The Secret Tea Society feels like something from a mystery novel. A few times a month, a group of around 14 people gather in a predetermined location such as a historical home in Hudson or a farmhouse in Wooster, says founder Angela Strach-Gotthardt. These spots become “salons” when the group meets for tea and stimulating conversation. Before each meeting, a topic for discussion is chosen. “[The topic] has to be something that’s universal and that everyone can talk about,” says Strach-Gotthardt, “and something that hopefully won’t incite too much controversy, although a little bit of different opinions is healthy.” Though the Secret Tea Society has been meeting virtually recently, Strach-Gotthardt’s passion for the group remains the same. “It’s all about connecting and bringing people together,” she says. She talks to us about starting the club, her love for tea and more.
Q: What is the mission of the Secret Tea Society?
A: I came up with this idea about 10 years ago. It’s all about connecting people and bringing people together for one cup of tea and one conversation at a time. I remembered my childhood, visiting my relatives in Germany and how we would sit around and talk for hours over a cup of tea or would go to a teahouse with my grandmother and just sit. [We would do this] maybe for an hour or two and have tea and a piece of cake and talk and talk and talk. I just felt that was missing here. So I started thinking [about] what I could do to bring this kind of culture to Northeast Ohio, to my world and maybe the greater world. So it really was about bringing people together.
Q: Why tea?
A: Tea is very similar to coffee in a lot of ways, but it does have some differences. Tea has L-theanine. It’s an amino acid that is inherent in tea plants, and it is the reason why, if you or I or anyone we know is maybe having a tough day, they need a cup of tea. In my opinion, what you’re really saying is “I need L-theanine,” because it’s like the smooth-out factor. It’s the reason why monks drink tea. When monks sit and pray, sometimes for days on end, they need to stay alert and have their caffeine. But they need to stay calm and have L-theanine. What I realized was that’s why I feel so good when I drink tea. I do a lot of tea talks for groups and so on and so forth and that’s always something that I love to mention. People are fascinated by it, like, Oh my gosh, that’s why I feel so good when I drink tea.
Q: What do you hope people gain by sharing tea together?
A: I hope you come and learn. I hope you come and discuss. We don’t really have to have answers, but somebody said something in that hour, hour-and-a-half, that may have opened your mind and made you question the world. That interaction made you want to seek out more and made you understand people better.