A lesson in World History, with a side of tea

The Tea Club Table located in B207, with a box of tea, an electric kettle, and the inflatable palm tree hanging over.

The Tea Club Table located in B207, with a box of tea, an electric kettle, and the inflatable palm tree hanging over.

Ryan Cochenauer, Contributor

Ryan Wagner, a Social studies teacher at Prior Lake High School, has been places. 


His room is B207, and it is littered with various mementos: flags from each of the countries he’s been to, Russian nesting dolls, model yurts brought in by students, a puzzle model of the world’s tallest building, and a portrait of the first United States president are just a few objects scattered about.


In one of the corners, however, there’s a small table with a cloth from Dubai draped over it. Over it hangs an inflatable palm tree. On the table sits an electric kettle, paper cups, and boxes and boxes of tea bags.


Tea Club is a staple of World History for any student who has entered Mr. Wagner’s classroom. The club, as Wagner puts it, is a highly exclusive part of his AP World History class where students are free to make their own cups of tea whenever they choose. 


Additionally, students are encouraged to bring in their own tea to share, increasing the variety of flavors available to any would-be tea drinker. However, admission into the club is something students will need to pay careful attention to before pouring themselves a cup. 


“It’s highly exclusive,” Wagner chuckled. “It’s only for current and former students, any student that’s a member of whatever club I’m part of,  friends of my students, or anyone having a bad day.” 


Quite the laundry list of extraordinarily difficult requirements. It would be best to think of them over a cup of Tea Club tea first. 


While today it’s a staple of the classroom, Tea Club hasn’t always been around. Wagner’s club started around 2015 when during a lesson an offhanded mention of a tea club to his students generated ample positive feedback. Shortly after, the small table was open for business. The class loved it. 


Eager for a repeat, Wagner decided to try again the next year, and the table has been serving tea ever since. While on the outside it might look like a fun, simple way to broaden students’ beverage options, Wagner has said there’s more to the club than just a good excuse to drink tea. 


“School community and classroom community, when built well, foster more learning,” said Wagner. According to him, he’s always trying to think of new ways to do just that. 


It’s Wagner’s goal with Tea Club to bring students together with a common experience while also providing something that stands out from day-to-day school life.


Introduced with an ironic ‘exclusivity’ and exposing students to something they may never have tried, it easily cements itself in every student’s memory. 


“It’s so great,” said Eliana Castor, a junior at Prior Lake High School. 


She said she once brought in a water bottle specifically for the club just because there was a different kind of tea being served. 


“I think students love Tea Club,” Eliana said. 


While he isn’t sure why students latched on, Wagner thinks it has something to do with how abnormal the club is. He believes that in a world where you have to buy everything, from tea to coffee, a small table with free tea sticks out and is made better by the community that is built around it. The only thing required is for the tea drinkers to show up. 


Lately, Wagner said Tea Club popularity has gone down lately, blaming the Coronavirus Pandemic for upsetting the yearly tradition, but he is hoping to start a “renaissance.” 


Wagner said that “Anybody that hears the story is welcome to come in and have tea.” 


With that, consider yourself a part of the club. The Tea Club.