I can think of few better ways to kick off the week than with an interview with Eric Daams, the tea aficionado behind Tea Finely Brewed. I was lucky enough to meet fellow-Melbournite Eric in person a couple of months ago (over some tea of course) and it was great to hear about his experiences with tea, blogging and family life. Tea Finely Brewed encompasses a tea blog, a tea marketplace which allows you to compare similar offerings from different tea companies, and a 'beginner's guide to tea' with much useful information.
How did you become enthused about tea and what is it that you like most about it?
I think the thing that most excites me about tea today is the breadth of variety. You could try a new tea every week for a year and you'd still be scratching the surface.
To begin with though, I think my motivation for liking tea had something to do with that dark force of the hot beverage world: coffee. I'm someone who likes to do things differently to those around me, so as the youngest boy growing up in a family of coffee drinkers, I decided to become a tea drinker. After years of tea bags in which I slowly exhausted the supermarket choices, I started venturing into loose leaf teas a few years ago. Once you start on loose leaf tea, the world (of tea) opens up to you.
How would you define Australian ‘tea culture’ based on your experience and observations? Have you noticed any changes over time (including your own tea preferences) and what do you think has driven these changes?
For a country with such a vibrant coffee culture, it's sad to see how the Australian tea experience languishes behind. It never ceases to confound me how a café serving amazing coffee can serve their tea-drinking patrons Lipton or Twinings tea bags -- while charging us $3.50 it!
The emergence of T2 and other Australian-based loose leaf tea brands seems to be a sign of change. I'm not crash hot on T2 — I think they're overpriced and capitalizing on a market that is barely aware of quality tea — but I do believe that they're a harbinger of better things to come.
Any thoughts on the direction that tea is headed?
I think tea culture is going to boom in much the same way that coffee culture has boomed in Australia. At the moment, I can think of a handful of restaurants where I could go to have quality tea with my lunch -- they're all Asian restaurants, of course. With time, I believe we'll see that spread into more and more places.
When I was in New Zealand about a year and half ago, I noticed that quite a few of the cafés offered a great range of teas. How often do you go to an Australian café where they offer sencha, dragonwell and gunpowder green tea? Give it ten years, and I think we'll have more places like that around.
What do you think the greatest challenges are for Australian tea consumers and/or businesses? e.g. is it easy for you to find the kinds of teas you enjoy in Australia or do you mostly purchase from vendors in other countries?
One of the perks of blogging about tea is that a lot of companies send me their tea, free of charge. I'm thankful for that, because if I didn't have companies sending me their teas, I would be severely limited by what is available on the market here. I've shopped at Tea Leaves, Lupicia and T2 (among many others), but the choice of high quality specialty tea is invariably limited. Shops cater to what the majority are looking for, which seems to be flavoured teas and herbal blends. Single-estate Darjeelings, first flush Japanese greens and quality aged pu-erh -- these kinds of teas aren't big priorities. That said, I'm pleased to see Santion catering to the discerning tea crowd that knows their Keemun from their Yunnan.
Any other tea musings you would like to share.
Champagne is the Darjeeling of wine.
Heh. Thank you Eric for putting the proper relationship between tea and wine in perspective. I am in awe of the amount of work you have put into your tea marketplace - it will be extremely useful for all the tea purchasers out there when they are looking for the pick of the crop!