Tea program is a research project that explores the possibilities of using tea to create materials and products. As a biodegradable material, tea is used to create a range of souvenirs for everyday family rituals, incorporating biomanufacturing and craftsmanship to reflect sustainability and showcase the natural beauty of the unique material.
Tea drinking is famous as a traditional and widespread form of leisure in both the East and West. While studying in the UK, Cheng was experiencing covid-19 and drinking tea became an essential part of her daily life to decompress and heal herself. At first, she connected with her motherland and family by recording and recalling the fragments and stories during tea drinking. Cheng then sought to tell their stories through tea by collecting tea from individuals, friends and local restaurants after drinking it, shaping personal and group identities. Since 2020 she has been practicing and questioning ''how tea can be used as a material to tell and preserve the stories and memories of individuals and groups'' and ''how can we go beyond the traditional values of tea, what can be done for it? "
The collection focuses on commemorative objects, amplifying their materiality and emphasising the importance of memorialisation in the human experience. The objects use antique symbols - and attempt to embed them in a more extended history of materials - and the scale and form of introducing tea materials into the domestic environment, where the materials come from nature and return to nature. The pigments also come from the tea itself, so the whole plant is used for production. The containers are made from tea with added starch, flour and water. Recipes such as vases and candle holders include tea mixed with bio-resin.
The tea has many exciting properties and possibilities that could be further developed for Cheng's subsequent research projects.
Firstly, the collected tea is sorted, dried, dehydrated and then ground to a powder. Afterwards, the materials are reassembled and processed at low heat to form a clay form. In this case, the addition of sodium alginate will polymerise the tea to form the object.
Text submitted by the maker
Tea, corn starch, sodium alginate.