Taniya Gupta is the creator of Yoga Tea Poetry and resides in Toronto. Originally from a small town of fewer than 30,000 people in Punjab, India, Taniya moved to Canada in her teenage years to pursue higher studies. As a tea enthusiast and poet, she aims to empower and enable women to live a life of their choosing.
Recently, she completed the Being Tea Teacher Training, an experiential learning program aimed at building effective tea educators. The program is facilitated by Suzette Hammond, a tea trainer, educator, and professional in Chicago.
As I traverse the Being Tea Teacher Training, I’m interviewing others who have completed the program. My aim in these interviews is to share their stories and bring awareness to the depth of the teacher training curriculum.
*The images in this blog post are owned by Taniya Gupta and were provided specifically for use in this article*
Hi Taniya, it’s wonderful catching up! To start, what is your professional background? Describe your connection to tea.
My connection to tea goes back to my childhood – I grew up in an Indian family, meaning chai and water were basically interchangeable. Whether it was to kickstart the morning, take a pause in the afternoon, or host guests in the evening, there was always a pot of chai brewing in our kitchen. However, I didn’t really drink chai until my university days, other than the occasional cup mom would make for me when I was sick. Coming across David’s Tea back in 2011 really opened up the world of tea for me, I started exploring the different types of tea, and then there was no looking back. My relationship with tea has definitely deepened in the last two years after I came across and began attending Being Tea’s tea meditations. I now sit with tea almost daily to allow myself to breathe and pause, which has tremendously helped my mental health.
I love how your journey with chai has led to the depth and solace tea is today. What was it that inspired you to enroll in the Being Tea Teacher Training Program?
I have wanted to go deeper in my own tea education for a while. Most of the programs I came across talked more about the terroir and types of tea, which is important, but I was after something different. I didn’t quite know what exactly at the time until I came across Being Tea’s Teacher Training program. It touches more on the emotional connection with tea, and our connection to the world through tea. Also, after seeing how much Sooz’s classes were helping my mental health, I wanted to be able to create spaces where people, especially women, can come together and feel welcome to share their experiences. I feel that tea can really help us go deeper and also feel safe while doing so.
Tell me about some of the most challenging elements you had to consider or bring to the table when completing an assignment for the course.
The Being Tea’s Teacher Training Program focuses on trauma-informed education. It equips teachers with ways to create more inclusive spaces, as well as requires them to go deeper and ask themselves what it is that they are really trying to offer through tea education. I remember for one of the assignments we had to take an existing class plan of ours and revise it to make the language, as well as the class structure more inclusive and suited for trauma-based teaching. This required unlearning language that could possibly trigger someone or make them feel unwelcome. I had to sit with my class title, description, and agenda for a while to see where I might have overlooked certain elements.
Before the program, what would you say your experience had been facilitating learning experiences for others?
I have facilitated several workshops in the past as part of my day job as a software consultant, but those dealt more with technology than human emotions. The work that I am trying to prepare myself, for now, requires skills to lead others through a contemplative session, and not have them leave with open wounds or an emotional hangover.
How have you taken the lessons through your cohort and applied them out of tea-centric experiences?
There was so much to take away from this program when preparing oneself to teach through tea, but I feel like some of the learnings apply to the rest of our lives too. For example The whole idea of “drawing from your deepest well”: you cannot serve others if you aren’t taking care of yourself. There is a section in the course where we talked about the ‘window of tolerance, and I feel like the discussion we had in our cohort really left its mark on me. Anytime during the week, if I start to feel irritated or not grounded, I know I am operating outside of my own window of tolerance, and need to return to taking care of myself first. This is also an important theme in my poetry where women are conditioned to feel selfish if they decide to put themselves first. In addition, learning about trauma-informed education has made me rethink how I approach a lot of conversations, and the language I use to be more inclusive.
You’re so right about the ‘window of tolerance’, and recognizing the moments when we should protect our energy. What advice would you provide for someone interested in taking the BeingTea Teacher Training program?
I would say that this program will require a lot of introspection about your intentions, what is the story that you are trying to put out there through your work with tea, and also what you might need to unlearn to create more inclusive spaces – so make sure you have the physical and mental bandwidth to dedicate the time to not just the material but also for taking care of yourself as you go through this journey. Sooz is an amazing teacher to support you so don’t be afraid to ask them questions or book 1:1 sessions if you need clarification on certain sections.
I know inclusivity is valued in the space and in your own experiences. Why is accessible or inclusive education important to provide?
Great question! I would say inclusive education ties directly to representation. The education system a lot of us have been exposed to relies on exclusivity and competition which as a result creates this idea of scarcity and also worthlessness for certain groups of individuals. Being an immigrant and a person of color, my hope is everyone who wants to learn, finds a space and a teacher to help them grow without money or the color of their skin being a barrier.
What is your hope for the future of tea education in North America?
My hope for the future of tea education in North America is that we dive deeper into the energy and emotions behind tea practice. I am always happy to find tea when traveling within the U.S. or Canada, but a lot of places still treat tea as just a beverage, and as a result, is what the audience is conditioned to look for. Tea is so much more than that… isn’t it? I hope that one day, I will find a local tea room where we can dive into deeper conversations through tea.
I’d like to extend a big thank you to Taniya for sharing her story and how she has grown with the Being Tea Teacher Training program. Through her poetry and actions of inclusivity, she sets the example that it is OK to be vulnerable in a community with others. I look forward to attending her experiences this year and finding moments of rest in mindful practice with tea.
For more information on Taniya Gupta and the full scope of the Being Tea educational programming, links are below!
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