Just as tea rooms are popping up all over the place, the latest trend for groups is tea samplings.

“Tea sampling is a great way to educate staff and create an environment in which people can talk,” says Stowe Shoemaker, PhD, associate dean of research at the University of Houston's Conrad Hilton College of Hotel Administration. Just as people get together for a cup of tea in their homes, he says, tea in business conveys the message of relaxation and sharing. “This is the feeling you want to create in a meeting, as it will help to build a sense of community.”

Numi Tea in Oakland, Calif. (www.numitea.com), suggests such activities as spouse tea samplings, group tea tastings, and — for those who really want to go all out — tea expert sampling events with a Numi “alchemist.”

Numi also provides socially conscious amenities, such as velvet-lined tea chests with flowering teas, from which the company donates a portion of the profits to rebuild China's Guangxi bamboo factory, which was destroyed by flooding.