NEW CHAI LATTE, ISLAND STYLEDenman Island Tea’s new Chai Latte powder is an aromatic, H20 extracted, Indian black tea and masala spice combo. With little to no grit, the underlying Assam tea profile is clean and tannic free. It has received rave reviews as a creamier, smoother more balanced chai latte.
We call it: Island Chai LatteEasy to prepare, super fresh, intensely aromatic and silky on the palate, what more could you ask for in a Chai? Oh, one last point, our new chai is also local, made right here in the lower mainland! Now available in 100 & 300 gm bags for both retail and wholesale. NEW MACCHA – ULTRA SUPERIOR GRADE We have paired with a new Maccha Garden in Japan. The Tiwane Garden in Shizouka Prefecture has been growing organic green tea for 13 generations. The quality of their maccha blew us away in taste tests. With our commitment to them, we achieved very fair pricing for an extremely high quality Maccha. It’s green vibrancy and superior freshness and distinct umami, will be immediately noticeable as you carve that perfect rosetta in the bright green foam! The net result of diligently searching for a better, fresher Maccha is that our customers will benefit from a ceremonial grade Maccha for a similar price people pay for ingredient grade Maccha. The difference is unmistakable.
- YOU GET YOUR CAFFEINE WITHOUT HITTING A WALL
- TEA IS REALLY GOOD FOR YOU
- VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE
- Quality. On balance, premium loose-leaf tea is of significantly higher quality than most bagged tea. Do you want to drink foul-tasting crud, or do you want to drink excellent-tasting full-leaf tea leaves?
- Freshness. The unfortunate reality is that most tea bags purchased off the supermarket shelves can be almost two years old, essentially stale. Most people have no idea what fresh teas taste like. When presented with a taste comparison, they are literally blown away by the flavor profile of a fresh loose-leaf tea.
- 3. Lower cost per serving. This always freaks them out a bit. Here is the math (which you can do right in front of them): The average cost of 20 gourmet tea bags in a cello-wrapped box in the supermarket ranges from $4.99 to $6.99. Let us take the median of $5.99. That is 30 cents a tea bag for about enough tea to make a 12-oz cup. If you spent the same 30 cents and invested it in loose tea, you would end up with enough tea to make 2-3 cups of tea (depending on the type of tea as well). If need be, I rip open a tea bag and dump it on a plate in front of the customer to show them how much tea they are actually getting for their 30 cents. Then I show them 30 cents worth of premium loose leaf.
- 4. Environmentally Friendly. That 30 cents you pay for the tea bag is contributing a hell of a lot of packaging to the planet’s landfills, just for the sake of convenience. Think about it for a second. First, there is the cello wrapper on the box. Next comes the box itself. In the box are 20 individually wrapped foil or paper pouches. And inside each pouch is a paper tea bag. Attached to the teabag is a staple, a length of string, and a tag on the other end. When you rip open the bag and dump the tea on a plate and compare it to 30 cents of loose leaf, the difference is quite startling. On closer scrutiny, you’ll see that the actual tea in the bag is hidden behind four layers of packaging. If all that packaging is not bad enough, the actual quality of the tea can be downright atrocious.
- Purchase an amazing reward at www.justea.com, the tea is amazing!
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- The serving cost of each cup of tea is pretty much the same, 30 cents per serving. This is based on a two-gram portion of tea, which is about what’s inside the average tea bag. Sometimes bagged tea can even be more expensive than its loose-leaf counterpart.
- If you purchased the same kind of tea, let’s say an English Breakfast – from both the supermarket and the tea shop, they would taste nothing alike, nor would the Earl Grey, and especially not the Sencha Green Tea. You would be either appalled at what was in the tea bag, or super impressed with what came from the tea shop.
- Any reasoning individual would quickly realize that with all the layers of packaging from the supermarket, the tea inside would have to be of low value. This is a fitting assumption, as the average price per gram of tea going into tea bags is 2-3 cents per gram.
- The tea on supermarket shelves can be up to two years old. The age of the tea in successful, busy tea boutiques is a few short months. In some cases, and depending on your choice, it can be acquired within weeks after it was blended or harvested. This is why you will undoubtedly find the boutique tea to be so much tastier than the gourmet box you shucked out $6.99 for.
- If you’re a life-long tea drinker and have no plans of quitting anytime soon, how much of the packaging entering landfills do you want to take responsibility for? It’s not a simple calculation, but to put it in a visual context, the average person leaves behind two large suburban-sized houses of garbage in their lifetime. If you buy a tin from the local tea shop and bring it back for refills, there is no throwaway packaging, just fresh tea leaves and a whole lot of enjoyment. Every little bit you do is part of the solution.
A Chance MeetingSo due to the frigid waters off the British Columbia coast, we opted for a brand new community rec center with a pool that had all the trimmings, wading pool, waterslides, hot tubs, and even a flowing river that whisked you around the edge of the pool as you sat on a tube. It took her all of 5 minutes to befriend another 7-year-old and an afternoon of aquatic fun was in the bag. After 45 minutes in the water, I retreated to the hot tub, where a few other Dads were keeping an eye on their daughters. As I settled down into the steamy water, the guy next to me asked how old my daughter was, he’d been watching us. I told him she was my niece visiting me from Edmonton for a few days. He introduced himself as Theo in a thick Aussie accent and pointed out that Meeka, my niece, was having a blast with his daughter. Lost in Translation We struck up a conversation and I quickly found out that he was of Greek origin but had spent most of his life in Melbourne. He was in the restaurant business and his wife was from Vancouver, which is why they had recently relocated to West Van. He soon found out I was in the tea business and with that he shared a personal story about a friend named Thomas Love, whom he connected with as a teen. The friendship sparked when Theo was 16 and roaming around the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne with his sister, Petr. Thomas was about 18 years old at the time and had hair that was dyed a bazillion colors. He exuded a life energy that was unique and rare, even for an Australian. The rainbow-haired guy immediately captivated Theo and they struck up a friendship that would last for the next two decades. That eccentric, charismatic young man whose name I totally missed from Theo’s thick Aussie accent just so happened to be Tomislav (Thomas Love) Podreka. We say lav as in have, they say lav as in love. I have not mentioned to Theo that I had no idea who he was talking about for the first 10 minutes of our conversation. It was only when he said he founded Serendipitea that I realized why I was so confused. It was to say the least, lost in translation. In Pursuit of Passion So according to Theo, when Tomislav was in his early twenties, he decided to leave Melbourne and head across the ocean to New York to seek his fame and fortune. It was in the Big Apple where Tomislav tapped into one of his primary passions, specialty tea. Within a few years of arriving on the shores of America, he had founded the successful Serendipitea, a company still prominent in the U.S. today. He was instrumental in creating the American Premium Tea Institute, where he also served as its President, was a lecturer at the Culinary Institute of America as well as the French Culinary Institute, and also gave inspiring and energetic talks at the “Take Me To Tea” trade shows (the precursor to the World Tea Expo). I attended that very first Take Me To Tea Expo and remember shaking his hand at the Serendipitea booth. His charm and charisma was captivating and infectious. It was clear to me that he was destined for success in his chosen profession. All through these eventful years, Tomislav managed to find the time to author a book, Serendipitea: A Tea to the End When Tomislav was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2003, he decided that to pursue treatment in the States would be prohibitively expensive, so he moved back home to Melbourne and took up residence at Theo’s parents’ family home. Theo recalls seeing Tomislav when he first arrived back to Melbourne, skinny as a rake, his body emaciated by the sickness, yet a perma-grin attached to his face and his enthusiasm for tea and life as strong as ever. At the time, Theo owned a restaurant in Melbourne and within a few weeks after arriving back from the U.S., Tomislav had found his way into the kitchen and was instructing the staff on how to correctly make iced tea from loose leaves. Theo would walk in and find the entire crew in the kitchen, captivated by what Tomislav was showing them. A few short months later, Theo’s restaurant became the premiere destination for iced tea in Melbourne and outsold every other establishment in that department by miles. The passion and dedication of a frail friend completely transformed Theo’s tea program. In the scheme of things, Tomislav succumbed to cancer rather quickly. In fact, it was not much more than a year from the time that he was diagnosed in New York until he inhaled his last breath in Melbourne. He had remarried and was now with a Venezuelan woman who accompanied him back to Australia when he was diagnosed. It was she, along with Theo’s sister Petr, who nursed Tomislav up to the very end. They recall that, even as his body was being eaten alive by cancer, his unique disposition and incredible charisma never wilted. Fond Memories If there is one indelible memory Theo’s family has of Tomislav it is that he was a man driven by a rare, bottomless pit of passion. A foodie, a tea guru, a lover, and an avid outdoorsman, he was a man characterized by limitless innovation and charm and possessed a unique ability to spread that infectious personality he so justly owned. It has been eight years since his passing, my how time flies. We in specialty tea can only wonder, if he were still with us, what would premium tea look like in North America today? He inspired countless of us to pursue specialty tea, myself included. That chance meeting a few weeks ago with Theo in the hot tub a world away and nearly a decade later from where Tomislav’s soul rests was pure serendipity. One cannot help but think that from somewhere out there in the universe, he was watching and smiling. I believe he had a hand in this. See you again, Thomas Love.
Seeing the LightIn my recollection, the light bulb seemed to click on in early 2005. By that time, Steeps had five locations, and franchisees were showing up at our doorsteps weekly. Teavana was off and running and Tealuxe had somewhat disintegrated. They were retreating back to their original outlets to lick their wounds. It seems Tealuxe had tried what Chris had suggested in 2000, and the results were obvious in New England. There just weren’t enough people drinking loose-leaf tea to support such a chain, or at least that was the industry consensus being espoused at the time. I did not necessarily agree, based on the growth of Steeps. In my opinion, it had more to do with the quality of the experience being offered. This was one of the strengths of Steeps, and I believe now that we would have trumped any challengers of the day. A Saturated Market? What I am now sensing is a palatable concern that the corporate entities rolling out stores are going to saturate the market. There will not be any room left for the little guys. With the big three in Canada and the U.S. having well over 200 locations open, the sense is that the niche is filling up. Teavana itself just concluded a massive IPO (let’s hope some of that capital goes into cultivation and protection of the growing regions and the skilled growers who make their business possible), so corporate money is flooding into the world of tea retailing. With tea consumption being touted as a must for a healthy, balanced lifestyle and the low cost of a cup of tea, there is no end to the growth coming down the pipe. The biggest limitation will be supply, which ultimately will affect price. An enormous void remains to be filled when it comes to servicing today’s tea-hungry public. So if you are worried there won’t be any room left to open your little dream tea shoppe or regional chain, or even national conglomerate for that matter, breathe a sigh of relief. You just need to flip a page in history and take a quick glance at what has occurred in the specialty coffee industry. The last I heard, there are now over 28,000 coffee houses in the U.S. and Canada. There is only one Starbucks, but in the next tier down, there are tons of players all quite large, but nowhere the size of the green giant. The reason tea will not spawn a Starbucks is because most chains started around the same time and growth is occurring almost equally among the top three, it’s actually a full-on race that is taking place here in Canada. In Vancouver, a city of just over two million, we have around 200 Starbucks (an educated guess), four other coffee house chains, each with 30+ cafés, another dozen that have 5-10 stores, and then another 200 or so one-offs. That is a total of just under 600, and I am not counting the 300+ Tim Hortons (similar to Dunkin Donuts) that service another group of coffee clientele. How many teahouses are there in this market? Not even a dozen. If you harbor any more thoughts that you may have missed the boat on getting in on the boom in specialty tea, you can put those silly notions out of your head. The only thing you need to decide is how big you would like to get. I wish you all the luck in your chosen path.
Elation Turns to DismayWhen I walk into a café and see that they are using loose leaves and not a packaged line of teas, I almost always get excited. This initial elation is, for the most part, short lived, as I watch the servers scoop my selection out of the tin and stuff it into an open-ended tea sac. I know that without even trying the tea, I will get a compromised and muted version of what those leaves could potentially give up. If just a little extra care had been taken by the owners to prepare the tea so that all of it’s flavor and subtle nuances would be evident in my cup, I along with many others, would return to this spot again and again. A superior cup of tea is a superior cup of tea no matter who makes it and where it happens to be and is indeed a rarity to stumble upon in the café world.
Muted Taste or an Excellent CupIn reality, it is simple to set up a system for tea service that you can repeat over and over, that has high production capability, and that will respect all the proper steeping principles that are essential to serving an outstanding cup of tea. Scooping the tea into a disposable tea bag is not the answer, no matter how much convenience you may think this provides to your establishment. The resulting cup of tea that you get from a tea sac is only a little better than what you get with a standard gourmet tea bag. If that is as far as you are willing to go with your loose-leaf tea service, then you should just save the effort, spend more of your hard-earned dollars and return to the excessively packaged bagged tea. Your loose-leaf program is really just an elaborate façade, nothing more than a way for you to make customers think you’re into tea, but really could not be bothered to take the necessary steps to prepare and serve it properly. If you think that I am overstating the importance of proper loose-leaf tea preparation in a busy café environment, I challenge you to do what I have done countless times. Make yourself two cups of the same loose-leaf tea, one using a tea sac and the other using a Brewt or Adagio’s Ingenuitea (a bottom-dispensing device). Keep all the variables the same. You don’t even have to be into tea to notice the stark difference between the two. If you were handed them blindly, you’d think you were drinking two different teas. So, you should ask yourself after this: Do I want to continue selling my customers a mediocre cup of loose-leaf tea, or do I want them to be blown away with a great cup of tea? I would love to be the recipient of the latter. When I get new customers started with a loose-leaf tea program, I teach them how to expeditiously prepare it so that a cup of properly steeped tea ends up in the customer’s hands about every 2.5 minutes, no longer than it takes to make any coffee or tea latte off the menu. Will the customer wait the 3 minutes or so for the perfect cup? The answer is yes, as long as it is in their hands within the 3 minutes, which is always achievable. If it were my café, I would be encouraging you to stay, have a seat, and let us bring it to you in ceramic. The Inherent and Hidden Costs The costs of using tea sacs are numerous, with the most obvious one being that you are adding about 7 cents onto your cost of goods sold (COGS). Couple that with the other problems inherent in using open-ended tea bags, like fumbly staff fidgeting with getting the sacs open and getting the tea inside, like the fact they wick the hot liquid up the paper and onto your hands or table, and like the fact that they alter and mute the taste of the tea. Add it all up and you’ll realize that there are no reasons to consider using them or switching to them. The Solution If you want to drive your hot tea sales into territory that you have never experienced before, here is what you need to do:
- Stop serving your loose-leaf tea in tea sacs.
- Adopt a pour-over tea bar that uses a bottom-dispensing tea steeper (numerous versions are now available).
- Position the tea service area front and center for all the patrons to see.
- Train the staff so that they understand exactly what they are serving and how to serve it properly, engaging the customer, if they can.
- Let anyone who wishes to, sample any tea you have from your selection prior to purchasing.
The real estate bubbleThere are days I feel that way about my latest plan to create a commercial tea garden in the vicinity of Vancouver, BC. Could I not have picked a more expensive place to purchase property of any sort. Vancouver has the dubious distinction of being among the three most expensive places in the world to buy land and a home. There is Hong Kong, then London, and then BC, good ol’ granola-eating, Birkenstock-clad Vancouver. Locals have renamed the city Hongcouver because of the out-of-touch land and home prices and the influx of Asian immigrants to our warm and beautiful shores. The cost of buying a chunk of land since I started my quest almost a year ago has increased by about 40%. I can share with you with some certainty that my income has not increased 40% in that time, so this disparate wedge is growing, and the dream is looking ever more far flung. I am, though, not one to toss in the towel too early.
The SurvivorsMeanwhile, back on my patio deck, where 200 of the Assam P126 cultivars continue to eek out an existence, it has been a rough ride. If you recall from my post back in March 2010, I mentioned that I was going to attempt to grow tea here in southwestern BC. I ended up getting a kilo of seeds from a garden in Assam and initially I was ecstatic with my results. Nearly 60% of them germinated and sprouted. That equates to 450 seedlings that poked their heads above ground. Six months in and I am down to just under 200 little bushes. Some seem to be thriving and a few are in decent shape, but the rest are slowly wilting away. Vancouver doesn’t get much sun in the spring, so the odd sunny day we have I try to take advantage of it and get outside and play. I thought my plants would love to do the same, but after spending a winter under grow lights, little did I know that the direct rays of a full late spring sun would fry the leaves on all the big ones and cook all the ones that were hanging on by the skin of their teeth. I returned that day from climbing in Squamish only to see the devastation the sun had wreaked on the little Camellias. Another lesson learned, bitterly I might add too. So today was transplant day, they got bigger pots and fresh microorganism-filled soil. I have a greenhouse arriving next week and these remaining 175 plants will move into their new quarters as soon as I get the kit unpacked and built.
The not-to-distant futureAt this point, if I get 10 to 20 that last another year, they will probably be around for the next 80. One can always graft and clone, and if the few remaining bushes actually do thrive here on the west coast, their offshoots will have a much higher probability of implanting themselves on a piece of land somewhere, and at this stage I have no idea where that might be. I am nowhere near being a true tea farmer. The question I ask myself is: Am I on the road to becoming one in the not-too-distant future? Or, is this just some ridiculous pipe dream that will never materialize into anything but a lot of time and money wasted and a lesson well learned? I am the eternal optimist, so there is nothing I can do but simply disregard what may be the harsh reality and continue to take steps (albeit sometimes backwards) toward the internal pull that I have to succeed at yet another crazy, but not ill-hatched, tea venture. Thanks for lending me your ear. The story is far from over.
The NewscastIt was a few hours later when I heard the first newscast of the day. An enormous earthquake and tsunami had left a wrath of mayhem and destruction on this small ocean-engulfed country. The time of the quake? It seemed to have started around 2:30 PM on Friday. I kid you not when I say that the moment the vacuum pack of sencha was decompressing and sucking in the surrounding air, I had a clear and momentary vision of the pastoral gardens in Japan and the beautiful surrounding countryside. In my brief segue as I looked up at the beam of sunlight, I did not see a 22-foot wall of water and debris rushing across open farmland, nor did I not see quaint little homes being scrunched like houses of cards and ships getting smashed to bits under bridges. In my short journey, all was well, and I had their prized tea sitting between my outstretched legs. But now, how could I feel content knowing that the citizens and farmers who might have had a hand in the creation of this exquisite box of premium sencha might not have escaped the wall of churning, sludgy water that seemed to consume all in its path? The uncanny timing between the sac of tea taking its first Canadian breath and the thousands of unfortunate people (farmers) loosing theirs struck a cruel irony. The flippantly vocalized phrase we hear all too often, one man’s loss is another man’s gain echoed within the depths of my cortex. How on earth could I feel like I was the lucky one?
Our Hearts Are With YouIn the end, as I try to put into words just how I feel about the devastation in Japan and my fresh box of sencha, I draw some solace from rationalizing that this harvest was probably nowhere near the heavily hit areas of the Northeast. The skilled hands that prudently steamed my sencha and rolled it to perfection are probably still with us today, albeit shaken up and more than likely looking for friends and possibly loved ones. Nevertheless, with strength and quiet perseverance, these skilled artisans rise another day to work their magic on fragrant, delicate tea leaves, coaxing from within subtle flavors and delicate nuances that define the culture and resilience of the Japanese people. I will drink my tea and with each sip, gracefully lower my head in a sincere bow to a nation and a culture that deserve our utmost compassion and empathy. From across the big pond to my home in North Vancouver, let me say that our hearts and souls are with you in your time of need.
- Excessive and unnecessary packaging of the product
- Shipping water and sugared tea products around the globe in the form of tetra-pack sweet concentrates
Creating a chai experienceAt the end of the 1990s, I started to open teahouses. My time was spent in the store pretty much every day, learning about the tea business while trying to offer my customers the best tea experience they’d ever had. In doing that, one of my ideas was to steep my own chai concentrates in a back room on a hot plate. The offerings from the local wholesalers were so dismal that I was forced to brew it myself. After all, I thought, I’d been to Pakistan and had experienced delicious fresh-made chai, so I did have a reference point. Its heady aroma wafted throughout the teahouse and people were captivated upon entry. At some point in life and in business, we all metamorphose into something other than what we were when we started out. With expectations high and energy levels at their peak, we dive headlong into our tea businesses, thinking only of ways that we can keep our fledgling operation afloat. My headlong plunge into wholesale liquid chai brewing was right on the heels of Oregon Chai’s success in the U.S. At Steeps on Stony Plain Road in Edmonton, my brother and I brewed up 16-liter pots of the delightfully pungent beverage. It was in a word, heavenly. We prepared it two to three times a week from scratch and it was never pasteurized. Customers regularly commented on the spicy smells permeating the small store. It was my chai in my place and nothing more as far as I was concerned. Little did I know that I had inadvertently stumbled onto something that was beyond the scope of my then-limited knowledge of how products are packaged and created, how they are transported around the globe, and how they end their life cycle. The seed is planted Then one day that changed. An owner of a coffee house in Edmonton’s downtown core snuck in while I was in the back filling four-liter milk jugs with fresh brewed chai. I was walking out to the front with them in hand when I almost ran right into him. It seems he was following his nose. Jim was his name and he wanted some of my Chai to sell in his coffee house. His customers had been pleading with him to go get the Chai at Steeps. Standing there with two hot four-liter jugs in hand, I couldn’t very well say that I did not have any. He stared up at me with his piercing little eyes and I quickly understood that he was serious and quite ecstatic that he had caught me red-handed. I said to Jim that I didn’t sell the Chai outside of my store. I didn’t know if it would be legal, considering it was a made on a hot plate in an office. He glanced down at the dark jugs of fresh brewed chai. “Can I take those two?” he asked, as he started going for his pocket, from which he pulled out a wad of bills as thick as a banana. I paused for a second. “This is all I have” I told the little stranger. “Well, how much do you want for those?” he said. Cash strapped and struggling, I paused for second. “$60.00 for both?” I told the man, pulling a number out of thin air. He slapped the cash in my hand, grabbed the Chai and said he’d be back in a week for more. The seed was planted. There was a local business to be tapped into with manufacturing and wholesaling liquid Chai. I could actually grab the local market from Oregon Chai. And yes, Jim did come back, more and more often, and his orders got larger and larger as well. Much to my dismay I cannot say that I have covered all realms in tea, far from it actually but I do know deep in my core that there is a right path with regard to product creation, as well as a wrong one. The peeves I listed in my opening paragraph have always struck me as rather asinine and ill thought. Much to my chagrin, though, years ago I led the creation of Canada’s largest manufacturers of liquid Chai concentrates. It’s not an industry that I am entirely proud to say I was immersed in. Who would have envisioned that today, over a decade later in North America and around the world, thousands if not millions ? of coffee houses, restaurants, and tea chains are predominantly using a liquid-based chai from a laminated box. This equates to hundreds of millions of tetra packs and plastic bottles dumped into landfills every year, as most depots still do not recycle tetra packs. In North America, a mere 18% of tetra packs are recycled. The rest are destined for overflowing landfills. I really like TreeHugger Emeritus Ruben Anderson’s description (referring to wine in tetra packs): First, even if you can get the drunkards off their lazy asses to join the mere quarter of the North American population that recycles, few places recycle Tetra Paks. Second, the places that say they recycle Tetra Paks are liars. What does re mean? It means again. Can a Tetra Pak be made into another Tetra Pak? No. Tetra Paks are seven incomprehensibly thin layers of paper, plastic and aluminum. The poor suckers who try to recycle them use giant blenders to mush the paper pulp off the plastic and metal, then they need to separate the plastic from the metal. What idiot thought this would be a better idea than washing a bottle and refilling it? This single packaged tea item has become ubiquitous in its category and with this distinction it carries the heaviest stomp on our suffering planet. A small coffee chain in western Canada admitted to me that last year, they threw out over 160,000 tetra boxes and have been doing so year in and year out for almost a decade. Here is what a large green grocer said to the people at Heart of Green: The Aseptic Tetra Paks used for soups, juices and more contain 6 alternating layers of paperboard, polyethylene plastic, and aluminum foil. As Whole Foods San Francisco told me this week, these must be trashed. There is no green hope for these overzealous fusions. The Ludicrousness Aside from the stupidity of tossing an incredibly expensive constructed box after pulling just eight beverages from it, there is also the ludicrousness of packaging water and sugar from somewhere in Vancouver, for example, and trucking it thousands of kilometers to Montreal and beyond. Do the cities of Montreal and Toronto and points beyond not have faucets? Don’t grocers sell sugar out there? On what planet does this make sense? Considering I am partly responsible for the growth of this industry in Canada, I must now make my formal apology for the impact this product is having on our biosphere. The umpteen millions of tetra packs ending up in landfills and the endless gallons of stinking fossil fuel that are spent to get you a decent Chai latte have to stop. It is so completely unsustainable and so easily eliminated. If you just spent a moment contemplating what you are doing now, you would slap yourself silly. It’s as bad or maybe worse then bottled water, another unnecessary product developed and peddled to an increasingly lazy, docile, and gullible civilization, eternally driven to find the easy way out. Back to basics I am quite certain there is a better way. It’s about going back to the basics, brewing your own Chai if you can, or buying freshly ground, dry spices and tea and reconstituting it yourself. It also means saying no to products that arrive on your doorstep already in liquid, sweetened form. Chocolate connoisseurs know that great chocolate does not arrive as syrup in a plastic bottle, but rather in a ground, gourmet, powdered format. Another parallel we can make is with matcha. We know that powdered green tea is in a class all its own and yet to date, there are few, if any, boxed liquid matcha products that have gained any kind of loyal following. I doubt they ever will, as who wants bad tasting, sweetened, oxidized, and liquified maccha? We can all reduce our carbon footprint on this single tea item by:
- Making our own darn Chai
- Sourcing and buying freshly ground, dry concoctions that we reconstitute ourselves (they are now available)
- Refusing to buy tea products that come to our door with water and sugar already in them, period
- The farm emphasizes the use of renewable resources.
- It does not use most conventional pesticides.
- It does not use fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge.
There are two reasons actually:
- They do not receive any tea training while completing their chef designation.
- There are very few people knocking on their doors offering them a premium tea service for their establishments.
Transparency and the leafA decade later I peer around the premium tea universe and I am overjoyed with what I see transpiring. Tea entrepreneurs are finally thinking outside the box; they are realizing not unlike specialty coffee did 10 years ago that customers need and want information about the product they are consuming. For our industry to separate the wheat from the chaff, we need to share the story of our tea and provide transparency on its origin where it is picked, how it is grown, what kind of flavoring is used, and how the workers are treated by the garden owners. I have been peddling tea long enough to know that tea sourced from countries that have poor human-rights records, that have trashed their natural environment by dumping toxic waste into the soil, and that have sprayed a host of chemicals on their bushes are not countries I can comfortably buy tea from. In the end, tea grown under these conditions is probably harming us more than helping us. One of the largest exporters of tea to the western world is doing just that. Tea drinkers need to know this information, and it is our job to educate and promote gardens and tea companies that have enshrined in their constitutions the welfare of their workers and of the natural environment.
Finding OpportunityTea truly has come of age; its popularity and demand have never been higher. There are hundreds of opportunities still waiting to be tapped with this wonder leaf. We have a whole generation of kids and teens now choosing tea over soft drinks and coffee. They love the stuff, albeit with a little too much sugar at times, but it is the start of a lifelong ritual. Who or what is going to lead their palates? If you love tea like I do, that is, if you love to help people change their personal health for the better, and if you are enthralled by teas origins, its cultivation, the culture of its pickers, and the geography of its growing regions, than finding your niche in the big wide world of tea should be no further away than your next contemplative, steaming cup. Now go put the kettle on; 2010 eagerly awaits you. All the best for the next decade of tea.
- T-Sac: The T-sac wicked the tea up the paper and then proceeded to drip on the counter. The resulting brew was weak, lacked any subtleties, and tasted somewhat washed out. Not a very impressive cup of tea. Have you ever tried to stuff fluffy white tea into a small T-sac when you are in a hurry?
- French Press: The French press was easy to use, pull off the plunger, drop in the tea, and add the water. The resulting brew was robust, flavorful, and perfectly steeped. The liquid felt clean and fresh on the palate. It did lack some maltiness and there was a hint of metal, shiny stainless metal.
- Mesh Infuser Ball: The tea was weaker and lacked the same robust flavor of the French Press, but was not washed out as with the T-sac. There was a hint of metallic, which I could only surmise came from the mesh ball.
- BREWT: The tea was excellent. All the subtleties of the tea were evident, a classic hint of smokiness, the caramel notes, and the fine tannins that come out in the end. This device was easy to use and easy to clean.