LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT INTERVIEW WITH AJ WARD WELL-BEING AROUND THE TABLE THE TEA LADY OF NERADA PAIRING TEA & SCOTCH COUNTRY PROFILE: SRI LANKA SLOW FOOD MOVEMENT RECIPES
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Karen Donnelly is a certified TAC Tea Sommelier® Professional and has been an afternoon tea event planner, speaker and teacher for over 20 years. She is the owner of Greenhalgh Tea and manager of the Orchard Tea Room at Rose Hip Barn, Thornton, PA.
British tea taster Kevin Gascoyne first bought tea in Asia in 1989 and has spent every Spring there as a buyer for almost 30 years. Living in Montréal, he is one of 4 taster/owners of Camellia Sinensis. He lectures all over the planet and runs 2 tea schools, a wide selection of workshops, conferences, field consulting, trade development and seminars. His writing has been published and widely translated in N.America, Europe, Russia and Asia and he is co-authored the prize-winning book TEA, History, Terroir, Varieties, voted World's Best Tea Book 2014 by the World Tea Awards.
Monique Iman Hibma is a registered yoga and meditation instructor, a certified health coach, and the owner of Neek Tea Co. living in Charlotte, NC. She is acertified TAC Tea Sommelier® and believes tea can inspire presence and peace.
Theresa Lemieux is a certified TAC Tea Sommelier® and a food blogger at The Everything Kitchen.ca, where she cooks and bakes with tea. She writes about all aspects of tea, including health, food pairings and culinary uses for tea. Her private teatasting seminars are conducted online and in-person. Theresa firmly believes that there is room for a cup of tea in everyone’s day.
Jason Walker is Marketing Director for Firsd Tea North America. Prior to his work with Firsd Tea, Jason served in a variety of roles in marketing and operations. His 12 years of tea and beverage experience includes marketing consulting services for tea brands, a top-ranked online destination for tea consumer education and operating a coffee company. Jason has served in various roles in both public and private sectors, including college and human capital services.
In this Issue
Letter from the President
Country Profile: Sri Lanka
Interview with AJ Ward
Well-Being Around the Table Sustainability Perspectives Camellia Sinensis
Slow Food :
The Slow Food Movement Genmaicha Tuscan White Bean Soup Grand Rising Green Lemon Thai Chicken Soup Pu-erh Pulled Pork The Tea Lady of Nerada Smoked Slow Cooked Ribs Manila's Rising Sun Chai Lentil Curry Pairing Tea & Scotch
e h t m o fr t n e d i s e r p
And before we knew it, the summer ended. I know that sentence makes a lot of you sad, but I must admit, I love the season we’re heading into. I’ve long been out of school age, but September is forever the start of something for me. It’s picking up projects that may have been put aside for the summer, it’s reconnecting with the inside of my home and everything just feels a whole lot more active. Which is why I think we need to be reminded that pause, and breath, and calm are even more important during this time. This is true this year more than ever, as we‘ve entered the ‘post pandemic’ world of running and rushing and doing again. I know that for so many of us, that concept of pause equates to a luxury we think we can’t afford, or even worse, a feeling of selfishness. But I want us to embrace that and turn around that word ‘selfish’ from one that is bad to something that is necessary. Let’s take the word and own it with a new meaning, a new emotion; taking care of one’s ‘self’. You’ll find this issue has gravitated to some of that; taking a moment for reconnecting with yoga, finding calm during moments of anxiety, slow food and all of that with a cup of tea. Enjoy this issue, genuinely, unapologetically and yes, even selfishly!
AN INTERVIEW WITH
AJ Ward R & D Tea Specialist, Murchie's Fine Tea & Coffee AJ started her ‘tea journey’ in 2007, ironically with Murchie’s, and got invested in tea communities, meetups and festivals. When she realized her university library had books on tea, she started spending her free time studying those. It gave her access to tea books you couldn’t find anywhere else, not to mention peer-reviewed journals and articles, and she definitely took advantage of that. She wasn’t planning on making a career out of tea at the time; she didn’t think that was a possibility. But AJ was grabbing up every book she could find, publications from the 1920s and earlier, and had been collecting old and interesting Tea Books ever since. AJ wrote special-interest articles, and one of her earliest research rabbit-holes was the history of Murchie’s, from 1894 to present day. It’s almost fitting that she came to work at Murchie's a decade later. AJ graduated into an economic downturn for geology, so she was looking for temporary work, and ended up at Murchie’s head office. Here she learned the mechanics and theory of tea blending, expanding her palate and interests, and has taken her passion for tea history and literature to festivals in the form of talks and meetups. When the thenTea Specialist left, AJ stepped in and made the decision to see where tea as a career
took her. AJ loves classic tea blending— balancing the distinct notes of teas from different regions to create a cohesive, smooth base, and she takes a lot of nods from early 1900s tastes, like green-black combinations and the inclusion of scented teas.
What is your first memory involving tea?
How much tea do you drink in a day?
I don’t think I have one specific memory, but my earliest association was with my great grandmother. We’d visit her usually once a month, and she would make us tea in demitasse cups (not wanting to give too much caffeine to children), with a healthy spoonful of honey, and we’d play bingo. I later inherited the cup-set and several teapots from her.
It can vary wildly depending on how many samples I need to get through in a day. I usually make myself a cup of tea as soon as I get in, and I drink on average four to six batch samples a day; a LOT more if a pre-shipment set came in (these are samples taken from fresh lots of tea we’re considering purchasing). I often make myself one to two other cups of tea, or start a tea session in a gaiwan, and occasionally something when I get home. All in all, that’s easily more than a litre, litre and a half.
What does a typical workday in the tea industry consist of for you? I have a number of duties, so it varies a lot, but I try to keep a routine. I typically make it in at 7am, check in with the production team, and then the tea blender to see if we’re on-track and today’s schedule is clear. Once I get to my office, I turn on the water boiler and set up any batch or pre-shipment samples that need tasting. While the water’s heating, I check emails. Day to day can vary, but include: purchasing tea and blend ingredients, coordinating blending and production schedules, blending tea or prepping for blending, and most importantly: evaluating recently-blended batches, new incoming teas, or pre-shipment samples. A large portion of my day can be teatasting, because we taste just about everything we take in and send out. New lots, new teas, and every blend made in-house is tasted before it’s released. I tend to reserve the last few hours of the day to work on new blends for the upcoming year. ‘concept blending’ or fine-tuning ideas. Sometimes it’s as simple as throwing together a few teas that I wonder might work together, other times it’s fine-tuning ratios down to the percent for a tea that’s been in production for half a year. That’s obviously my favourite part, but I don’t always get to spend as much time experimenting as I’d like.
What are you seeing in the market that excites you for tea? I’m honestly always excited when I see a new region start producing camellia sinensis, or an existing region start to branch out with new production techniques or styles. They’re often just considered ‘novelties’, but it’s still exciting. People are pushing to grow tea in more and more places. If you could drink tea with anyone - living or dead - who would it be and what tea would you serve? My great grandma. My mom used to say she was very particular and British about her tea, but I was too young to really appreciate it as anything more than a vehicle for liquid honey intake. I can’t say what tea I’d serve. Where I am now, my instinct would be to ask what tea was her favourite, and try to blend and brew the nicest quality of that that I could. I really enjoy blending teas for people. One of the first things I did on starting with Murchie’s was look up every surname in my family in their Family Blend Book, but unfortunately I don’t think anyone in my family
were avid Murchie’s fans, so there’s no ‘Liddiatt’ family blend I could serve her. So why not make one? If you weren't in tea, what would you be doing? Geology. I completed my degree in 2018; that was my planned trajectory before tea became more than a hobby for me, and I do still find it very interesting. What's your favourite fact about tea that surprises people? Hard to say, I feel like I hang out with enough tea-people it’d be hard to surprise each other. Maybe that tea is currently growing on Vancouver Island, right across the straight from me? It’s in the Cowichan Valley. I’d really like to visit; it’s so close. I enjoy trying tea from lesserknown production regions, but I’ve never tried Canada. How do you take your tea? Depends partially on the specific tea. I take it neat (I’m not much for milk or sugar) in a mug or teacup, or prepare with a gaiwan or small pot in a gongfu method, if that better suits it. I definitely like to collect teaware. What is the most interesting and unique experience you've had in your tea career? I feel like mine’s pretty pedestrian. Seeing my first tea blend (Earl’s Gold) through to release. From experimenting, concept blending, tweaking (obsessive, obsessive tweaking), proposing, to the first full batch, to online release and then in-store release as a permanent item. I’m tickled every time someone says positive words about it, and there are a few people (not just family friends) who order it consistently by the pound. I put a lot of work into the base of the blend.
I think my blends in general are easy to pick out —I love pairing Assam and Yunnan, or adding a bit of Keemun.
WEBINAR SERIES Join us for our online learning series where we provide industry insights. It may be a webinar, a fireside chat, a demonstration or even a recorded ‘podcast’. Members have access to 2 complimentary registrations per membership year (April 1 – March 31).
Upcoming Sessions The Art of Tea & Tasseomancy Amy Taylor, Tea Sommelier October 18 (12-1pm ET) How to Approach Digital Marketing As a Tea Retailer Mackenzie Bailey, Tea Sommelier November 2 (12-1pm ET) The Rainforest Alliance 2020 Program – Requirements, Benefits, Progress and Support Robbie Hogervorst, Rainforest Alliance November 8 (11am - 12pm ET) Tea and bone health: What does the research tell us? Wendy Ward, Professor of Kinesiology and Health Sciences January 25 (12-1pm ET)
WELL-BEING AROUND THE TEA TABLE By Karen Donnelly Certified TAC Tea Sommelier® Professional
Hopeful excitement fill young adults when they graduate from high school and start preparations to continue their education – often away from home for the first time. The excitement can quickly turn to anxiety as this life change becomes a reality settling into a dorm room. It’s so easy to blame the pandemic for this and its contribution to feelings of disconnect. Although a factor, the increase in the struggle with mental health began increasing in the student population nearly a decade before the pandemic. This can come from several sources such as leaving behind the traditional support system of family and friends; academic workload; poor choices in eating habits, drinking and drug abuse; sleep deprivation; social media; or identity support. Without help, this can continue through and past graduation.
Pandemic protocols did contribute to loneliness, isolation, disruption of routine, and adjusting back to inperson classes. No one who has lived through the past 2-1/2 years needs health professionals to tell us how important human contact is for feelings of well-being. If you are a student, remember you are not alone in your feelings. For your emotional health and for academic success, it is important for you to build positive feelings to inspire calm and well-being. Join campus organizations and clubs to meet others with similar interests. Look outside yourself. Bring others into your circle, showing compassion and validation for the stresses they are going through. Maintain supportive connections with others. Although there is much you can do for yourself, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you can’t control feelings of stress or depression. Many universities understand the importance of student’s mental health and have established Mental Health departments and structured support programs. Practice daily self-care. What do we mean by this? Very simple: take time to take a breath and relax. Put away the electronics. Introduce and maintain a daily, comforting ritual such as meditation, prayer, yoga, and yes, making and sharing a cup of tea. Sharing tea with others ties back to “maintain supportive connections with others.” Not to be taken lightly, this
sharing of tea promotes conversation and needed, caring, human contact. Pouring tea for others before yourself is an important part of tea culture in many parts of the world. For tea business professionals, there is an opportunity to share knowledge and love of tea, its culture, preparation, and history with students at local colleges and universities. We know it’s the “cup of comfort” and how tea helps us refresh and relax. We understand the importance of the connections and friendships made around the tea table.What a great opportunity to pass this on to a new generation.
If you are a student, remember you are not alone in your feelings. John Smagula, Assistant Dean of Graduate & International Programs, Temple University School of Law in Philadelphia offers tea education as part of the University and Law School wellness program. He is a member of the Mid Atlantic Tea Business Association (MATBA) and spoke to members at a meeting in May 2022 regarding opportunities to bring tea to campuses. John’s interest in tea grew after spending time in China. This interest
expanded to sharing tea and the tea experience with students. Since 90% of Millennials and Generation Z youth (born between 1997 and 2012) drink tea, this is a very receptive group. John guided us through the many ways we can connect to students on university and college campuses to share our knowledge, tea, and the tea life. The first step is to contact the Student Affairs Department for permission to approach student organizations. A quick search of a school’s website will show a directory of the organizations and social clubs on campus. These can number in the hundreds! Many of these groups would welcome an opportunity to learn more about tea. Hosting a tea tasting; a presentation on tea and health; tea as an important part of a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle; or how tea is prepared and served around the world are just a few examples. Any presentation can be customized for the group whose interests might include health, environment, wellness,
nutrition, sustainability, vegetarian or vegan life, social justice, diversity, international students, and continuing education. Consider writing an article for the student or school newsletter/paper on tea. John reminded us that students like to get off campus and would enjoy a fieldtrip to our businesses. When I contacted John recently about the tea education he offers at Temple University, I asked him What did you see that motivated you to use tea as a way to connect to students and their wellness? “There is great student interest in cultivating their mental wellness. I saw tea as an opportunity to create a safe space where students could gather and discuss difficult and important issues. It is one thing to discuss ideas in a classroom, and quite another in a setting where everyone is drinking tea. Based on my experience living in China, where many of my most interesting conversations occurred around the tea table, I wanted to
bring that experience to my students in the United States.” What changes have you seen with students that have shared tea with you and others? “Our tea club expanded throughout the school year, with a number of the students expressing greater interest in tea. I introduced the 5 major types of tea to the students, and pu'er became a favorite. Students learned new brewing techniques and brought their purchases to the tea club. They report that drinking tea has promoted relaxation, healing, and fellowship. In the end, students have a greater respect for tea and tea culture, and they have added tea to their personal wellness programs.”
References: Smagula, John. Assist. Dean, Graduate & International Programs, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA. Presentation May 2022, Mid Atlantic Tea Business Association. Smagula, John. (November 20, 2020) “Reach Out to Students, The Next Tea Frontier.” Teajourney.pub Student Life, University Health Service, University of Michigan (2022) “Ten Things You Can Do for Your Mental Health.” uhs.umich.edu/tenthings Verbamas, Patti (August 9, 2022) “How College Students Perceive Academic Stress Affects Their Mental Well-Being.” www.rutgers.edu Herpich, Nate (January 26, 2022) “Two Years In, Still Coping with Pandemic Stress.” news.harvard.edu
Sustainability Perspectives by Jason Walker, Firsd Tea Firsd Tea recently released a first-of-its-kind Sustainability Perspectives Report in 2022 to capture the tea and coffee industry’s views on how well the tea sector performs in areas of sustainable practices. In conjunction with Tea & Coffee Trade Journal and a third-party research firm, the study was developed with guidance from industry peers and an academic research and think-tank.
Respondents of the survey included a diverse spectrum of wholesalers, importers, exporters, retailers, and others based in North America, Europe, and Asia. While many studies have examined consumers’ perceptions of sustainability, this study targeted professionals in tea, coffee, and related industries to understand their concerns and views on the tea industry’s sustainability performance.
The findings of the research can generally be grouped into perspectives about 3 areas: environment, people, and certifications.
in average temperatures could also affect consumption patterns of hot and/or iced teas. Climate change could therefore create a snowball effect from farm to consumer.
CLIMATE AND OPERATIONS A widespread concern about climate’s potential impact on the industry was one of the more glaring findings. 80% of respondents expressed worry about the effects of climate change on their business operations. In fact, respondents considered the tea industry (93%) more sensitive to climate change than the coffee (82%), wine (65%), and cocoa (63%) industries. The effects of climate change may be most obvious at the farm level. Changing rain patterns, drought, and extreme temperatures can impact early/late flushing, stunted plant growth and damage, spread of pests and blight, and disruption of harvesting. These concerns were reflected in the responses as well, with changing rain patterns (95%) unpredictable weather (94%) and extreme heat (91%) ranked as the biggest threats to the industry. All of these can directly impact yields and the economic costs of tea production. Additionally, unpredictable weather patterns created by climate change, like increased flooding and flood damage, snow, and hurricanes/typhoons can impinge upon logistics activities and delay deliveries. Longer-term shifts
Respondents (84%) also believe that consumers are concerned about the environment and carbon footprint. Further research may shed more light on the particulars of this concern, as it may include loss of flora and fauna around tea farms, welfare of workers whose local environments are impacted, and the economic costs associated with more challenging growing conditions. CLIMATE AND PRODUCTS In spite of the seemingly widespread concerns about climate’s impact, sustainability was not a high-priority consideration for industry respondents in terms of their decisions to carry specific teas in their product offerings. Respondents ranked flavour (96%), leaf grade (90%), origin/terrior (88%) and price (83%) above sustainability (79%). The seeming contradiction between the perceived concerns over the business impact of climate change and the lower prioritization of sustainably sourced teas invites further investigation. CLIMATE AND CERTIFICATIONS The survey results paint an unclear picture of the perceived value of some product certifications as they may relate to understandings about sustainability. A significant portion of Industry respondents (85%) view organic certification as the most valued certification standard among consumers. Certifications more closely associated with sustainability fared lower in perceived value, with Fair Trade at 68%, Non-GMO at 58%, and Rainforest Alliance at 56%. The connection between this perception of consumers’ valuation of certifications and industry members’ prioritized criteria for carrying a tea may have a cause-effect relationship, but it remains unclear as to which one
causes the other. Other factors may also be at play. Further investigation may also clarify whether consumers mistakenly view organic certification as a form of sustainability certification. THE HUMAN SIDE OF SUSTAINABILITY The survey also revealed some noteworthy findings on sustainability and human welfare. Overall, 67% of respondents in tea and related industries felt that the tea industry implements general sustainability practices very well or somewhat well. “General sustainability practices” can be understood as including issues related to people and the environment. Looking at some of the specifics in the area of human welfare, however, suggests that the tea industry may not be as strong in those areas of practice. 61 per cent of respondents felt the tea industry performs very well or somewhat well on workers’ rights. This performance was seen as stronger than that of the coffee industry, of which only 46% of respondents felt that coffee did very well or somewhat well. Responses to further questions indicate that the tea industry is believed to have weaker performance in fostering safe and caring communities (53%), gender equity (51%) and poverty reduction (46%). Respondents are roughly split down the middle in these areas. This split in sentiment stands in contrast to the more widely shared environmental concerns. The potential imbalance of concern for the environment appears to misalign with many of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) regarding social welfare.
The SDGs include, among others: reducing poverty, ending hunger, providing quality education, improving gender equality, and promoting safe and equitable workplaces. It remains unclear as to why concerns about the environment show stronger numbers than those related to people. CERTIFICATION AND HUMAN WELFARE Sustainability certifications that aim to promote the welfare of tea industry workers carried less import than other product factors. As mentioned above, organic certification beat out other certifications as being considered more valuable to consumers. 85% of respondents felt organic certification was the most important, compared to Fair Trade (68%) and Rainforest Alliance (56%) certifications that exist to more overtly raise awareness of and improvements in the social justice aspect of sustainability. VIEWS OF THE FUTURE Respondents did reveal a sense of optimism about the future of sustainability and the environment. On a 1-10 scale, respondents gave an average score of 4 to score the tea industry’s sustainability performance 10 years ago. That average score improved to 5.5 for current sustainability performance, and optimism about further improvement 10 years from now was indicated in an average scoring of 6.9. NEXT STEPS Beyond the opportunity for further study, Firsd Tea’s Sustainability Perspectives Report points toward ways that tea industry professionals can begin to engage with pressing environmental concerns. One of the first steps would be to evaluate the data being collected, and the effective dissemination of information regarding sustainability practices and their impacts. This evaluation could uncover gaps where certain groups, be they producers, distributors, or consumers, may not be receiving sufficient quality information in a timely manner to properly understand the picture of climate and environment in the tea industry.
The results also point to an opportunity to better integrate the human and climate aspects of sustainability.
Coinciding with an assessment of information about climate and sustainability comes an evaluation of the prioritization of climate and environmental concerns as they shape purchase decisions along the supply and value chains. Diving into the details may indicate how supply/demand challenges, packaging, product placement, and similar factors can shift concerns towards greater prioritization of sustainability issues during buying/purchasing processes. The findings of this research also raises further questions to explore and address within the tea industry and beyond in terms of human welfare. Some of the more pertinent questions include: 1. Is there a greater, perhaps unbalanced, emphasis in the perceptions of sustainability that prioritizes the environment above human welfare? 2. To what extent are equity and social justice issues viewed as tea-industry specific versus seen as larger issues of a culture or society? Perhaps human welfare problems are perceived as beyond the tea industry’s purview, and more as widespread/inherent national or societal problems. 3. How well are sustainability certifications perceived in terms of their roles in helping people and the planet? 4. Are the human stories of sustainability being sufficiently and accurately told, so that industry members and consumers have a full and accurate understanding? The results also point to an opportunity to better integrate the human and climate aspects of sustainability. One hand washes the other. Climate changes can contribute to human migration, employment opportunities, economic security, and health. Similarly, well designed communities and farm practices can create less pollution, better protect local wildlife, and use natural resources more efficiently. When done well, sustainability means a win-win for people and the planet.
This initial study lays the groundwork for further research and dialogue on next steps for the tea industry - both upstream and downstream on the supply/value chains. Meaningful changes to further improve sustainability practices that protect people and the environment will likely call for active participation from producers, consumers, and stakeholders in between. Dialog on environmental concerns will also need to take into account the social and economic concerns of sustainability in order to produce more balanced solutions.
TEA SOMMELIER COURSES
WHAT IS A
A trained and knowledgeable tea professional who has successfully completed the Tea and Herbal Association of Canada’s certification examination, as a result, is well versed on all aspects of tea as it affects the consumer. He or she will have a thorough understanding of tea and its history, processing methods and preparation and will be able to interact easily with anyone on the subject of tea and make recommendations based on their needs in an approachable and easy manner.
COURSES OFFERED? Students can take the program in person through Tea & Herbal Association of Canada (Toronto & Vancouver), through Cambridge Tea Academy (UK). As well, courses are available online through the Academy of Tea, L’École Française du Thé et des Tisanes in French, ProTea Academy in Italian and at Escuela Mexicana de Té in Spanish.
LEARN MORE AT TEASOMMELIER.COM
TEA 102: Regions Of The World
This course will provide an introduction on the history of the origin of tea. You will learn how to differentiate the types of tea as well as the tea grading standards used in the industry.
Students will examine in detail the principal tea-growing regions of the world. Develop a fundamental understanding of tea – its evolution and its influence on culture and world events.
TEA 103: Tea Sensory Development
TEA 104: Tea Types
This course covers how we taste – what do we rely on – what errors should we be aware of. The tea taster’s vocabulary will be covered as well as tastings of various products such as chocolate, water, etc. to identify and fully understand the science of taste.
This course will cover the types of teas produced in different regions/countries in the world. Tasting and style comparisons will be a major component of this section.
TEA 105: From The Bush To The Cup
TEA 106: Preparation, Consumption & Health
This course is designed to introduce the student to advanced cultivation and processing practices used in the production of tea
This course provides the current information available as it relates to tea consumption. Use the skills gained in previous classes to prepare the perfect cup of tea.
TEA 107: Menu Design, Food Pairing & Cooking With Tea
TEA 108: The Business of Tea
Explore the various nuances of using tea as an ingredient – cooking, baking, cocktails etc. In this course, you will understand the principals behind using tea beyond its traditional uses as well as how to pair tea with food and create the perfect tea menu.
Learn about the various layers that make up the tea industry – commodity trader and auctions, packers and retailers. Who are they, what do they do and what are the challenges faced in each sector.
TEA SOMMELIER COURSES
TEA 101: Introduction to Tea
camellia sinensis By Kevin Gascoyne August 15th 1999: It was a hot August night, I wandered downtown to a new teahouse called ‘Camellia Sinensis’. Several people had mentioned this place in the Quartier Latin to me since it opened last October. I was intrigued to meet some tea folk. I had been obsessively researching and selecting Darjeeling up in the Himalaya for a few years and selling modest quantities in the new internet universe. Enjoying the summer evening I thought to myself: ‘I might even sell them some tea!’ Well, it was quite a bohemian scene down there! The place was packed for a ‘special
event’ and glowing with a positive, harmonious vibe. Plenty of interesting teas to drink and the thick, perfumed apple-tobacco smoke of narghile pipes hanging in the air. Early evening pulsed with smooth electronic tunes from a couple of DJs. Then the place lit up with a wild, live gypsy band and everybody danced. There was no doubt that this was the only place to be that night. Everyone in the room felt it. But this wasn’t just a memorable night in some crazy student den. Behind the scenes there had been some careful planning. All
guests had been served a drink. The space, despite being packed, was well organized and thought out. The evening was being conducted, casually and with exceptional discretion. That somebody was Hugo, the founder, who later told me of his trip to Prague, where he had enjoyed this concept of a social meeting place with all the elements of a night out around the drinking of good tea. This to me sounded too good to be true! Even on a modest budget, Hugo’s attention to detail was impeccable and was accompanied by his warm universal welcome, as a natural host. He had joined forces with two very cool partners Francois and Jasmin, the trio shared this same essence of hospitality, enthusiasm, work ethic, team spirit and above all fun. It was the beginning of a great friendship between the four of us. As things progressed, we became the tight team that we remain to this day. A business partnership fuelled by our shared love of tea and people. Every step we schemed in detail, planned carefully and then attacked the task with drive and enthusiasm. The focus moved from the parties to the plant. The hubbly-bubbly pipes disappeared, gaiwan and gong fu sets were introduced. Meanwhile the other side of the wall, through an adjoining door to the space next door, our first tea store opened in September of 2001. All four partners were now travelling to the tea lands annually, developing their regional tasting skills and their respective networks of growers, to source the teas for the catalogue. The initial spirit of community remained from those very first days, but the teahouse changed continually to follow an evolving intention behind the space. Constantly
improving the clients’ experience and showcasing the teas we were sourcing. Always retaining our trademark blend of warmth, hospitality and our belief that tea is the drink for all people. Visitors were treated to an environment that was arranged to enhance the tea-drinking moment. The style of service left regular café culture behind. It became the attentions of dining in a fancy restaurant, with careful timing, guidance on how to use the specialized teaware and explanation of the leaves that were infusing. An enthusiastic staff of tea-lovers continued to join the ranks increasing the hub of knowledge, research and tasting. As time went on the décor became more stylish, the lighting was improved, and the ventilation and sound systems were upgraded.The WIFI was removed and a ‘notechno zone’ was encouraged, allowing clients to be more present and focussed as they enjoyed the overall experience. A counter-culture move reported in the national press as WIFI became a ubiquitous essential of the hospitality industry. Hugo introduced the concept of ‘VEM’ from the French ‘ventilation-éclairage-musique’ (air-lighting-music) the three-pronged key to taking a room’s ambiance to the next level. Mentioning ‘Nice VEM’ to the crew was a great compliment, the ultimate accolade was the sparingly used superlative: ‘Vemalicious!’ We began developing a series of workshops and tastings for the public, which grew into our Tea Schools of Montreal and Quebec City. In over 20 years of classes thousands have taken our courses. Montreal and Quebec City have become very tea-savvy
cities. Then in 2008, after many years travelling to the tea lands we turned all these first-hand experiences into the first French edition of our book (a book that went on to win a few awards and is now available in five languages). Back in the teahouse pairings and flights were being developed to expand the tea experience and to light up the tastebuds and fascination of the clients. Our own obsession with the teas had led us toward specializing increasingly on the rapidly growing taster/buyer/importer/merchant elements of our company. We opened a couple more stores, one in Quebec City and the other up at Montreal’s Jean Talon Market, the teahouse became our experiential showroom.
By 2019, the teahouse had been through many chapters.To so many people the space held years of memories of community, discovery, meeting and coming of age.Often a blend of these. For others it had become a sanctuary of peaceful moments and contemplation. It had been the venue of first dates and proposals. Theses and novels had been conceived or finished there. Primarily, underlying all this, it was an efficient catalyst
between tea culture and thousands of tea lovers both local and international. But business is not a static state, it is an adventure of decisions and crisis management, innovation keeps it fresh and adapts to the changing environment. In recent years the teahouse had struggled to make ends meet. Despite continued popularity and regular line ups of clients eager to visit, the changing times had meant that those precious moments of magic we created with such love and care, barely paid the bills. It required an enormous amount of micro-management and many staff to offer such a complete experience to so many people. All this work did not balance with the modest average spend of the clients. A
tea service for two lasting a couple of hours was an inspiring way to spend the afternoon but, at the end of the week, was no longer a winning proposition financially. Next door in the store the dense catalogue of teas that sat on the counter, updated once a week, had now become the beating heart of the company. It embodied our quest for great leaf and the direct line of
respect, source to client, that we had worked so hard to install. Our wholesale and distribution of premium leaf to other tea companies etc., our retail and web sales were now very much our trade.It became increasingly obvious that the restaurant-style activity of running the Montreal teahouse was very different from all our other operations. Our precious ‘salon de thé’ had become a separate entity from the principal activities, like a small, leaky boat pulled along in the wake of a growing ship. Even so, we held on and cherished the place through a blend of personal nostalgia and responsibility to the community.
into our warehouse team, we announced the official closure of the teahouse in March 2021. To many it seemed drastic and, naturally, for us it was a very emotional decision.
When the pandemic hit in March 2020, we were forced to close the doors to follow protocol. The stores remained open with their grocery store status. Many teahouse clients switched to buying teas and setting up to infuse at home. We realised that the time had come. Absorbing the teahouse staff
Closing the doors was the end of a beautiful chapter, we felt it, the staff felt it too. We still explain the change to confused and disappointed clients, looking for the teahouse, daily! However, this was also an opportunity to create a finely-tuned, more relevant, tea
We held a yard sale of all the furniture and accessories to empty the space. Our wonderful and loyal clients, turned up in droves, despite the end of winter chill, they lined up around the block! It is pleasing to know that their tea spaces at home contained a souvenir of those cherished years. The teahouse was now an empty room.
space while retaining all the essential elements of discovery and tea culture that the teahouse had promoted. And as we all know; you need to crack some eggs to make an omelette. Three years before the teahouse closed, back in 2018, Jasmin and I were in Las Vegas for the World Tea Expo. Camellia Sinensis won the prize for Best Tea Shop in the World Tea Awards; we were absolutely delighted. We had won a few prizes at the WTE over recent years for blog, book, website etc. but this was the one we really coveted. This was international recognition we could take back to our amazing staff to show them how great they were. Late that night, after a session of tea
drinking with friends, we chatted about our ‘prize-winning’ store and began to imagine our perfect tea store of the future. Jasmin gazed off at the Vegas skyline and said, ‘I would knock the separating wall down and make the teahouse space part of one big store’. The dream of a flagship tea store to represent our company was born and Jasmin’s idea of joining the 2 spaces into one big room would remain in our minds.
bBack to 2021, the teahouse now closed, the design sessions began immediately. For about 6 months the four of us spent a few hours each week discussing and refining our ideas for the new space. From concept to materials to logistics. We hoped to distill all the things we loved about both the teahouse and the store into a memorable, experiential visit for clients; at the same time removing all the aspects and details that we had found unnecessary or outdated from over almost 25 years in business. We involved our staff during the brainstorming sessions and many great ideas were incorporated from these early team discussions and presentations. We began with considering the basic essence of the place. The speciality product
scene requires a space that emits that speciality message to the public. Gravitas and establishment make for a common choice. In our industry the old-fashioned tea store with seemingly decades of institution is a popular style. To be honest, many of my favourite tea stores have this vibe. Our little store at Jean Talon Market has bit of this this feel and has been compared to the wand store in Harry Potter! But we felt conscious that this direction didn’t really represent our
approach to tea. These bastions of tradition contain the suggestion of a constant, finite picture. Our producers are continually experimenting, either to improve their legendary teas or to find new flavour experiences with a different tweak in the process or an unusual cultivar. We work so closely with these artisans, often making collaborative ‘project’ teas and now producing and developing our own teas at the Tea Studio, our little factory in the Nilgiri Hills. Market trends for different teas shift all the time, even in China, the Mothership. One year the producers are all experimenting in black tea, then the Bai Ye cultivar is doing the rounds. Here in North America our market focus regularly shifts from one growing region to another or one style to another. On top of that, we are all learning constantly, harvest by harvest, year by year. This ever-changing flux is a stream of new information and new experience. Where the traditional dynamic of ‘master and student’ suggests a point of arrival, we find our relationship with tea compares more to an exciting journey. We may be veteran tasters, buyers etc. but above all we are simply enthusiasts. So, this dynamism was to be incorporated into the space while retaining the golden elements of that shopping experience: a vast catalogue of fresh, directly sourced, world class product and the enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff to tell you all about it. Removing those markers of age-old tradition also reduces the imposing ‘imposter’ feeling for the first, inquisitive visit of a novice. It allows all demographics to relate to the space. With our strong belief that tea is for
all people, there is no room for snobbery or the propagation of an ‘us and them’ situation. The more we can empower our clients to take the reins, exploring and infusing with confidence the better for everyone involved. Moving forward, guiding our community to a fascinating place, enticing all generations with our combination of hospitality, generosity and our classy catalogue. ‘You like tea? Get on the bus this place is rolling!’ We also needed a space to continue the educational elements of workshops, tastings and Tea Club. These activities would need be an essential element of this new room From the spirit of the teahouse, we incorporated that moment of discovery. When drinking tea becomes tasting tea. That most direct visceral connection to this fascinating world. Our stores have always offered the option to smell the tea, clients really appreciate the opportunity to select their tea sensorially. We were done with the impracticalities of the sit-down visit but we wanted to capture that special tasting moment and offer the possibility to take it further. Tasting in a tea store is standard procedure in China and brings the client so much closer to the product. We had also seen this concept at the Harneys’ store in Soho, NYC a few years ago and never forgotten it. So, we added the tasting bar concept to the mix. This would allow clients to spend a few minutes with two teas served in a professional tasting kit. The experience created either from a preselected list of suggestions, two green teas, two wulong teas etc. or, for a small price, the opportunity to taste any tea from the catalogue. The whole space would be devoted to the pleasure, discovery, and the enjoyment of tea.
Next came the selection of materials to create the feeling and ambiance we wanted to offer. We collected images of design elements and materials that appealed to us and gradually put together the mood boards we needed to accompany the basic concepts we had in mind. We were then ready to start talking to a few different designers for the plans. We chose a local young and dynamic team called Machine, who incorporated, architect, interior design, industrial design and creation, right down to the installation. Over a period of a few months, they absorbed our ideas, suggested and adapted as the plans evolved. They were even behind the crafty design and build of the unique ‘floating tea-wall’. As we got to designing the ideal tea bar and service counter, we again involved the staff to incorporate ultimate practicalities and minute details in to every piece of furniture. The overall feeling was to be bright, light, open and pure, modern yet welcoming. Instead of hiring a general contractor for the work we took on coordinating the project ourselves. We may have saved some money and assured our personal touch, but it certainly consumed our lives for months! We spent our days in work clothes and steel toes, filling the gaps, carrying materials, making urgent phone calls and cleaning up at the end of long days. Finally, the space began to take shape, the tough decision to close the teahouse, the months of planning, the ordeal of coordination and physical work all started to make sense. The dust settled and our beautiful new flagship store, the vessel of our message, emerged and was open for business.
slow by shabnam weber
the slow food movement Although the slow food movement, which originated in Italy, began as a protest, its essence has been embraced throughout the world even if it's not often called 'slow food movement'. At its core, the movement calls for the celebration of food grown locally which is savoured and enjoyed. The manifesto, which was signed by 15 countries, called for a 'slow meal' and a rejection of a 'fast life'. Their call was for a return to the family table and the pleasures of making and eating a meal. We see these principles echoed in farm to table movements and 100 mile diets. It's a concept which really moves with the seasons, highlighting the best of nature at any given moment.
I know what you're thinking and I can hear it now: 'i'm working full time, i have kids to juggle, i have no time'. I mean, let's be honest, fast food was designed for a fast life and there is only so much of that we have the luxury of rejecting. But I think you can have both. You can work all day, care for your home and family and still enjoy the depth of flavour only a long cooked meal can provide. The magic I speak of are slow cookers. I bought my first one over a decade ago and I promise it's the secret sauce to slow food in a fast life. I've pulled together some of my favourite recipes with tea ofcourse - and hope you enjoy these flavours. There is nothing more inviting than walking into your home after a long day to the smell of a slow cooked meal.
Genmaicha Tuscan White Bean Soup What you'll need: 3tsp or 3 teabags Genmaicha tea 1 medium white onion, diced 4 carrots, sliced 2 stalks celery, sliced 1 clove garlic, sliced 4 cups chopped kale(270 g) 14 oz canned diced tomatoes(395 g) 2 cans white beans salt and pepper to taste 1 teaspoon dried thyme 6 cups vegetable stock(1 ½ L)
What you'll do: If using loose leaf tea, place leaves into cheesecloth and tie tightly. Place all ingredients, including tea, into slow cooker and stir to combine. Turn slow cooker on low and simmer for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours. When ready to serve, remove tea fom slow cooker and serve soup hot.
Green Lemon Thai Chicken Soup What you'll need: 3 tsp or 3 teabags Green tea with lemon 2 1/2 tablespoons red curry paste 2-12 ounce cans of coconut milk 2 cups chicken stock 1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar 2 tablespoons peanut butter 1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts , cut into small pieces (1" size) 1 red bell pepper , seeded and sliced 1 onion , thinly sliced 1 heaping tablespoon fresh ginger , minced 1 1/2 tablespoon lime juice cilantro , (for garnish) cooked white rice
What you'll do: If using loose tea, wrap tightly into cheesecloth. Mix the tea, curry paste, coconut milk, chicken stock, fish sauce, brown sugar and peanut butter in slow cooker and mix to combine. Then, place the chicken breast, red bell pepper, onion and ginger into the mixture. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours. When ready to serve, remove tea, stir in lime juice and serve with cilantro and white rice.
PU-EHR PULLED PORK What you'll need:
What you'll do: Wrap tea tightly into cheesecloth. Mix all ingredients except pork in slow cooker, mix to combine. Place pork shoulder in with ingredients and turn to coat. Cook on high for 5-6 hours or low for 1012 hours - or until meat starts to fall apart with a fork. Remove pork from slow cooker, using two forks, shred the pork. Remove cheesecloth with tea and discard. Place shredded pork back into mixture and mix well.
SERVING TIPS: Pulled pork can be served between two buttered buns with coleslaw, on a warm bed of polenta or even as a taco - soft or hard.
1 (4 1/2 to 5 pound) boneless or bone-in pork shoulder - remove any netting 3 tso Pu-Ehr tea 1 1/4 cup barbeque sauce ½ cup apple cider vinegar ½ cup chicken broth 1 tablespoon light brown sugar 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce 1 tablespoon chili powder 1 extra large onion, chopped 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
Smoked Slow Cooked Ribs What you'll need: 2 1/2 tablespoons Lapsang souchong (grind into powder) 2 tablespoons paprika 3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar 1 tablespoon kosher salt 1 tablespoon ground black pepper 6 pounds pork spareribs or Baby Back ribs (remove silver skin) 1 24 ounce jar Barbecue Sauce (choose your favourite)
What you'll do: In a small bowl, whisk together the paprika, brown sugar, salt, black pepper and ground tea. Rub the dry-rub mix evenly over the ribs. Brush both sides of the rib with barbecue sauce and set the ribs in the slow cooker standing upright with the meaty side against the inside wall. Pour the remaining barbecue sauce over the ribs. Cover and cook on Low 5-6 hours or until the meat is fork-tender or on high for 3-4 hours. To serve, slice the meat between the bones and serve with barbecue sauce.
The quest for slowness, which begins as a simple rebellion against the impoverishment of taste in our lives, makes it possible to rediscover taste. CARLO PETRINI
Chai Lentil Curry What you'll need: 3 teaspoon loose or 3 teabags Chai tea 1 ½ cups dried brown lentils 2 tablespoons ginger, chopped 1 tablespoon turmeric 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes 1 head garlic, chopped ½ an onion, finely minced 15 ounce can coconut milk 2-3 teaspoons sea salt 1 cup chopped cilantro 1 cup cherry tomatoes
What you'll do: If using loose leaf, wrap tightly in cheesecloth. Add the dried brown lentils, tea, ginger, turmeric, crushed tomatoes, garlic, onion, and 3 cups of water in your crockpot. With lid on and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours. Remove and discard tea. Stir the coconut milk, 2 teaspoons of sea salt, cilantro, and cherry tomatoes into the curry. Taste and add extra salt if needed. Serve with flat bread or on rice.
GRAND RISING Anchoring Your Daybreak Teatime Ritual by Monque Iman Hibma Certified TAC Tea Sommelier® Professional Life demands that one hits the ground running from the moment they awaken, at least after a potential grace period of a few rounds of the snooze button. Then the day’s demands begin to present themselves one after another. It can often seem a human being requires to be an efficient human doing. We are all busier now than ever, with the busyness often mistaken as a badge of honour. What if there is a gentler way to approach life guided by how one starts the day? What if these days also include intention, awareness, ease, presence, and peace from the start? A grand rising ritual can also be a window of time that fortifies us when we prioritize capturing the essence of what we want our day to embody. The collaborative and healthy marriage of the ancient practice of yoga and the historical tea tradition can facilitate a meditative ritual that anchors your day in calm and presence. presence. Yoga is the union or yoking of mind, body, of spirit. “Originating in India, yoga has been a traditional contemplative practice for thousands
of years and came into use as a therapeutic intervention and a health maintenance practice in the early 20th century. Yoga experienced its first wave of popularity in the United States during the 1950s, followed by its notable presence in the 1970s to its continued use today (1).” Also, in the present day, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Bhagavad Gita provide access for us to begin our yoga exploration with an accessible foundation to its philosophy. Yoga is for everyone in any body, and there are eight limbs. The limbs include Yamas restraints), Niyamas (observances), Asana (postures), Pranayama (breath), Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), Dharna (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (enlightenment). Likely the most identifiable limb of yoga is Asana, where one moves through a sequence of postures focusing on the breath and the movement while anchoring in the present moment.
In her timeless book Live Your Yoga, Judith Hanson Lasater guides the reader in living out one’s yoga practice off the mat. Creating an intentional fortification of our day can result in focus and presence. Like a boat drifting away from shore and becoming lost at sea without an anchor, our thoughts and actions can do the same. Our morning tea ritual can set us up for a grand day when we begin to merge our daily doings with our yoga practice. Let’s explore an example of eight anchoring activities inspired by principles within the eight limbs of yoga.
IApplying non-violence in your tea ritual can begin with the words we speak to ourselves as we steep. At daybreak, an internal dialogue full of kindness can encourage self-love, compassion, and power. Similarly, those words can fuel a rich day overflowing with positivity, and affirmations are a practical way to begin. Affirmations are positive statements repeated aloud or in our minds. The result of this kindness from within, starting with our words, can overflow into how we engage with others.
Anchoring Activities Inspired by Yoga
Action: Think of ten affirmative statements and place them next to your teapot or at your tea station. You can frame them for an elevated and artistic effect and change them monthly or seasonally. Repeat them as you prepare your morning tea.
Yamas (Restraints) Yamas are the principles of ethical behavior, and there are five Yamas: Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya, and Aparigraha. They are the principles that guide the relationships between ourselves and others. Can you recall the saying as a child, “sticks and stones can break my bones, but your words can never hurt me,” when a classmate said something unkind or hurtful? Although words from others can be damaging, the words we tell ourselves can be detrimental. We can hurt ourselves with the harmful words swirling in our heads. Ahimsa, meaning nonviolence, can cultivate a foundation of respect for ourselves and extend this respect to all living beings as we live our lives.
This posture can enhance our teatime, and we can bypass the need for our mats. Sun Salutation arms consist of circling your arms up as you breathe in and bringing them down to your heart center as you breathe out. This practice can be invigorating or calming depending on the speed at which your arms flow.
Niyamas (observances) Like the Yamas, there are five Niyamas: Saucha, Santosa, Tapas, Svadhyaya, and Ishvarapranidhana. Focusing on Santosa, we can find gratitude in ourselves and what we have in the here and now. In the book The Yamas & Niyamas Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice, Deborah Adele states, “When we look over the fence, we move ourselves into lack (2).” It is incredibly human to fall into the comparison trap occasionally. Opening our phones to see what family and friends are up to lately can send us down the rabbit hole of noticing everyone’s beautiful vacations, homes, and even meals. When we adjust our life lens to gratitude, it allows space to focus within our fence. There we find gratitude for all we have—starting with breath in our body and the opportunity to embark on a new day. Action: Greet the day with gratitude. During your tea preparations, name three facets of your life for which you are grateful. Asana (postures) Asana is a sequence of poses that link our breath with our movement. We move and flow, focusing on feeling each movement and being present in our bodies. When we roll out our yoga mat, it becomes like a table for one. Action: At the beginning of a class, Sun Salutations follow the warm-up in a yoga sequence.
Pranayama (breath) Building upon the path is the fourth limb, Pranayama. Pranayama is where you pay attention to the breath and control various aspects of the flow. A safe way to begin is by noticing your breath without the need to change anything. You can pay attention to your chest rising and falling as you inhale and exhale. Action: Box Breathing, or four-part breath, incorporates imagining and our breath. Start by visualizing a square. Each breath represents our breath moving along each side of the square. Breathe up the square for four counts, pause for four counts across the square, breathe out for four counts moving down the square, and pause back across the square for four counts. Continue this practice as you steep or while you sip and enjoy your tea. Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses) Pratyahara is the principle of removing distractions and focusing inward. In our modern lives, it is where we replace multi-tasking with single-pointed focus. It is where we focus on one thing at a time. Regarding our tea ritual, we can hone in on each step in our process. Each step becomes like a moving meditation as pratyahara sets us up for concentration or the next step on the yogic path, Dharna.
Action: Many distractions from phone notifications to cycle completion sounds from our household appliances can prevent us from immersing ourselves in our daybreak teatime. Set your intention to enjoy your tea process from start to finish. Dharna (concentration) Dharna is the state of focused concentration. Focusing on breathing in and out calms our parasympathetic nervous system, allowing us to relax. In high-stress situations, the intentional focus on our breath can allow us to respond more healthily. Action: As your tea steeps, sit comfortably in a chair. If it feels comfortable for you, close your eyes. Next, gently bring your attention to the fact you are breathing. Without the desire to change anything, just breath and begin to notice the cool temperature of your breath flowing into your nostrils. Pause. Then breathe out and notice the warmth of the are flowing out. Repeat this attention to your breathing until your tea timer sounds. Gentle open your eyes and enjoy your cup of tea.
Dhyana (meditation) Building upon Dharna’s concentration, Dhyana is the meditative state where all awareness fades. Time and thoughts dissipate and can lead our practice to Samadhi. Meditation sits can last from minutes to hours or, like Bodhidharma’s quest, years. Action: Be open to making space in your daybreak ritual for meditation. If you are new to meditation, start with a short amount of time (i.e., three to five minutes) and increase your sits as you grow your practice. Samadhi (enlightenment) “Samadhi the highest state of mental concentration that people can achieve while still bound to the body and which unites them with the highest reality. Samadhi is a state of profound and utterly absorptive contemplation of the Absolute that is undisturbed by desire, anger, or any other ego-generated thought or emotion. It is a state of joyful calm, or even of rapture and beatitude, in which one maintains one’s full mental alertness and acuity (3).” Encouragement: The way one reaches Samadhi is through Pratyahara, Dharana, and Dhyana together, resulting in a state of bliss. Again, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali can be a guide to support us. Therefore, in place of action is
encouragement. Encouragement to learn, grow, practice, and live a robust yoga journey. We can enter daybreak with a grand rising by incorporating yoga as a way of being. While it requires practice, the power of presence and peace can abound over teatime. By beginning each day with awareness and attention to our mind, body, and spirit, we can flow into conscious living filled with joy and positivity.
References: 1. Quilty, M.T. (2013). “Yoga in the Real World: Perceptions, Motivators, Barriers, and Patterns of Use.” Global Advances in Health and Medicine. Retrieved from https:// www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC383358 4/pdf/gahmj.2013.2.1.008.pdf. 2. Adele, D. (2009). The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice. Published by On-Word Bound Books LLC. 3. Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2021, February 17). samadhi. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/samadhiIndian-philosophy
THE TEA LADY OF NERADA By Theresa Lemieux Certified TAC Tea Sommelier® Professional I am in Australia, at the Nerada Tea planation in Queensland. These tea fields are located on the Atherton Tablelands in Far North Queensland, nestled in the Wet Tropics Rainforest, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Nerada is Australia’s biggest tea planation, with over 1,100 acres. Mainly known for its line of supermarket tea bags, Nerada typically harvests more than 6.6 million kilograms of green leaf per year, yielding about 1.6 million kilograms of black tea. Situated at more than 700m above sea level, this magnificent corner of Far North Queensland is one of the most fertile regions in Australia. The tea leaf is soft and delicate, like fresh young basil, but a more vivid, slightly more yellowish green. As I rub it between my fingers, it rumpled into limp folds, the silky texture giving way to dampness, slightly bruised. I have never seen fresh tea leaf in person, until now; this had been picked just hours before. Next, a mature leaf. Glossy, firmer and thicker as well. Almost approaching the texture of a bay leaf, but not quite as tough. It’s hard to believe they are both from the same plant. “See that leathery texture? That’s not good tea.” Bev holds a bud and two top leaves before me. “This is what you’re looking for.”
Glorious and fertile as this corner of the world is, agriculture has a somewhat tortured history in Queensland. Farming was first established in the late 1800s, growing not only tea but also coffee, spices and tropical fruit. But cyclones and the occasional tidal wave wiped out the earliest attempt. The first plantation was lost, becoming an almost mythical destination for the next generation. But with persistence and innovation, this tropical rainforest has been converted into the nation’s largest tea plantation.
by hand. The factory is in the next building; this room is where the small batch, specialty teas are made. This is where she plays with new styles, as well as offers tours to visitors. It’s also where she has learnt more about the tea she has been around most of her adult life. Bev has no background in tea making. But through experimentation and customer feedback, Bev has been able to develop a cherished line of speciality teas. These small batch teas are definitely not the mainstay of Nerada sales, but they make a lovely calling card for the brand. “This is where I get to be a little creative, a little crazy,” she confides. But her palate is spot on, whether with the tea ovens or in the kitchen, overseeing the day’s baking. It’s a combination of instinct and experience; she has a naturally sensitive palate and years of knowing what a fine scone—and fine tea—tastes like. This morning she’s making oolong. We examine at the tea leaves as they wither in the sunny troughs, ready them on trays for the drying machines, and sift the dried leaf according to size. I ask her how long it takes to make oolong, compared to green or black. Well, it depends.
I nurse a cup of their signature milky black tea as I waited for Bev Poyner, the Tea Room Manager. Her title is a bit of an understatement. On paper, she oversees the gift shop and tearoom. In reality, she does so much more. In fact, like the maternal figure she is, Bev seems to be the heart and soul of the Nerada planation. Bev whisks me from the team room to a back room where I encounter fresh tea leaf for the first time. The sunlight hits a trough full of them. Bev has been here since before sunrise (not too terribly early, it is winter here, after all) making tea
As she fills the perforated metal trays, she explains that the drying time is always adjusted to the current conditions: the temperature, the considerable and constant humidity, the amount of sunlight exposure during withering. She’s also aiming for 50% oxidation, a medium dark oolong. This batch will be done in an hour and a half. This is where her instinct and keen eye are most valuable. As soon as she verifies that it’s done, she whisks it into the next room. “I’ve got to get it out of the damp, or it’ll take up the moisture I just tried to delete.”
She sorts through the tea, noting the silver tips, pleased with the results. We repair to the tearoom to judge the results of this morning’s efforts. I’ve never had fresh tea before, so I don’t quite know what to expect. That’s part of the reason for my trip here today. Many of the tea-producing areas of the world are increasingly inaccessible, whether for political reasons or due to expense and convenience. But I happen to be in Australia, and this is my chance to see tea growing, seeing the journey from crop to cup with my own eyes. The colour of the liquor is exactly what I’d expect see in a cup of a Chinese medium-oxidized oolong; a lovely amber, with golden overtones. I lift it to my nose, and breathe in: toasted buckwheat, dark honey, apricot jam. Familiar notes, all of them. My first taste echoes the scent. It’s very like the kind of oolong I keep in my cupboard for everyday quaffing, albeit a bit more delicate. The apricot notes are more understated than they are on the nose, the buckwheat is replaced by toasted oats, and the honey scent melts into a distinct overall sweetness. If the flavour is not as robust, it is more harmonious. There is less of a pronounced difference between the moment the liquid hits the tongue, the flavour as it saturates the mouth, and the aftertaste. Of course, the hint of bitterness lingers, as it always does, but it is more subtle, everything more continuous and even. “Queensland in a cup,” Bev announces. As we sip, we look out through the floor-to-ceiling windows at rows and rows of green fields. The soil on which they rest is volcanic, which accounts for the lush growth. That and the continuous precipitation, which eliminates the need for irrigation. This is the rainforest, after all. I note the flat landscape, and ask about the sun exposure.
“As far as growing conditions go, we are most like Dilmah,” Bev tells me. “But the uniqueness of our landscape is reflected in our tea.” The mountains in the background (small by Canadian standards) are swallowed up by a mist that Bev assures me will lift by noon. This fog shields the tea plants from the harsh Australian sun at an elevation of 700m above sea level. But the most unique aspect of growing tea on this continent is that the tea bush has no natural pests, so no pesticides are used in this delicate ecosystem. You really couldn’t imagine a more perfect growing environment for this non-native bush if you tried. What is not visible at the moment are the specially engineered mechanical harvesters that operates every 21 days, year-round. They are designed to gather only the most tender leaves and buds. In a “To do what they do, you’re looking at several hundred hand-pickers,” according to Bev. “It becomes a monetary thing. And it’s also an ethical question. The sheer blood, sweat and tears that go into it – I wouldn’t want that for my own children. And our team operates as family.” In fact, they are family. Bev’s husband, Tony is the plantation manager. Bev and Tony have worked at Nerada for almost 30 years, raising their family on the estate as they have made and promoted Australian tea. Her sister also works in the tearoom, and their son works and lives at Nerada with his young family. Many of the staff are also long-term, with younger members coming back in between school and travel. “When they need a bit of work, they call to ask if they can come home,” Bev boasts.
rich Western country like Australia, hand-picked tea is simply not an option. Although if you watch the tea-videos on the website, no quality is lost in this process.
It has largely been Tony’s efforts at environmental stewardship that have garnered a Rainforest Alliance certification. To comply with these standards, the Nerada Tea plantation limits energy and water usage in the factory. They must
“also endeavour to protect the natural local ecosystems by maintaining wildlife corridors and clean waterways, as well as helping to safeguard local endangered species. This includes a family of tree-kangaroos, Misty, Billy and their extended family, who live on the estate. Such environmental stewardship is fairly impressive for a brand that produces 50 million cups of tea a year. In the factory next door, leaves are processed and placed into one tonne bags, which are then shipped to Brisbane for packaging and distribution. Boxed teas have expanded beyond black tea to include white and green as well. Their organic line features native Australian herbs like lemon myrtle paired with sourced organic teas to broaden the range. Many of the specialty blends are only available online or in the tearoom. Like many tea purveyors, Nerada saw an uptick in business during the lockdown, and a willingness in their customer base to try new products. “People were clinging to old comforts,” she says. “But since re-opening, people have been coming back and buying in person. Sometimes by the kilo.” Bev speculates that consumers are turning to fine tea and specialty tea blends as coffee culture plateaus. When people are tired of all the various dessert-like incarnations offered by coffee shops, a return to a more authentic and high-quality product like tea can help them continue to expand their repertoire and refine their tastebuds. “Teas used to be seen to be seen as the old person’s drink here in Australia,” she says. “But that’s changing, as we show them all the wonderful things you can do with tea. And anything you can do with coffee culture, you can do with tea culture.” The tearoom has begun to fill up with tourists ordering scones and buying specialty tea blends
Others admire the beautiful teapots and cups that line the shelves. Bev bustles amongst them, conveying a sense of hospitality as well as a deep love of the teas on offer. She is as delighted to receive her guests as they are to be travelling once more. I overhear her explaining what it is that makes Australian tea so unique. “We are a young country. In tea history, we are just a blip. Yet I would put our teas up against any tea in the world.” I head back onto the craggy dirt road, a bag full of tea and a tummy full of scone and clotted cream. I was delighted to have seen tea that goes from crop to cup in as short a time as a month (or for the small batches, a couple of days). The Nerada tea planation and factory are blessed with a unique combination of technological innovation and a thriving ancient landscape comprised of volcanic soil, mist and rain, and green as far as the eye can see. I came to see fresh tea leaf and instead found a family of proud Australian tea makers, and the beautiful and wild land where they live. And the warm and welcoming Tea Lady of Nerada.
PAIRING TEA AND SCOTCH Two drinks, one from leaf and one from grain, both boast a vast variety of flavour profiles that reflect the relationship between their artisanal process and environmental variables. Parallel worlds of terroir and technique. In comparative tasting bringing these two worlds together creates a completely new arena. Tea’s heat and subtle delivery creates a smoother delivery for the whisky’s flavour points: Scotch showcases the quiet force and depth of the tea’s complexity. As the 2 profiles blend we experience unexpected fusions and contrasts, harmonic flavour bridges and aromatic synergies that enhance our understanding of the fascinating details of each drink.
How to taste a tea and a Scotch pairing? 1. Our experts recommend preparing the tea first and letting it sit for a few minutes so that it cools a little to around 65c. This gives the taster a better access to the tea’s flavour-profile. The Scotch should be room temperature, 2. Our preferred tasting protocol is one we call the ‘sandwich method’ where we sip tea then Scotch and then back to tea. 3. Start with a sip of tea focussing on the flavour profile as it warms the tissues of the mouth. Swallow the tea. 4. Follow immediately with a small sip of Scotch and hold it on your tongue for a few seconds. Swallow the Scotch, breathe out through the nose and wait 5 to 10 seconds as the alcohol evaporates. At this point some of the tea’s flavour may reappear. 5. Now take another sip of tea focussing on the aromatics and warmth as they combine and contrast with the Scotch. Breathe out while tapping the front of the tongue to your palate, this is known as retro olfaction. 6. Wait a few minutes enjoying the residual flavours as they fade in your mouth before repeating the tasting or moving to another pairing. 7. Focus, absorb and enjoy.
Here are a few team suggestions of classic pairings of tea and Scotch Fruity Scotch + black Chinese wulong : Aberlour 16 yr (Highlands) with Shui Xian Lao Cong Light Scotch + white Indian tea : Glenkinchie 12 yr (Lowlands) with Tea Studio Yin Zhen Smokey Scotch + aged Taiwanese wulong : Lagavulin 16 yr (Islay) with Dong Ding Ms.Lin
INFUSIONS Whether pursuing a career in the retail or hospitality industry or enhancing your enjoyment of tea, this program looks at the historical origin of herbs and spices as they are used in tea. HI-101: INTRODUCTION TO HERBS & INFUSIONS (4 WEEK COURSE) HI-102: HERBAL PROCESSING & COMMON HERBS IN TEA (5 WEEK COURSE)
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Sri Lanka The country which is now known as Sri Lanka, was first occupied by the Sinhales, who named the country Sinhaladwipa. This name meant "island of the Sinhale", and was translated by English speakers as Ceylon. In 1972 the country was renamed Sri Lanka, meaning "beautiful island".
Sri Lanka is one of the largest tea producers in the world. The only countries that produce more tea are: China, India and Kenya.
BY ADI BAKER
History of Tea in Sri Lanka: With the history of Tea dating back nearly five-millennia, it would be easy to mistake the development of tea in Sri Lanka to dating back that far as well. However, like many other tea producing countries, production did not begin until nineteenth-century.
Prior to tea, coffee was the country's dominant crop. However, in the 1860s this was to change when the coffee crops were killed off by what is referred to as coffee rust. This "rust" is a devastating disease caused by a fungus called Hemileia vastatrix. This fungus effects the coffee plant's leaves. The producers were forced to adjust and switched to growing tea. Tea had first been introduced in 1839 by the East India Company. They had brought cuttings to the island from Assam, India with the intention of seeing if tea could grow there. Thankfully it could and it has since grown to be one of the country's top exports.
Key Dates: 1796: The British replaced the Dutch as the colonial power and the country became known as Ceylon. 1802: Ceylon became a British crown colony. 1815: The British gained control of the entire island. 1948: Ceylon became a self-governing dominion of the British Commonwealth.
Even though the county was renamed Sri Lanka in 1972, their tea is still referred to by the country's former name Ceylon. You can always recognize a "Ceylon Tea" by the lion logo used on its packaging. The logo is owned by the Sri Lanka Tea Board and is globally trademarked. It can only be used on tea that is 100% pure Ceylon tea, packed in Sri Lanka. Due to the unique geography across Sri Lanka, there are distinct growing regions. KANDY: In the Kandy district, where the industry began in 1867, the teas produced are described as “mid-grown”as cultivation does not exceed 1,300m(4000 Feet). They range in flavour depending on the altitude and whether the plantation is sheltered from monsoon winds. All are particularly flavourful. Kandy teas produce a bright infusion with a coppery tone, and are strong and intensely full-bodied. NUWARA ELIYA: Nuwara Eliya, the best-known of Sri Lanka’s tea-growing districts, is the most mountainous, and has the highest average elevation. Combined with low temperature, this produces teas of exquisite bouquet. The infusion in the cup is the lightest (palest) of all the types of Ceylon Tea, with a golden hue and a delicately fragrant flavour. Sought after grades include whole-leaf Orange Pekoe (OP) and Broken Orange Pekoe (BOP). UDA PUSSELLAWA: The Uda Pussellawa district is situated close to Nuwara Eliya, so its tea is often compared to that of its neighbour. But it is darker in the cup, with a pinkish hue, of greater strength, and exquisitely tangy. Colder conditions at year end supposedly add a hint of rose to the bouquet of a tea known for its medium body and subtle character. Heavy rainfall, though, tends to produce tea that is even darker and stronger-flavoured.
UVA: The remote Uva district is exposed to the winds of both northeast and southwest monsoons, believed to endow the tea produced here with a special, unmistakable character and aromatic flavour. The mellow, smooth taste of Uva tea, once experienced, is easily distinguished. DIMBULA: Between Nuwara Eliya and Horton Plains lies the district of Dimbula, whose teas are defined as “high grown” as all estates exceed an altitude of 1,250m (4000 Feet). The complex topography of the region produces a variety of microclimates, which produce differences in flavour – sometimes jasmine mixed with cypress. All, however, share the Dimbula character: a tea that produces a fine golden-orange hue in the cup, and which is refreshingly mellow. SABARAGAMUWA: Sabaragamuwa is Sri Lanka’s biggest district, the teas of which are low-grown as its estates range in elevation from sea level to 610m (2000 Ft). Sabaragamuwa, sandwiched between Sinharaja in the south and Adam's Peak wilderness in the north, produces a fast-growing bush with a long leaf. The liquor, too, is similar to that of Ruhuna teas, dark yellow-brown with a reddish tint. The aroma, however, is noticeably different from the Ruhuna product, with a hint of sweet caramel, not quite as strong. RUHUNA: The teas of the Ruhuna district are defined as “lowgrown” as they are cultivated at an altitude not exceeding 600m (2000 Ft) comprising vast sub regions from coastal plains to Southern edge of Sinharaja Rain Forest. The soil, combined with the low elevation of the estates, causes the tea-bush to grow rapidly, producing a long, beautiful leaf. Full-flavoured black tea is a distinctively unique Ruhuna speciality.
GOOSEBUMPS Indi Khanna's life has been tea. He has lived and breathed tea for 45 years. To say he is a fascinating treasure trove of stories, would be a gross understatement. Indi has been writing his thoughts and memories for the past few months, and we thought we would share one with you. If you don't know Indi Khanna, make sure you visit Tea'N'Teas, explore not only his stories but also the beautiful teas of the Tea Studio (teanteas.com and teastudio.info).
My father was born and went through his entire formative years in Lahore in what was back then ‘undivided India’. Undivided till 1947, which is when Cyril Radcliffe, a man who had never till that year been east of Paris, was given the chairmanship of the boundary committee set up with the purpose of dividing a country he had never visited. History has it that the gentleman welding a thick lead pencil to draw out the ‘Radcliffe Line’, actually two separate lines which ran through the map of East and West of India. The upshot, two countries created on the lines of religion which resulted in millions of folk on both sides of the newly created artificial borders being rudely plucked out from their respective comfort zones and having to transplant themselves in what was till then to them, an alien environment. Which is how my father, Isher Dass Khanna, found himself in Simla, a lovely hill station nestled in the Himalayan foothills which till 1947 had been the summer capital of the British. From the time I gathered my wits about me as a young kid I always heard my father speak ever so fondly about his
childhood and his many friends whom he had to leave behind in Lahore simply because he was of a different religion to theirs. Not one to allow the grass to grown underfoot, soon after he had established his roots in Simla, Daddy had started reaching out to his childhood friends mainly by post and when telecommunication links were finally reestablished between the two countries, on the phone. Every once in a couple of months he’d book a trunk-call and wait hours for the call to be connected so that he could have a hurried three minute (this being the duration allowed on a trunk-call) conversation with one friend or the other. His favourite being Dilawar. By the mid ’50s Daddy had started making regular visits to Pakistan with only one agenda point, to meet his friends. While on a couple of later visits he managed to take a flight on a Dakota from Delhi’s Safdarjung airport to the other side, all his initial travel was by the one train which linked the two countries which ran from Amritsar in India to Lahore in Pakistan, a grand total of all of 50
Kms!! On his journey out Daddy would always carry along a huge basket of bananas which basket, on the return trip would be overflowing with blood oranges which he would proudly distribute amongst family and friends. After I joined school in 1959, for the next three years two months of my three month long school winter vacation were spent in Lahore. By late December my Dad, Mum, Shelly (my younger sister) and I would head to Amritsar and from there to Lahore to return to Simla by end February. All I remember of our holidays in Pakistan, besides the fact that we were able to buy ‘imported’ toys which were way better than what we got in India, were us living with Dads friend in Lahore from where we would travel to various cities to meet other folk, including a visit to Multan where we got to see the house my Mum grew up in. By 1964 with tension brewing between the two countries, which culminated with a war in 1965, Daddy’s travel to Pakistan came to an end. Life moved on! Dad having passed away in
1966, Mummy took on the mantle to see Shelly and me through school and college. Completing our education we headed our own ways. While my sister ended up in London with my Mum following suit a couple of years later I, after my planting stints in south India and Assam wound my way to Dubai. During my ten year tenure in Dubai, in pursuit of my fledgling business I was constantly on the move hopping from one country to the other. Over a period of time, with that country consuming tonnes of tea, Pakistan became part of my regular beat. On one of my visits to London, in conversation with my Mum sharing with her tales of my travels, Mummy suggested that the next time I was in Pakistan I should include Lahore in my itinerary to try and locate and meet Daddy’s friend. Tall order that because my memory of the childhood visits to Pakistan had totally faded and all I really remembered was that Daddy’s close buddy was a Mr Dilawar Khan (for us Indian kids back then every Pakistani was naturally a ‘Khan’) who was in the motor spare parts business and that the house we had spent
those lovely three winter vacations in was located in Gulburg, a suburb of Lahore. The seed having been planted in my mind, on my next visit to Pakistan I kept one day free from work to try to find and reach out to Mr Dilawar Khan. Having checked into the Pearl Continental hotel in Lahore I walked out in the morning, refusing the darban’s offer of the hotel cab which would obviously be far more expensive than the regular yellow cabs plying the roads of Lahore. Walking up to one of those parked on the road outside the hotel and speaking in Hindi, I asked the cabbie whether he knew where the motor spare parts wholesale market was located. Being told it was in the vicinity of Anarkali Bazaar, was told by the follow that he’d take me there for 300 Rupees. Negotiating the fare with the cabbie was a no-go as the fellow refused to budge from 300. Hopping in to the cab as we wended our way towards Anarkali Bazaar, making conversation with the cabbie and remarking as to how every nook and corner
was so similar to Amritsar, without thinking about it, I had just naturally switched from Hindi to Punjabi. The moment he heard me speak in Punjabi, the guy turns around to reconfirm that “you’re Punjabi” followed by words which made me realize, despite politicians on both sides of the divide constantly drumming it into the heads of their respective populations that India and Pakistan are sworn enemies, just how similar we are. Almost like two peas in a pod. With a wide ear to ear grin that lovable crook tells me “if you had spoken to me in Punjabi before getting into the cab, I would have never quoted you double”. Such a lovely feeling of home! Alighting from the cab at the entrance of Anarkali Bazaar I handed over 200 Rupees to my new found friend letting him know that the extra 50 was for him being an ‘honest’ crook and having admitted to the fact. Once inside that teeming market I saw an almost endless row of shops all apparently dealing in motor spare parts. Walking into the first one I asked whether there was any shop in the market owned by ‘Dilawar Khan’. Negative! Followed by a repeat performance in the next five or six. Walking into the seventh and having asked the same question, the gentleman asks me “would you be referring to Mr Dilawar Qureshi”? Hazarding a guess that maybe I had got the name wrong, on my informing the gentleman that the person I was seeking had a house in Gulburg, I was given directions to a shop which he said belonged to Mr Qureshi of Gulburg Colony. Following his directions I found myself in a typical wholesale store having a long counter manned by three or four salesmen
standing in front of rows of shelving loaded with goods. Tucked away in the rear of the shop was a gentleman about my age sitting across from an office table having a view of the shop entrance. Walking up to one of the salesmen I enquired whether this shop belonged to Mr Dilawar Qureshi. And that’s when I got those lovely goose bumps which pop up even now whenever I think about it, almost twenty five years after the event. “Indi”? This from the gentleman at the office table. That I was stunned and absolutely gobsmacked would be an understatement like none other. Having uttered that one word, the gentleman walks across and says again “You are Indi, aren’t you”? “I don’t recognize you nor have any clue of who you are, so how”? This from me. “I’m Dilawar Sahib’s son. I was in college when you and your sister as little kids used to come to stay with us” “Don’t ask me how, but the moment you walked into the shop, I just knew it was you” This after a gap of more than 40 long years! And then, the downer. “I wish you had come in six months earlier because my Dad passed away then. For years and years before his death he would always talk about your Dad and keep reminding us of how the partition had robbed him of his childhood friend.” Surreal is the only word I have to describe that meeting. Which resulted in Yusuf (Mr Qureshi’s son) the next time he was in London, going across to meet my Mum. I was not there but was told by Shelly that when Mummy met him, there were waterworks aplenty!