It's tea time at Wilson High School.
Every Friday, at least 130 students gather in the school's choir room to participate in a short lecture about tea. That lecture, of course, includes samples of the tea for the students to try.
"I am a crazy tea person. I have this huge collection at home and in my classroom," Jason West, English teacher and Tea Club advisor said. "It's become my defining characteristic at the school."
After some of his students expressed interest in starting a tea club back in December, West decided to host a small meeting in his classroom during one lunch in December. As the host, West said that he provided the tea and expected to have maybe a small handful of students participate.
But after the first meeting, West said that the classroom size proved to be too small for the new club — so they moved the meeting to the school's library.
"We had I think about 100 kids show up to the library and they told us that we can't meet there anymore," West said. "There was just too many people."
The club moved their meetings to the choir room where the number of student [participants has averaged around 130. A small membership fee is required from students to keep the tea flowing and hot water is provided every week from the Starbucks located on the corner of Park Avenue and Seventh Street.
"It's really turned into this structured, weekly event where students not only show up, but want to learn," West said.
And the club covers a variety of teas, from green and white teas to teas with floral notes, including the origins and history — but West isn't stopping there.
He's planning on bringing 20 of the club's original members to Japan next summer for a formal tea tour and is in the process of raising money to cover the cost.
"Going to Japan is an experience on its own, but we would be going specifically to tour tea fields and tea houses," West said. "As soon as we get there, the plan is to visit a local tea store."
The tour is being organized through a travel agency and is expected to cost around $3,800 per person. The cost includes the flight and hotel.
So far, the club has raised a little bit of money through bake sales and will be hosting events throughout the year, including selling Tea Club "tea" shirts and hosting a hot and iced tea booth. The Starbucks on Park Avenue and Seventh Street also has offered to help, West said.
"We're going to raise as much money as we can because we want this trip to be available to all the students despite their financial situations," he added.
And the students are just as excited as West is about the potential Japan trip.
"Most students are excited to come here (Tea Club) because it's different and it's fun," student Katie Mayo said. "Who would have thought we would be planning a trip to tour Japan for tea, but it's a really exciting thing to think about."
The tentative seven-day trip includes tours of Tokyo tea shops, a traditional tea house visit and a meeting with a tea distributor. Sight-seeing tours also are on the agenda.
For more information, or for inquiries about the Japan trip, email Jason West at JWest@lbschools.net. He also is on Instagram @teachmemrwest.
Stephanie Stutzman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.