Passion. Learning. Friendships.
All three drive our search for the next great cup of tea or coffee.
Phil and I have been in the tea and coffee business together for over twenty years. We've traveled the world to taste, and learn, and bring home what we found. We've formally and informally studied both subjects - and their related cultures - extensively. And in that process, we've made friends with fellow tea and coffee lovers, experts both in and outside of 'the industry,' all around the globe. We stay in touch with them; we ask them what new and wondrous elixirs they've tasted. And we make new friends - who often provide us with connections we never knew existed.
We don't look for the same teas and coffees year after year. Like a master sommelier, we look for the best. The next new thing.
A friend, customer and incredible graphic designer came into our tasting room about a month ago to help us with our packaging, and we started tasting teas and talking. And discovered - after years of similar conversations - that his brother - who lives in Hong Kong - had found a source for scarce aged pu'er tea bricks of extraordinary quality. We ordered some before he left.
Last week I called a Yale anthropologist whose exquisite taste and Chinese heritage led her to the study of specialty teas. She regularly travels back to China to search for 'the next new thing.' She told me she'd found ten new teas for me.
That's how we find new beverages to taste. That's step one.
Once we get the teas into our Tasting Room, we have 'cupping sessions' with the staff. We evaluate the dry leaves, the wet leaves and the steeped tea, looking for how we can extend our tea (and coffee) inventory flavor profile. We pick the best.
Then we share them with our customers in formal tasting events - and many times when they just unexpectedly walk in the door.
That happened recently when a customer showed up with 10 college buddies in tow - all tea novices - all asking to try the rare Cream Oolong their friend wouldn't stop talking about. I wondered what their reaction would be when they tasted their first non-teabag tea - and what a tea it was! The only thing I said as I filled their cups was 'Some people say this tea reminds them of buttered popcorn.' Then I saw 10 'Ah-ha' moments around the table as they tasted, and 10 new tea lovers.
We learn from them - they learn from us. We share with our network of suppliers and tea experts and with you. The adventure continues.