You might be wondering, who is tea trekker ? Let us make a quick introduction here on tea trekker’s first blog posting.
We are Mary Lou and Robert J. Heiss, specialty tea experts with 34+ years of experience buying and selling fine tea. We are also tea enthusiasts who find joy in discovering well-made and delicious tea.
By our nature, we are curious about food. Our passion for tea has always fueled our desire to learn as much as we can about tea and the details of tea cultivation and tea production. Over the years, as we read and studied about tea, we eventually exhausted all of the then-available information about tea. And we began to realize that what was missing from much of this information was first-hand expertise and in-depth knowledge of the people sharing the information.
With most of our questions still un-answered, we realized that one has to experience something for oneself in order to really understand it. So, eight years ago, we began traveling to tea producing countries to learn what we felt compelled to know.
Our goal was to observe first-hand the production of many different teas in Asia and to acquire relevant information about each style of tea. Eight years ago, very few other American tea buyers traveled to source, and even now, there is still only a dedicated handfull of us who pursue this. Tea education in the USA has grown tremendously from where it was eight years ago, but considering that tea is a lifelong study for many in Asia, there is still much for Western tea enthusiasts to know and learn.
From our travels we have an ever-growing stack of thick, well-used and dog-earred notebooks, and over 6,000 digital photos. After we made several of these trips it occurred to us that we were now the ones who could answer the questions that we had searched for answers to years before.
During this time Ten Speed Press contacted us and asked us to write a small book on tea for them. We were thrilled, but countered that we thought there was a need for a larger book on tea – one that we felt was missing in the world of tea and that we thought needed to be written.
They listened, and agreed. Last fall, in October of 2007, Ten Speed Press published our book, The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide. This 419-page bouncing baby is now in second printing and we are so very proud to say that it was recently honored with a nomination for both a 2008 James Beard Foundation Book Award Nomination and a 2008 IACP Cookbook Award Nomination.
But one book is by no means the end of the story of tea. Today, we still feel the same curiousity about tea and tea culture – perhaps even more so. Each trip builds on the knowledge of the last one. When we travel to Asia, we become the students of the tea workers, tea factory managers, and tea garden managers that we meet. Collectively, these are the tea masters that we learn from.
We return not just with new knowlege but also with perspective, insight, clarity and greater understanding, and, of course, more questions. Perhaps it was Asian wisdom that said a question is only as good as the other questions raised by its answer.
On each tea trek we have been on, the tea trail has taken us different places. And much of our education is also learning the intricacies of the cultural approach to tea drinking in each country that we visit. How each unique tea culture sets it’s tea table and expresses it’s views towards brewing, serving and drinking tea is directly related to the teas manufactured there.
But no matter what tea country we are visiting, we return home and share our first-hand knowledge with our tea customers. It is priviledge and honor for us to be a part of this ongoing tea education, and we intend to be a major voice in tea education for a long time. We are always ready to grab our cameras and notebooks and head out into the tea gardens.
So stay tuned and visit our www.teatrekker.com often. While our website is new, our experience in tea is not. In addition to selling hand-selected, traditionally-made artisan tea at very reasonal prices, we have other great plans for this website.
We believe that a global perspective on tea is missing from much of the tea information being bandied about the internet. And good, solid information, as well. Accordingly, www.teatrekker.com will bring a global perspective to tea and tea culture by featuring many different voices. We will post articles and stories contributed by tea colleagues all over the world, including other American tea vendors with a story to tell.
And for those tea enthusiasts who will be traveling, we will compile a listing of places of interest that are globally located: tea shops, tea houses, tea museums, etc. And we hope that the ‘tea trekkers’ among you out there will keep us appraised of the people and places that you discover on your journeys along the tea trail who are noteworthy advocates for honest and delicious tea.