The tea on Tea Circle: 5C club brews community

A photograph of Andrew Nguy PO ’19 pouring water into a small brown teapot. He is wearing a blue shirt and sitting behind a table.
Andrew Nguy PO ’19 prepares oolong tea during a Tea Circle gathering April 18. (Talia Bernstein • The Student Life)

If you ever need a place to unwind, chat and sip some oolong, Tea Circle may be the place for you.

The nonsectarian club is hosted by Claremont Colleges Buddhism every Saturday from 3 to 5 p.m. in Pomona College’s Walker Lounge, and offers a space for students to study, socialize, eat snacks and — of course — drink a rotating menu of teas built around a weekly theme.

Club leader Andrew Nguy PO ’19 began the club, which is 5C but largely comprised of Pomona students, in early 2018 after he tried to share extra tea with some friends in Pomona’s Mason Lounge.

“It was essentially just me with some extra tea in my room, wanting to share it with friends,” he said. “Only one person showed up, but I thought, ‘I should make this a bit more public,’ so not in the corner of Pomona’s campus, but more central, in Walker.”

Last spring, there were six dedicated members, but as of fall 2018, Tea Circle membership had nearly quadrupled, and now includes more than 20 people every Saturday.

Alongside the weekly themed tea selection, Nguy also makes sure to allow space for calligraphy through concurrent meetings with the Calligraphy Club, so that students also “have the option of creative expression” while at Tea Circle. He emphasized the importance of routine de-stressing.

Nguy said people should not take the name of Tea Circle at face value. Tea is a lot more than a drink — it can be an opportunity for people to express concern, compassion and kindness for each other, Nguy said.

“When we pour tea for someone at Tea Circle, it doesn’t matter who they are, where they’re coming from, if they’ve had a good or bad week — we serve them equally,” Nguy said. “People ask, ‘Can I help you wash the cups?’ or ‘Can I carry that for you?’ It’s a natural community, and one of the ways we can inspire kindness on campus.”

Members of Tea Circle say they appreciate the way the club fosters community. “Tea-rista” Tramy Nguyen PO ’22 said she enjoys “being able to provide a space for people I care about to come together. Even if we’re studying or goofing around, we all have the common ground of the tea we’re drinking.”

Tea Circle’s calm atmosphere and educational approach also make it a prime low-pressure gathering space for students.

“It’s just a good Saturday afternoon activity,” Rachel Howard PO ’22 said. “It’s become a part of my routine and something I look forward to. I can get work done productively while eating snacks, drinking tea and being around nice people.”

The club also provides a space for those who want to learn more about tea.

“It’s interesting to see how much [some people] know about different kinds of teas — things I haven’t ever thought about,” Howard said. “I’ve always enjoyed drinking tea … but it’s great to learn about something that’s integral to people’s cultures, and you learn about these things in a low-risk atmosphere.”

Ashley Sun PO ’22 agreed.

“I didn’t really know how teas are made or processed, and now I know the difference between black tea, green tea and oolong tea,” Sun said.

This fall, Nguyen will replace Nguy as club leader.

“It’s going to be a lot to carry on when Andrew is gone, but I am happy to take up the torch,” Nguyen said.

Nguy is sure he is leaving the club in good hands.

“I’m graduating, but I’m happy we have such a young member base right now,” he said. “This group is going to and expand tea circle even more, because every week Tea Circle just gets bigger and bigger.”

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