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Talking Tea

Conversations about tea and tea culture

Jun 3, 2016

This week on Talking Tea we return to the Tea Institute at Penn State University to explore the evolution and burgeoning growth of interest in Japanese tea ceremony study at the Institute and beyond, and the transformative nature of tea ceremony practice. We first chat with Drew Hanson, founding instructor of the Urasenke program at the Institute. Drew talks with us about his own journey from art to tea, the history and development of the Japanese track at the Institute, and changing demographics and perspectives among students of Japanese tea ceremony.

Aside from his work in tea, Drew's teaching background is in literature and theater, and since tea ceremony has been called an "improvised drama", we look at whether tea ceremony in the Japanese tradition is a form of interactive theater. We explore the roles of action, dialogue and utensils, the "parts" played by participants, and those transformative moments of giving freely from the heart which are common to both theater and tea ceremony.

We're also joined by Courtney Singley, current student director of the Japanese tea ceremony track at the Institute. Courtney is an architecture student at Penn State, and she shares with us her perspectives on openness and intimacy in the spatial elements of tea ceremony, and how those elements can be internalized and then used in building for ourselves and our world.


More about the Tea Institute, its programs, events and tea house, is in our earlier episode, "Tea Goes to College", and at the Institute's website.

For information on Drew Hanson's private classes in Japanese tea ceremony, go to his website,

Info about Japanese tea ceremony classes offered through Urasenke Philadelphia and Shofuso is available at Shofuso's website or at


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Talking Tea is produced and hosted by Ken Cohen. You can follow Ken on Twitter @Kensvoiceken. 


This podcast features music from "Japanese Flowers" ( by mpgiiiBEATS ( available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license ( Adapted from original.

Paul Resnick
over six years ago

It's very interesting to hear how people discovered tea culture, it seems like everyone takes a different path to get there. The idea of giving without expectation is an idea we need more of in Western culture.

Listening to this podcast it seems like much of what this generation of tea practitioners is debating is how to define the elements of a tea ceremony, from the utensils to the space to the actions within the ceremony itself.

P.S. I could listen to Drew read the phone book. Ever think of doing voice work?