I often get asked the question: Why do you like tea so much? I can best sum it up by looking at my tea past, present and future.
When I was a little kid we often would take the train from Berlin, East Germany to St. Petersburg, Russia, – a two day journey. On this trip it had been my job to get the tea for the family and I remember this procedure vividly: a strong black tea in a glass mug in a heavy iron casing with a long piece of sugar. I had to make a few trips, for a little kid in a fast moving train not an easy task. But it left something in me, a sort of family tradition.
I liked the big Samovar my family had and how tea was poured all day long and the pleasant smell it filled the room with. Tea always had a comforting presence in my childhood. My mother would make me tea when I was sick, although they were mostly infusions: Peppermint, Chamomile, Lemon Verbena – somehow there is a herb for every type of illness. My mother used to add a bit of honey into the ‘tea’ and it made me feel better quickly. (As a Tea Specialist today, I am not giving any specific health advice, but rather prefer to reflect on the comfort tea and infusions have on well-being.)
As an adult I traveled around the world and realized how much tea influences culture and how it is a big part of people’s lives. In my twenties when visiting Tokyo, I was fascinated by the tea ceremony in Japan.
A few years ago my real tea journey begun. My wife Kristen was used to my “phases” and gave me 6 months until I got bored and switched into a new phase. I picked up a book on my Kindle about tea, then another one, then five more until I read everything on that subject I could get my hands on.
I slowly realized what a complex and exciting world I had entered. I had found the Twinings Tea Taster Club and would taste a new tea every month and read the tasting notes from Twinings.
I started to explore more teas and more retailers and started drinking different types of tea. At one point I hit a wall as I thought I had learned as much as I could.
Kristen and I started our own family tradition and would make it part of our mornings to try out new teas from around the world. At one point I got fascinated about the Chinese tea ceremony, so I built my own (I will show you in a separate blog post.)
We would start the day with tea and end the day with tea with a relaxing tea ceremony and a wonderful Oolong. At one point it would all start to make sense to me – this moment was in London in 2014.
I was sitting in the cafeteria underneath the hull of the Cutty Sark (the fastest tea clipper) in Greenwich. I was sipping a cup of Gunpowder tea and felt connected to hundreds if not thousands of years of tea history and culture and decided that I wanted to be part of this. I had to find a way to get to the next level.
While most people relax during the summer at the beach, I was in the kitchen, filling in tea tasting journals. This summer I underwent what I call (thanks Tea Guru, Frank Murphy) tea intensives and professionally cupped and tasted 6-8 different Darjeeling teas daily – for a period of 3 weeks. The insight into flavors, textures and aromas was amazing. I continued to read more books, including one of the most important tea books – Lu Yu, “the Classic of Tea”. (I will make a future blog entry on good tea literature.)
I’ll continue with my present and future tea journey in the next two blog posts. Please stay tuned and consider subscribing to this blog and getting new posts delivered to your email inbox. Just fill in the quick form in the sidebar. Thanks!