"Right before I graduated, I was thinking a lot about how social barriers between communities at Penn were starting to dissolve as we were leaving. Instead of using differences to keep groups separate, the commonality of graduating — and the four years we just spent at the same school — brought people closer together. It’s kind of unbelievable how people would open up to each other so beautifully. I was meeting such cool people then that I wished I had met three and a half years ago, but time was running out and I wanted to do it more.
That’s when the first idea for Tea With Strangers started. I thought five people would sign up. I really did not think anyone was going to sign up, because what’s the premise? It turns out, a lot of people were thinking what I was thinking. So I told everyone, from 8pm to 11pm every night, between the day the first website, “Let’s get tea!” launched and graduation, I would be sitting at the same cafe, and I’d host 6 people a night. No one ever left until they kicked us out of the cafe. It never ended on time.
I recreated it in the Bay Area. The difference here was the context of our lives. People here are, well, adults – living real lives. They were talking about being responsible for themselves, about fear, insecurity, pride, motivation, culture and family relationships — not family relationships like ‘I’m going to go home and see my family over winter break,’ family relationships like ‘I haven’t seen my family in a year and a half.’ Those kinds of family relationships.”
Ankit Shah | Tea With Strangers