Artists and Iraq War veteran Aaron Hughes originally developed the Tea Project after a return trip to Iraq, as a civilian, in 2009. It was during this trip he had tea prepared in the Iraqi tradition for the first time. After returning home, Aaron began hosting Tea Project performances in order to draw out guests' stories connected to living during the ongoing Global War on Terror while interlacing stories of his deployment to Kuwait and Iraq in 2003, his return trip in 2009, and the curious love stories of his friend Chris Arendt, a Guantanamo Detention Camp guard, who fell in love with drawings carved by detainees into Styrofoam cups.

In 2013, Aaron Hughes invited Amber Ginsburg to join in the Tea Project in order to cast 779 porcelain Styrofoam teacups, one for each individual held in extra-legal detention since 2001. Since then, Ginsburg and Hughes have worked collaboratively to expand the project and develop a multi-faceted forum to engage with individuals' personal relationships to love, war, and extra-legal detention.