Last month, I had a chance to sit down with tea legend Jane Pettigrew for some wonderful teas from Korea.
Well, that’s sort of true. I was in the same room as Jane, along with a couple dozen others at last month’s World Tea Expo during the Korean Tea focused tasting session. Nevertheless, as anyone that’s sat in a session with Jane knows, she engages the audience like few others. And what she does isn’t easy. A lot of the larger tastings I’ve been to have been run by someone who’s in the marketing department of an exhibiting company and while they don’t explicitly promote their own products during the tasting, a bias always seems to creep (steep?) in. At the very least, the teas that are sampled are limited to that vendor’s offerings.
Jane, though, presents from the perspective of someone with an absolute passion for the subject she’s devoted her life to. With this particular tasting, she went into it like most of us: not really knowing much about Korean Tea, but looking to learn. She brought in the expected green teas from various growing seasons, but also an oolong and a black tea that were quite a departure from the norm. She shared what she’d learned while researching each of the teas for this particular tasting.
What I think I appreciate most about Jane is that she’s able to articulate what a tea tastes like better than anyone I’ve ever met. She’s developed a language every bit the equal to a Master Wine Taster. After tasting a tea and asking for our opinions and descriptive words, she shared hers. With each tea she described, I found myself thinking, “Oh man. That is exactly what I just tasted. Why didn’t I describe it as “woodsy” or “hints of broccoli”?” I could tell I wasn’t alone–as she hit a particularly evocative term, folks would shift in their seats and start whispering, “Yes… that’s totally it.”
I’m aware that this post probably comes off as me trying to get Jane to be best friends (hey, Jane, maybe yeah?), I really just want to point out what it looks like when someone with a passion for a subject goes all in and shares it with others without pretense. For those of us that are still relatively new to the industry, but feeling that same passion (like the high school student who was sitting at my table whose dad paid for him to attend the Expo as a birthday present!), I definitely appreciate it. As tea’s popularity grows, we’ll likely see focus shifting from the tea itself to the business of selling the tea, but as long as there are people like Jane around celebrating what makes this drink so wonderful and unique, I have no concerns that tea’s future will be tainted by the almighty dollar.