During the month of May, as the tea business began to stretch and settle into its lethargic summer state, the telephone rang with an exciting new prospect: an online radio show, revolving entirely around tea. “We were approached by the Food Radio Network, and they had heard that I was a guy who knew a little bit about the tea industry… apparently they also figured out that I like to talk, probably a little more than I should,” Manish begins. Such was the start of our first episode, entitled “Warming the Kettle,” in which Manish verbally did just that- prepped the audience for the coming talk of tea.
Why devote a radio show to this one, simple beverage? Is there really enough to be said about tea? This was Manish’s first instinct, but upon a bit of thought and brainstorming the answer came as an astounding yes—frankly, there are many misconceptions and misunderstanding about the drink, and it would be our goal to shed them, one by one, and allow listeners to experience the simple joy that tea drinkers often take for granted. The tagline for the show, “Taking Back Teatime,” holds true. We do not expect listeners to settle in with fine china and bite-sized treats for a classy listen, nor do we hope for a ceremonial, spiritual listen. We are taking tea back to the basics—leaves, hot water, a cup, and most importantly, you—the person who will enjoy it.
So in order to “warm our kettle,” so to speak, Manish devoted the inaugural episode to introductions, as is customary. He slowly unravels a tale of his personal history, from New York to Tucson, from a degree in psychology to a career in marketing, and from Maya Tea’s humble one-product beginnings to the all-encompassing tea company that we have become. “The tea industry has changed a lot in the past ten years. When I first started out, everything was sort of standard—English Breakfast, Earl Grey—the variety and the creativity was just starting to blossom,” Manish reminisces. Now, the industry thrives on vibrant, varietal flavors and artistic blends, which he likens to the wine market. “When you try to choose a wine and you look along the shelves, there are numerous choices, all kinds of wine: whites, reds, different countries, different grapes, different years and appellations, and it goes on and on… but at the grocery store, you think ‘I just want a bottle of good wine’.” Manish intends to simplify the dense market that tea has become for his listeners. When it comes down to it, the ultimate purpose is enjoyment, and everyone deserves to enjoy an excellent cup of tea.
On that note, in the final segment of our first episode Manish turns his attention to tea itself as he answers the first question from the audience. Prior to the recording of the episode, we had asked our Facebook followers to provide us with a tea-related question which we could answer. For over a week, we had not one response. Manish began to sort through his memories for the more frequent questions that he has answered over the years, and at last he had settled on one: How ought a traditional coffee drinker transition to tea? Then, lo and behold, the following morning a question appeared on our Facebook page, written as follows: “If you were trying to change from being primarily a coffee drinker to drinking more tea, what teas would you recommend and what preparation methods?” The irony was not lost on us. And fatefully so, Manish answered the question. You will all have to give an ear, however, to uncover his answer.
Welcome to our radio show, and welcome as well to the first of a series of blogs recapping it. We look forward to “Steeping Around” with you.
To listen to “Warming the Kettle,” click here.
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The first time I tried chai was in the kitchen of my parent’s house, and served by my younger sister. “You have to taste this—” she insisted, pushing a mug across the countertop to me. She refused to elaborate on its contents. The flavors, she said, would speak for themselves.
The quality of water affects the taste of your tea; this is beyond dispute. The relative quantities of mineral salts, oxygen and trace elements determine the relative "liveliness" or "flatness" of a particular cup. To that simple substance we add the basic flavor of the leaf itself or an herbal substitute.