Tea… an elitist passion?
Following the recent article in La Presse about the democratization of wine tasting, the Camellia Sinensis team sat down to discuss tea’s evolution over the past 20 years. (translated from the French)
Tea… an elitist passion?
As with wine and other fine tasting products (coffee, cheese, chocolate, spirits …), there is always a risk of rigidity when talking about tea. The specialization and knowledge that come with any form of fine tasting, and the apparent expertise that ensues, can easily lead to lack of compromise in one’s discourse, especially early on as we begin a new passion.
Are Camellia Sinensis purists?
We are of course no exception, and we’ve had all been through our own personal purist periods. When we opened back in 1998, the atmosphere was more Bohemian, to say the least. Then we gradually developed an expertise that led us to into what we call our “purist era” (about 2001-2003). Early trips to Europe, especially France, had given us the false impression that to be credible, one had to project a certain elitism. This, we later realized, is not only completely wrong, but plainly against our company ethos!
It is tempting for the enthusiastic tea folk in our team to spread their knowledge in this way, especially when they first join the company. For some, it almost seems to be a mandatory stage before they can feel at ease in their dialogue. As in many other industries, it takes time to understand how much or what type of information a customer needs. The team receives constant and intense training in may aspects of tea, but we always emphasize the importance of keeping everything accessible to the client.
Focus on sharing
For us, tea remains both a passion and a pleasure, and our approach is first and foremost focused on taste, pleasure and sharing. Possessing a thorough knowledge of tea is an intellectual endeavour but is not necessary to appreciate its fascinating diversity of flavour profiles or to enjoy its benefits immediate and longterm. This is a message we advocate in all the classes in the Tea Schools, many of which are focused on tasting, sharing and exchanging impressions without censorship.
As Jasmin often likes to say, “ Everybody should drink tea!” – whether it be in our shops, our teahouses, our tea classes or anywhere else, our role is the inclusive democratization of tea for all.
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