After realizing that not having a plan was too rough on me (see this blog post), I decided that it would be a good idea to make some plans in advance, but allow myself a little freedom and flexibility in between. So, in July I committed to bringing a free tea zone to an event put on by one of our sponsors, Mountain Rose Herbs, as part of their Free Herbalism Project. This was the very first in a series, and included a lecture by herbalists Rose Madrone and Rosemary Gladstar.
Mountain Rose Herbs had asked if I needed any volunteers for the event, and I declined, saying that I was bringing one friend, Laura. I think they thought I was crazy, but I had no idea why until the event was underway. My friends Greg and Rich also ended up showing up to lend a hand, and we all set up the half parachute, rugs, and a selection of fabrics, cushions and other supplies from a pile of goods that the Mountain Rose folks had been storing since their festival, Rootstalk, where we hosted a huge free tea tent in 2011.
Just as we had gotten everything set up, reports of heavy rain from the south began to come in. We watched videos of rain reports on smart phones and came up with different options for our outside tea zone should the reports become reality. Right as people started to show up it began to sprinkle, and then rain. At first we thought it might blow over, but as we served more tea, the rain didn’t let up. So we pulled the trigger and started to move all the rugs, cushions and tables inside to a corner of the main building where all of the speaking was to take place. However, we continued to serve tea outside, and eventually it let up.
Now, despite the rain, and probably due to the fact that it was an event for herbalists, we had a line 40, 50, 60 people long waiting for tea. Luckily, Greg and Rich had showed to lend Laura and I a hand. Even with this workforce, we could barely keep up. As the evening progressed, I had a wonderful realization – that we were just about to serve the Free Tea Party’s 20,000 cuppa free tea. I knew that I had 367 left before the event, but I for some reason didn’t think we would be serving that much tea. Well, I was dead wrong. In the end, we served about 550 cups of tea, to about 350 people.
I told Mason (MRH’s event coordinator) what was about to happen and he ran off to brainstorm with other MRH folks. They so kindly offered me some tea, a tote bag, and stickers to offer to the recipient of the 20,000 cuppa free tea. As we got closer, Thomas (MRH’s graphic designer extraordinaire), sat with his camera just off to the side. I signaled to him as a couple of young women came up for tea. As I served the second one, I told her briefly about the history of the tea bus, and how I had been keeping track of all the cups of tea that I had been serving over the years and that the cup I was handing her was the 20,000th cuppa free tea that I had served. I asked her to wait around until the end of the event and that I had something for her. She said, “You’re not going to make me sit up in front of everyone are you?” Little did she know…
As the event was wrapping up, Shawn and Julie, the owners of MRH, invited me on stage with them, Rosemary, and Rose to give a short background on the Free Tea Party and explain the importance of this evening for us. It was so much fun to speak in front of so many people and make them laugh. In the end, I called up the recipient of the 20,000th cuppa, but I think she may have been too shy and was nowhere to be seen. I found her later and bestowed her prizes upon her.
As we were packing up, Rosemary ended coming over to the tea bus and spending some time with guests and myself. I was honored to have her aboard. Although I didn’t get to hear her talk because I was so busy, it was a blessing have her aboard for much more personal interactions.
Rich is convinced that the Mountain Rose folks were inspired by the Free Tea Party to put on the Free Herbalism Project. It has similar ideals of bringing people together, providing a space for people to interact and share knowledge, and all of this with a foundation in herbs. Regardless, I take my hat off to Mountain Rose Herbs for putting on an event as such. I have continually been impressed with them as a company that lives their principles. I hope to collaborate more in the future!
Thanks to Rich, Laura, and Greg for your help with setup, serving tea, washing cups, making hot water, and tearing down. A big thank you to all the folks at MRH for the support and generosity. Thank you to Mason for organizing the event and providing the landing pad for all us nomads. Thanks to Rosemary and Rose for taking part and sharing knowledge. Love to you all!