Tea Goes to College

An institute dedicated to intensive, interdisciplinary tea education and research is not something you’ll typically see at a college or university in North America – or anywhere else, for that matter. But it’s exactly what you’ll find at Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania, where an initiative originally undertaken by students has resulted in the groundbreaking, university-funded Tea Institute at Penn State. 

This week on Talking Tea we visit the Penn State Tea Institute and chat with its current Executive Director Zongjun “Sam” Li, Director of Research John Miraszek, founder Jason Cohen and past Executive Director Ryan Ahn (all pictured here, along with host Ken Cohen), to explore the Institute’s history, curriculum, public programs and research.

Jason first talks with us about the Institute’s beginnings as a student club, how it grew into a tea house and finally, in 2009, into an institute with an established international reputation and funding from the governments of Taiwan, Japan and Korea as well as from Penn State University. The group gives us an overview of the curriculum in the Institute’s three tracks of tea study (Chinese, Korean and Japanese) as well as a more in-depth look into its lineage-based Chinese track and instructor certification program. All of our guests this week are scientists, and we chat about the integration of science and art in tea and the impact of aesthetics and environment on taste perception and appreciation. We also discuss the Institute’s libraries of books and historical teas, its past and current research projects, its upcoming programs and its successes in introducing students to the world of tea.

Information about the Institute, its programs, events and contact info, social media links and the hours of its tea house, are at the Institute’s website. Dates of the events mentioned in this episode are subject to change – visit the Institute’s Facebook page for updates.

Additional links mentioned or referenced in the episode are:

Jason Cohen’s ongoing research at Analytical Flavor Systems – www.gastrograph.com

The Korean Way of Tea, by Brother Anthony – available through Amazon.



Talking Tea is produced and hosted by Ken Cohen. You can follow Ken on Twitter @kensvoiceken.   

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The views and opinions expressed by guests on Talking Tea are those of the guests and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Talking Tea or its staff.

This podcast features music from “Japanese Flowers” (https://soundcloud.com/mpgiii/japanese-flowers) by mpgiiiBEATS (https://soundcloud.com/mpgiii) available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/). Adapted from original.


Header image “Raw Puerh mid 1980 Menghai” by Cosmin Dordea, used under a Creative Commons CC By-SA 2.0 license. Adapted from original.


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