First Year Seminar


seminar students



NEXT OFFERING: Winter Quarter 2025


  • Katharine Burnett, Instructor of Record.
  • Co-instructors: Jacquelyn Gervay-Hague, David Gundry, Shermain Hardesty, Joseph Sorensen, and Erik Fausak


Tea is the most consumed prepared beverage in the world, yet, what is it really? Drunk on every continent, everyone thinks their way is the best – but is there only one “right” way? Through readings and discussion, this seminar introduces students to many cultural and scientific aspects of tea, with topics involving agritourism, art history, chemistry, history, and nutrition. At each session, we will also taste and discuss specialty teas. Join us!


Students will gain a broad understanding of the complexity of global tea cultures and science across a spectrum of disciplines. They will learn how to do smart searches for literature and source materials across the disciplines. Students will hone skills in such areas as textual analysis and oral and written communication.


Jacquelyn Gervay-Hague, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Chemistry. Tea quality is dependent upon the complete natural environment in which it is grown, produced, and consumed. Research in the Gervay-Hague lab centers on correlating chemical transformation and molecular transport with environmental factors including soil, topography, and climate to determine the chemical basis of Camellia sinensis cultivation and how it influences Human health through tea consumption.

Shermain Hardesty, Ph.D., is an Agricultural Economist. During the past 10 years, she has led the UC's Small Farm Program. She has collaborated with the University’s Cooperative Extension farm advisors to introduce smaller-scale farms in California to specialty crop opportunities—such as tea, coffee, and dragonfruit. Recently retired as a faculty member in UCD’s Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, she began drinking tea while growing up in Japan. She has visited tea farms in China, Hawaii, and California, and now is working to help tea farms in California develop tea-tasting and farm tourism businesses. Since 1992, she has been conducting workshops about starting and operating a specialty food business.

Joseph Sorensen, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in East Asian Languages and Cultures, who teaches Japanese literature courses. He also leads a UCD study-abroad program each Spring in Kyoto during which he works with tea masters to provide lectures, demonstrations, and workshops on various aspects of the Japanese tea ceremony.

David Gundry, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in East Asian Languages and Cultures,