Fighting Loneliness with Tea and Strangers

An epidemic of loneliness is hitting millennials hardest — which is just one reason why Tea With Strangers is helping people meet each other offline. 🍵

Meeting a bunch of strangers from the Internet for tea

5 strangers, 1 host, a 2-hour conversation — over tea. This is how Ankit Shah brings people together for meaningful conversations — and help those who may feel lonely. Shah started Tea with Strangers when he was in college in 2013. Tea with Strangers hosts two-hour meetups at cafes in 15 cities in the U.S. and one in Nairobi (soon to be 25 total), including Boston, New York and Seattle in the U.S. Participants can discuss anything from politics to romance for the duration. The conversation is led by a volunteer host, who also organizes the event. He says 50,000 people have come to a teatime.

“I think when we're moving too quickly, it can be difficult to find the patience to slow down and to look at someone in the eye and actually ask how are you, really? When you actually create the space for that kind of dialogue, I think that's when you're most likely to find it. Usually it's at a cafe or a park and people will show up with no knowledge of who else is coming. And what happens from there is really kind of the melding of five or six stories from completely different people, from completely different walks of life, and they learn about each other. The reason it's called Tea with Strangers is that drinking tea is slow. It takes time to steep, you sip it slowly. You're not necessarily drinking tea because you're in a rush and that's really what the conversation is like. The conversation is meant to be taken slow. To be patient. To look someone in the eyes and to listen,” owner Ankit Shah tells Brut.

A poll by YouGov found that 30% of millennials feel lonely — the highest percentage of all generations. Studies have linked loneliness to weakened immune systems, increased risk of heart disease, and cognitive decline. Some of the people who meet at teatime do stay in touch.