Peer therapy takes form of theratea

Pictured above is the writer’s most recent theratea session. This particular tea (in various stages of steeping) comes from theratea member Emma Koolpe’s hometown, Sante Fe, New Mexico./ Courtesy of Jessica Moss

For a long time now, I’ve had a borderline obsession with high-quality tea. If you ask me, there are few pleasures in this world as fine as making and drinking the perfect cup of tea. So last summer, when my future roommate Samantha Steeves ’21 told me that she drinks green tea from a Keurig, I assured her that I would demonstrate the ways of delicious loose-leaf tea. Anyone who has come into our room can see from the carefully labeled canisters on her dresser that I’ve thoroughly succeeded in that endeavor. In my humble opinion, taking the time to stop and smell the tea leaves—both metaphorically and literally—is an integral part of the tea-savoring experience.

Because of my fervent tea evangelism, I’m always willing to make a cup for anyone who asks (and often for people who don’t ask). Early on in my college career, I started providing tea for whomsoever might wander in through the door of Joss 215 in need of a little pick-me-up. Eventually I realized that it might be more efficient to invite people over several at a time. Soon enough, my core friend group started to get together to drink tea on a regular basis.

I’m not sure if anyone could say when exactly gathering for tea morphed into more than just drinking tea, but eventually it did. With the stress of starting college, the four of us had our various problems: navigating social situations, analyzing cryptic texts from potential romantic interests, complaining about assignments and just generally venting about all the woes of the transition to life semi-detached from supervision. Sitting in a circle on the floor with cups of tea in hand just seemed like a natural venue to release our burdens.

A typical theratea (the name is a portmanteau of “therapy” and “tea”) begins with a text to the group chat wherein someone suggests that we have a session. We usually settle on sometime within the following day, because the problem at hand could be exigent. Once the time arrives, I typically fill my kettle and get it going. Sometimes I make a pot of all the same tea, or other times people want different types. Between my roommate and me, we have just about every variety imaginable: Herbal teas to soothe stomach aches or help relax at the end of the night are usually used for theratea, since sessions tend to be in the evening. I typically choose something floral, since I really love lavender. At the appointed time, the squad starts

to arrive, empty mugs in hand. We sit on beds or chairs, or sometimes on the floor. Then whoever called for theratea gets the opportunity to describe their issue, and we try to solve it.

I called together the group one evening this past week to talk about this little tradition we’ve started and reminisce just a touch. Jessica Moss ’21 [Full disclosure: Moss is Assistant

Copy Editor of The Miscellany News] recalled, “I think I was the one who first called what we were doing ‘theratea.’ If I remember correctly, there was a collective groan about the pun, but it just kinda stuck after that.” If anyone questioned that narrative, no one spoke up to suggest a different telling of the origin of our term. Holding a nice toasty mug of tea is itself therapeutic, and the floral aroma of many of our favorite blends adds to the effect. In such a pleasant atmosphere, talking about our daily obstacles becomes much easier.

Emma Koolpe ’21 was happy to expand on the benefits of theratea. “Sometimes, you just have to get your thoughts out. I think that theratea is good because I know whatever I say, you guys won’t judge, and you’ll try to help in any way you can … Especially at the beginning of the year, it was super helpful to know that I had a group I could come to. And also the fact that we drink tea is really great.”

Laughing, Steeves built on that idea: “I think there’s something inherently wholesome about drinking tea together. It’s calming, yet it’s still a social activity. I think for me personally, the chill vibes are what makes it. I also like to give advice and check in on everyone, so it’s been good for that.” An essential part of getting together for theratea is exchanging different perspectives on one anothers’ problems. While none of us pretend to have our lives completely together, when we all start thinking about how to approach the same problem, we almost always come up with something better than any of us could have arrived at independently.

Adding to this, Alex Barnard ’21 commented, “I think it’s a nice way to spend time together and also get advice. I know when I first started coming to hang out with you guys I felt really welcomed and encouraged, not like I was invading something. It was refreshing to be handed a cup of tea and asked what’s going on in my life. I like knowing that if I need to talk about something, you guys will hear me out.” Even though he wasn’t there when we first started doing theratea and joined a bit later, Barnard still feels like an important and valued member of our little group.

The activity doesn’t always have to be formal though. Moss explained, “It’s all about getting together and relieving stress. Sometimes the problems we have are serious, like having issues communicating with each other effectively and trying to work that out. Other times it’s scheduling some time to help one of the group members pick out the best outfit for a meeting or just hanging out with each other and being silly. I think it’s important that we don’t only get together when there’s a problem.” With all the negativity pervading the world around us, taking just a small slice out of the day to focus on the positive in a cozy environment can really boost all of our moods.

Steeves echoed this sentiment, saying, “Yeah, I think sometimes the emphasis can be on problems, which isn’t what we want to do. The idea is to talk it out, come up with a plan and move on.”

As much as I love a good cup of tea all on its own, it definitely gets better when shared with close friends over a warm conversation.

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