There is a consensus among horticulturists and food historians that although tea is cultivated from many parts of the world, they all come from the same species - Camelia Sinensis.
Thus, after millenia of global trade, this famous beverage presents itself as an enduring connector of humanity. A construction worker sipping karak chai from the chaiwalla in Mumbai, the boy rushing into the kitchen after smelling mom’s “kiri te” ( milk tea ) in Colombo, and a business executive in Shanghai about to take his first sip of oolong, are all inextricably bound to each other in a tapestry of mutuality through a single cup.
In his notable commencement address at Oberlin College in 1965, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr describes this interconnectedness:
“All mankind is tied together; all life is interrelated, and we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be - this is the interrelated structure of reality..”
I am convinced that our sanity in this pandemic world depends on how we answer an age-old question presented by Rabbi Jesus Christ of Nazareth that was eventually contextualized by Pastor Fred Rogers:
“Who is your neighbor?
For to the extent we see our destinies interwoven with each other in the human family is the extent to which we can simultaneously create spaces for mutual belonging, caring confrontation, and unconditional acceptance in this tumultuous cultural moment.
And lest you forget:
It’s good to have chai by yourself.
but it hits different when you have company.