Los Angeles video editor Joe “Guisepi” Spadafora began cooking his dinner and boiling a pot of tea on the tailgate of his truck, parked on Hollywood Boulevard, in 2006. He offered a little food and a lot of tea to anyone hungry for sustenance and conversation. “This small offering made to people was enough to create friendships between all classes and colors, 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,” Guisepi writes. “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.” Free Tea Party was born.
In 2008 Guisepi traded in his truck for a 1989 Ford/Thomas bus, which he has since remodeled inside using salvaged wood. Edna Lu, as his Tea bus is known, has a full kitchen with running water, benches with storage, a closet, a wood stove, and a solar panel. Guisepi and Edna Lu travel the West Coast to cultivate community and encourage dialogue about peace, environment and health by serving free cups of tea to people on city streets, at parks and at festivals. “Tea provides a relaxing, warm atmosphere for people to be themselves and comfortably share with others,” Guisepi states. Thousands of conversations between people who otherwise might not have met have been sparked during Guisepi’s gatherings.
“The free tea concept is based on the idea that goods or services can be offered without expecting anything in return,” Guisepi says. “This is known as the gift economy. We believe that selfishness should be balanced out by selflessness.”
Today I received an email from Guisepi stating that he’s taking six weeks off from his Free Tea Party tour—but that doesn’t mean the show can’t go on. March 20 is Edna’s “birthday” (the anniversary of the day he bought her), and he hopes that everyone else will host a free tea party on or around that date. “Celebrate spring with tea,” he urges. “Invite friends and strangers alike. If you need a few tea bags or stickers, let me know before February 21. I hope to hear all your stories via email – the best of which I will include on the Free Tea Party blog.”
Edna, the Tea Bus, travels the West Coast encouraging dialogue about peace, environment and health by serving free cups of tea to people on city streets, at parks and at festivals.