By 10:30 a.m. every morning I’ve tried at least 10 teas. That puts the morning cup of tea in perspective, doesn’t it? But as the VP of Tea at Mighty Leaf, my days are packed with whole leaf tea. More than anything I’m diligent about tasting tea, lots of samples so as an example, when differences arise in say a black tea tasting, I’m able to stop and ask, “what’s different about this tea?” Tasting tea is like exercising a muscle, or maybe like studying a painting. The more it’s done, the better shape my palate is in to taste discrepancies or nuances. In addition to tasting tea, my day-to-day job involves communicating with our suppliers and cross-checking with the people I work with to secure ingredients from around the world. What I love about tea is it’s the ultimate yin-yang; it’s both simple and complex. My days are full of work that I’m passionate about and I work closely with our tea team, Anni and Danielle to ensure the teas we blend and provide to our customers taste great with fantastic aroma.
My interest in tea started like perhaps many others. Growing up, my mom would throw tea parties and her interest in tea trickled down to me. After college, I took on a job at Peet’s Coffee & Tea. At the time, there were only 5 stores. As I worked at Peet’s I embraced tasting tea and coffee, which led me to conduct internal trainings. This started out as a part-time position that then grew into a full-time position. My interest in coffee waned and my desire to drink and understand tea grew. Jim Reynolds, now roastmaster emeritus at Peet’s mentored me in tea as I learned on the job. Over time and after 5 years of working with Jim directly, I began purchasing the teas for Peet’s, which also provided hands-on experiences traveling to tea-growing regions to meet with our suppliers. In 1995, I visited India for the first time, then in 1999, I first visited China. I draw inspiration from the care and diligence shown by the people who produce great teas, and I love traveling in countries where it’s consumed liberally. The business of tea is old-fashioned and relationship-driven—something I enjoy immensely. I worked at Peet’s for 30 years and am now thrilled to be a part of Mighty Leaf Tea.
As the tea assistant at Mighty Leaf, I steep hundreds of teas a week for cuppings. Working with tea everyday creates awareness in the rest of my life. When I steep tea, my full attention is focused on ensuring the tea is steeped properly and my thoughts drift to the passion used to create these teas.
My mom brewed tea regularly when I was a child and I relished the opportunity to tear open a new tea box and discover which ceramic creatures were hidden inside. When I discovered Russian Caravan Black Tea years later, I knew tea had completely won me over. I still drink Russian Caravan and also enjoy Lapsang Souchong for the same reasons. I loved how it enveloped me in warmth and had a smooth richness I hadn’t found in coffee. Little did I know, it would become my livelihood years later.
While studying Industrial Design in college, I took a job at Market Hall in Oakland where I perfected my barista techniques and continued to develop my tea palate. I began picking up on the nuances of tea— its subtle flavors and complex layers. After 4 years there, I moved on to Peet’s as a trainer and shift lead, successfully competed in several rounds of a barista competition, and participated as a sensory judge for other barista competitions.
While I appreciate coffee, I always come back to tea. Tea is amazing! Its origins and how it’s grown influence the final cup. The flavor profiles and character of tea are so versatile. At Mighty Leaf, I spend every day focused on my passion and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you!
At the age of six or seven, my Dad would sit me down regularly and say, “It’s time for a cup of tea.” He served black tea with honey. A few years later, he moved to South Africa and in high school, my brother and I flew out to see him. He took us to a fancy resort so we could have teatime. I still remember the taste of the Keemun tea from the resort fondly. So, the tea bug had bitten me early on, but it kept growing. During high school, I leaned heavily on tea to help me pull through all-nighters, trying as many teas as I could. In college, I began reading tea books from the library like “The New Tea Lover’s Treasury” by James Norwood Pratt and got it into my head that one day I wanted to meet him. I developed a preference for loose teas and visited an Asian grocery store in Charlotte, NC for loose leaf tea, which at the time was hard to find.
In college, I studied music business but worked at a tearoom where I continued my tea tasting studies and a co-worker opened my eyes to single origin black teas, gyokuro, and my fast favorite, green oolongs. After college, I moved to South Korea to pursue a Fulbright. While there, I taught English and studied the Korean tea ceremony and Korean drumming. In Asia, I realized people opened teahouses dedicated to loose leaf tea and made a living from it. With the encouragement of fellow Fulbrighters, my career path shifted to one steeped in tea.
Upon my return to the states, I moved to Savannah, Georgia and waitressed at a tea room—I wanted to see how they operate and save money so one day I could open my own. Over time, it became clear how difficult it would be to make a living in the US running a teahouse and that I needed to rethink my plan. I decided to move to China. The manager at the tea room invited me to accompany her to the World Tea Expo where I finally met James Norwood Pratt. I asked him where I should move in China and he suggested either Hangzhou or Fujian. Before I moved to China, I worked for Devan Shah’s tea company for a year and a half. But China beckoned.
In Hangzhou, I applied and studied at Zhejiang University (浙江大学), recognized as the third best college in China (with the first two being in Beijing where no tea grows). For two years, I studied Mandarin and later worked part time as a teacher, pursuing my passion of tea in my off-hours. I led tea tours and traveled to points of tea origin. A teacher of mine encouraged me to apply to the tea science program at Zhejiang, so I applied and was accepted to study for a master’s in tea science. During my studies, I attended the World Tea Expo in the United States and met Eliot Jordan. He had been looking to hire a tea assistant immediately; while the job sounded tempting, I needed to finish my studies. He hired Anni Pattee during that interim period. He offered me a job in September and I started in January – I’ve been surrounded by tea ever since :).
Since I’ve been tea buyer at Mighty Leaf Tea, my job consists of juggling what we need to cup for QA or purchasing decisions with correspondence to our vendors. It’s clear how each step of my path led me deeper into tea and my job keeps me rooted in my passion for tea with people equally invested in the pursuit of great tea.
At Mighty Leaf Tea, our whole leaf tea goes through rigorous tastings to ensure they are ready for you to buy and brew at home. Take a sneak peek of one of our tea cuppings by clicking here or on the photo below to meet the tea team of Eliot Jordan, Danielle Hochstetter, and Anni Pattee. We will be bringing you freshly brewed ideas and talking about our favorite two leaves and a bud. Join us!
With summer right around the corner it’s perfect timing for National Iced Tea Day. Start developing your daily chill out routine by choosing fresh-brewed, all natural and zero calorie iced tea that delivers ultimate refreshment. Go one step further and experiment with mixing up delicious and unique iced tea based beverages like an Earl Grey Arnold Palmer. Check out our simple recipe and enjoy! Read More…
Are you headed to the Natural Product Expo West show? Come mix it up with us at booth 2975 as we serve up hot tea samples and unique iced tea beverages using our whole leaf iced tea pouch. We’re also excited to show you our new trade show booth that highlights the whole leaf goodness and artisan crafted natures of our products.
We’re also running a contest with prizes that include an Ipad 2, Year’s Worth of Tea and more. Read More…
Our latest Mighty Leaf recipe is for a delectable Orange Dulce Marteani. After one of our office parties a few of us stumbled upon this simple infusion of herbs, leaf tea, and vodka. Surprise friends and family with our unique twist on a classic cocktail.
All you need is your favorite vodka and a Mighty Leaf Orange Dulce tea pouch. Simply pour the vodka, steep your tea pouch for around 15 minutes or so and enjoy! Make in a batch to serve in bulk for a holiday party or have partygoers steep their own.
Pick up the ingredients here.
Teas the season for sharing the ritual and warmth of drinking tea. We’re excited about the launch of new signature Mighty Leaf products for the holiday. Whether you’re looking for a tea pouch, loose leaf gift or teaware, our new holiday lineup makes gifting easy. Everyone’s a fan of tea, they just might not know it yet.
HOLIDAY GIFT COLLECTION
Click an item to start your holiday shopping today!