is used in Japanese tea ceremonies. He then ceremoniously pours the water into the teapot to brew it with “the care, love and attention that each cup of tea deserves,” he points out.
Greg and Maryanne share a serious perspective on the ritual. “We seek not to simply enjoy tea. We want to fully experience the tea itself and all the history behind each tea. We want to be fully present with all of our senses and be in the moment of each sip. We seek the ceremonial, meditative, calming, majesty of each different tea we try,” they recite.
Maryanne says her love of tea was instilled in her as a little girl. “It goes back to my family background,” she explains. “My parents loved tea and so did I. I’ve lived in La Jolla for 16 years and I’ve always wanted to have a little club like this for tea drinkers.” She admitted that she recently converted a bedroom at her home into a tea room for friends and family.
The first records of tea drinking date back to the third century A.D. as evidenced in a medical text written by Hua Tuo, known as a “divine physician” and worshiped as a medicinal god in Daoist temples in China. Tea was next introduced to Portuguese priests and merchants in Lebanon during the 16th century. And, of course, England is well-known for its love of tea, which dates back to the 17th century.
“Our teas, here in La Jolla, are a social event for tea enthusiasts who really enjoy sampling specialized teas,” Greg says. “We try to guide the conversation, but it’s really an open table. People start talking about various things and we all join in.” The point is to connect community members through tea drinking while learning from one another.
A local art dealer showed up while the Light was there, interested to learn more about the new club. “I drink tea moderately,” she explained. “I was just curious about what’s happening here.”
And if you’re wondering ... Maryanne is a semi-retired real-estate investor and Greg is an up-and-coming cyber-security geek. Their love of tea is what binds them together and they invite more people to take a moment out of their busy lives to just sit back and sip.
• IF YOU GO: La Jolla’s World Tea Enthusiasts meet 2-5 p.m. Sundays in the La Jolla Library’s Patio Room, 7555 Draper Ave., La Jolla. All are welcome, and the event is free. (858) 552-1657.