Guisepi Spadafora once worked full time as a video editor, in California, but gave that up for a life filled with travels and a never ending free flow of tea. Since 2006 he has crisscrossed the USA distributing free tea from his bus / mobile teahouse to forge friendships over a hot cup of free tea. A real traveling tea party indeed!
Discovering the social power of free tea
In the winter of 2006, when Guisepi as a recent graduate was working as a video editor in Hollywood he had already embarked on a more simple and partly nomadic lifestyle as he had given up his house for a big livable truck. While he was living this somewhat nomadic life he accidentally stumbled upon the power of serving free tea. He explains how this happened on his website:
For three months in Hollywood I would cook dinner and tea on my tailgate on Hollywood Boulevard after getting off work. Being a person who loves interaction with all sorts of people, I offered a little bit of food and a lot of tea to anyone who was hungry for sustenance or conversation. This small offering was enough to spark conversations on hundreds of topics, put a human face on those involved, and create a strong community out of a mish mash of people and cultures right there on the pavement. Whether there was a Japanese tourist or a tattooed gangster with a shopkeeper or a Nazi punk, everyone related; everyone was comfortable sitting at the same level drinking the same warm beverage, feeling just as comfortable as the next person. Everyone shared what they had, be it food, ideas or conversation.
After having given up his high pressure career Spadafora started roadtripping around the USA while keeping to his tea serving habit to strangers. Serving free tea became a norm for him while on the road and wherever he went – from San Francisco, hot springs in Oregon, the beaches of Northern California, music festivals or parking lots in national parks – Spadafora would open his truck to strangers and offer them a free cup of tea to spark social interaction and forge friendships on and besides the open road. And the power of tea transformed new faces into familiar friends in no time…
With each tea I served, oftentimes with the help of friends, the more I realized how much impact it was having on people. People were excited not only with the acts of generosity, the community created, and the dialogue exchanged, but with the encouragement and inspiration to do similar things in their own lives, whether it be passing on the generosity, seeing through appearances and befriending strangers, or sparking conscious conversations with friends, new and old.
From Tea Truck to Mobile Teahouse
Then in 2008 Guisepi upped his tea game a bit by buying an old school bus – an 18 foot 1989 Econoline with a Thomas body – which he converted into a bigger mobile tea house. He got the old school bus in San Diego for a mere $2,900. That got him a school bus, not an RV, so a lot of hard work was needed to turn this vehicle in a mobile teahouse. Most of the conversion work was done by handyman Spadafora himself while using mainly reclaimed materials. He added a skylight, rooftop solar panels, an engine that runs on used cooking oil (which he gets from restaurants), a bed that he can lower from the ceiling (to save space), a wood-burning stove (great smell while making tea) and a horn that sounds like a submarine’s klaxon…his personal tea-alarm.
For the past eight years his mobile teahouse – Edna Lu the Tea Bus, also known as the tea-time-machine has served him well while traveling all over North America.
Tea-time-traveler Served 30,000 cups of Free Tea
On an average tea-time-traveling day Spadafora and Edna Lu arrive in a city or town and begin offering tea to passers-by. With this simple gesture he easily engages in conversations which, according to Spadafora are “the highest form of currency”. And if you think about it he has a good point! Therefore Spadafora will not accept money for the tea – the verbal exchange and pleasure of human contact are the currency he thrives on. Ever since embarking on the free tea project Spadafora estimates he has served close to 30,000 cups of free tea.
For a cup of free tea, Spadafora wants you to hang about for his mobile teahouse for a while. He loves to talk with you and eagerly engages a conversation. You will quickly feel comfortable in and around Edna Lu the teabus due its soothing and relaxed design. It sets you in a different state of being and will make sure that a lot of unexpected interactions are sparked. Under the influence of a great cuppa tea. His teahouse is all about serendipitous speech and verbal vitality. And this, he says, is the whole point: “to create a space for genuine human interactions, without the burden of money or material transactions”.
This has rightfully earned him many tea and conversing related nicknames from the tea-time-traveler, Tea-sippi, G-sips, to G’steepy!f
Spadafora works every day but does not earn a whole lot. From time to time he gets hired to do some video-editing or building work and he makes an average of $6,000 to $9,000 per year. An amount abundant enough for a frugal traveler that prefers a life of unrestrained freedom and time-richness as opposed to one filled with monetary wealth. Much of his food is donated to him by benevolents or comes from discarded supermarket provisions. An ample handyman himself he does repairs on his mobile teahouse himself.
Simplicity is his motto and the power of tea does the rest.
To find out where you can find Spadafora and enjoy a free cup of tea with him go to http://www.freeteaparty.org/
Do know his favourite tea is a blend of spearmint, chamomile, lavender, cinnamon, passionflower, and rose petals.