Lonely Planet Writer

This man is travelling America giving out free cups of tea

For the past ten years, one man has dedicated his life to travelling the vast expanse of North America, bringing free tea parties to the people of every town that he goes to.

Guisepi Spadafora in his bus Edna Lu travels North America throwing free tea parties
Guisepi Spadafora in his bus and portable tea house named Edna Lu. Image by Free Tea Party

Guisepi Spadafora has visited a total of 35 US States and one Canadian province since 2006, all in an effort to connect with as many strangers and communities as possible. Over the course of that time he has served more than 30,000 free cups of tea to over 20,000 people in different locations. The tea parties take place at festivals, hiking trails, public parks or often right on the street, and anyone is welcome to join.

Edna Lu the tea house bus
So far Guisepi and Edna Lu have visited 35 US states. Image by Free Tea Party

The idea for the project first came to Guisepi somewhat by accident while he was living and working in Los Angeles. “My days were spent sitting in front of a computer editing a documentary, and I had barely any time outside of work. After trying and failing to find community in places like bars, I started going down to Hollywood Boulevard after work with my pickup truck and cooking dinner on a camp stove on my tailgate. Inevitably, curious passers-by would ask what I was doing. Some would stop, take a seat, and conversations took off. I remember looking around, amazed at the eclectic crew that had gathered each and every time I went down. I would put the kettle on and make tea for hours. Pretty soon I had regulars, and community and friendship,” he told Lonely Planet Travel News.

Edna Lu the tea bus at Hollywood Boulevard
A tea party on Hollywood Boulevard, where the project first began in 2006. Image by Free Tea Party

After that, Guisepi began making tea for the public anywhere he could. It wasn’t long before he upgraded his transportation, trading in his pickup truck for a short school bus that he named Edna Lu. The bus was transformed into a portable tea house for long road trips, and was even made ecologically friendly, running on recycled vegetable oil, solar power, and utilising waste engine heat for the hot water.

According to Guisepi, the key to his success and the popularity of the project has been making the experience free for visitors and allowing them to interact in an open way. “It is about building community by providing people the opportunity to have genuine human interactions through a completely non-monetary experience. It can be rather mind-boggling and mind-opening to have an experience with a stranger who doesn’t want a thing from you, and who offers an experience for free,” he said.

Free Tea Party bus
Guisepi estimates that he has served over 30,000 cups of tea to strangers so far. Image by Free Tea Party

Guisepi and Edna are currently on the east coast of America, but plan on crossing the states once again in the coming years.

More information about the Free Tea Party project is available at the website.