Wenting Zhang landed in Los Angeles from New York with two giant suitcases filled with tea sets, tea bags, and special decorations, all packed carefully in china-blue cotton bags. She was excited to host the local Tea ceremony organized by Elena Soterakis, founder of BioBAT Art Space based in Brooklyn and shared her love of tea with local artist friends. The past 15 years in the US have been kind to her; her look has not changed much, except this time, wearing the child-like excitement to meet Los Angels tea lovers. You May magazine has known Wenting and her passion for Tea. For many years, she talked about wanting to share the art of tea with friends in the US. As a Chinese immigrant woman coming to the U.S. and a mother of 3 boys, it was not easy to realize that dream. But she never gave up. “It was a tough decision to leave the boys to my husband the first time when I decided to join a trade show to do some marketing research, but I have to do it.” Wenting said in a gentle but firm voice. And just like that, through years of accumulated efforts and unrelenting pursuit of her passion, Tea Arts & Culture, a nonprofit organization promoting Tea culture was founded in Brooklyn 2021.
You May magazine was overjoyed to participate in Ting’s first Tea event in Los Angeles and chat about Ting’s U.S. journey while siping Pu er.
You May: How long have you been in the US?
Wenting: I moved to the US in August 2007 with my new husband. It’s been 15 years in a flash.
You May: What kind of work did you do in China before you moved to the US?
Wenting: I have done a lot of different jobs in China. I have worked in a company in an administrative role and as a reporter for a cultural and entertainment magazine. Before leaving China, I worked as a marketing designer.
You May: How did you feel when you first came to America? Remember anything special?
Wenting: I was very excited. Especially in a big city like New York, where there is an abundance of everything and all kinds of people from all over the world. I enjoyed people-watching whenever I could every day. However, I missed the food back home in China. All kinds of familiar smells and tastes at my disposal disappeared suddenly. I spent many times cooking. Later on, I realized that there is more to those smells and tastes. I was missing all the connection with home and the love I was surrounded with.
You May: Share with us your story of promoting tea. How did you come up with the idea, and if you were still in China, do you see yourself doing this kind of work?
Wenting: Working with tea is quite a serendipity rather than an idea. Many things I experienced in the past 15 years, perhaps even earlier, have led me here for the work of tea I am doing now. Tea helped me find a sense of cultural belonging in a foreign place, connect with many friends dear to me, keep some peaceful times just for myself, and even answer my questions about the world we live in. Being able to see the connection and walk the path is a fortune.
It’s hard to say if this particular venture in tea would happen exactly like this if I stayed in China. Life would have been different, many other things could have shaped my life differently. Without experiencing it, I am not sure whether it would be and how it could be.
You May: What challenges and rewards do you feel working on a nonprofit promoting tea culture? What was the most fulfilling moment in the process?
Wenting: Starting a non-profit organization has no less work than a startup business, if not more. It’s full of challenges daily in all aspects and the work is endless. Rewards always come along though. Fortunately, each time we create the moment with tea is a fulfilling experience on its own. When I take pauses, even in the time with challenge, I see those small moments weaving the path for a larger one, and how things will transform. It is quite powerful.
You May: What help and support do you need for your organization? How can I find relevant information if I want to participate in your tea activities?
Ting: In addition to the usual fundraising and volunteer needs, we hope to contact some foundations, enterprises, and other non-profit organizations or groups to develop some activities together. Tea is a tradition that can bring intimacy and connectivity. At the same time, it can connect to ancient and modern history and bring together various cultures. Please feel free to contact email@example.com,www.teaartsculture.org, sign up for their newsletter, IG & Facebook @teaartsculture
You May: We are doing a special issue of “30, 40, 50, 60” Chinese women in the United States. Do you have any role models in this age group?
Ting: Everyone’s situation is different, and I don’t want to follow someone else’s path. I respect every woman who has worked tirelessly to find her path.
You May: Can you give some advice to Chinese women in their 30s or 40s living in the US?
Ting: Trust yourself. Listen to others, but most importantly, listen to your own voice.