Every Friday at 7 p.m., as the campus celebrates the weekend’s long-awaited arrival, students file into Mass Hall to partake in a tranquil kick-off to the weekend. Classical music plays, conversations flow and, most importantly, tea is brewed; thus begins the weekly convening of Bowdoin’s Tea Club.
Chartered in 2017 by tea enthusiasts, the club has offered its members a time to relax while sipping on a variety of high-quality brews. The club’s Friday evening meetings invite a welcomed pause at the end of the week, Co-President Mohammed Alkaabi ’25 explained.
“It’s a nice little slot of time where … you get to take a little breather before heading into the weekend,” Alkaabi said. “You can get a little bit of whiplash going from studying and academics all the way into a fun weekend, so it bridges the gap in a nice and calm way.”
At each meeting, Alkaabi and Co-President David Guan ’25, brew two pots of tea. Somewhat of a tea connoisseur, Guan brings teas which have been imported from around the world ranging from oolong to green to other high quality infusions. He is particular about the way the tea is prepared and insists that he try it before the other members to ensure it is perfect.
Alkaabi and Guan bring a sign-in book each week, which functions as a record for the meeting. The book dates back to 2017, when the founders of the club began writing down the names of attendees and notes about the teas they brewed. More recently, members have answered a conversational question alongside signing their name; this week, “opinions on country music?” prompted discussion and healthy debate throughout the meeting.
Beyond the rituals of the book and brew, Tea Club meetings take on a fluid form from week to week. A meeting can be anything from an informal study hall to a slew of deep, esoteric conversations.
“We will play some music while we’re enjoying tea … and besides that, we really just do whatever we want,” club member Vincent Han ’24 said. “Some people just come to do their homework. Usually, I try to socialize with other people while enjoying the tea.”
Alkaabi echoed Han’s sense of the club’s flexibility, explaining that the atmosphere of a meeting is largely reliant on the pacing of the academic schedule.
“Depending on the time of semester, [it’s] either fun conversations, or lots of work, or somewhere in between,” Alkaabi said. “If it’s grind season, people will show up with all their work—no one wants to talk at all.”
As the tone of the meetings changes from week to week, so does the music that is played; choices range from classical artists like Mozart and Tchaikovsky to more contemporary selections, including video game original soundtracks.
Unlike Guan, Alkaabi is relatively new to tea culture, but has been introduced to the world of tea through the club.
“This is blasphemous to say as a tea club leader, but back home I grew up on bagged tea and milk tea … I couldn’t hold a candle to the expertise that David has about tea, but I still enjoy it quite a lot,” Alkaabi said.
Going forward, Alkaabi and Guan hope to mobilize new projects for the club, including “Matcha Monday,” “Chai Tuesday,” and potentially a coffee-focused offshoot.
Above all, Alkaabi emphasized the inherent flexibility of Tea Club and urged prospective members to take advantage of its non-committal nature.
“You can show up for five minutes, drink a cup and leave. You can sit there for the whole two hours or longer,” he said. “It really is what you make of it.”