Recently I had the chance to correspond with Tea Sommelier, Christopher Coccagna, about his lifelong love for tea and recent involvement with GOT MILK?’s Winter Teas Campaign. As someone who is very interested in unique tea recipes and creative ways to explore new tastes and concoctions, I was eager to learn about the campaign. After all, I often enjoy milk with my tea. I know there are a lot of “purists” out there, but I’m assuming many of you enjoy it as well.
Here’s what Christopher had to say in response to my questions:
When and how did ‘Got Milk?’ decide to release the Winter Teas Campaign?
Over the last five years, the California Milk Processor Board (CMPB), the creator of GOT MILK?, has noticed that tea has become the new “it” drink among Americans. Thanks to health benefits and the wide variety of herbs and flavors, tea and tea latte offerings now rival coffee drinks at major retail chains. With the arrival of the fall season, CMPB thought the time was right to explore new tea trends and innovative takes on teas with milk.
How did you join forces with the ‘Got Milk?’ campaign?
I’ve always sought new opportunities to highlight tea in creative ways and the partnership with GOT MILK? has been a really great outlet for that creativity. I am really fortunate they found me through my website.
In general, what was the inspiration behind the ‘Got Milk?’ Winter Teas campaign?
The inspiration started with a moment, whether it be a party with friends, or shared tea before bedtime. Then I worked to capture the comfort that milk gives coupled with the fresh flavors of teas.
What is the purpose of the “Got Milk?’ Winter Tea Campaign? For health? Holiday entertaining?
The purpose of the Got Milk? Winter Teas campaign is to entertain friends and family not just during the holidays but year round. The recipes are designed to provide something special for everyone, whether it’s a kid-friendly beverage or an adult desired cocktail.
What inspired you to become a tea educator and tea event planner?
Tea has always held a special place in my life. From a nightly cup of fresh peppermint tisane with my mother during childhood- to a two year journey through New Zealand, Australia, and Asia – tea has always brought incredible people together, enriching my life. Tea means community for me, and I have always kept that principle close to my heart with all things tea.
When did you first become interested in tea and become involved in the tea business?
I’ve been interested in tea my entire life, but the inspiration of making it a business came after I graduated with a business degree from University of San Diego and ran away to a two year journey through New Zealand, Australia, and Asia and experienced tea cultures in new ways. Upon returning to the USA, I grew in industry knowledge and went through the Specialty Tea Institute’s Certified Tea Specialist program. I wanted my unique spin on anything I did with tea, so I started blending my own natural-flavor, additive-free tea blends. In 2010, I founded T-WE TEA in San Francisco with three guiding principles: truth, beauty, community.
Do you have a store?
I do, my store’s name is T-WE TEA and it is located in downtown San Francisco at the Crocker Galleria. My store is truly a reflection of me: inviting, colorful and modern. My goal is to showcase the many handcrafted blends of tea that my cheeky company creates.
50 Post Street, Level 2
San Francisco, CA 94104
How did you come up with these recipes?
Tea and milk have gone together for hundreds of years, so to bring the two traditions together in an approachable modern twist was a fun undertaking. I wanted to combine high quality, easily accessible teas with the creamy goodness of milk. We focused on three categories: lattes, cambrics, and cocktails. Then I tried to find ways to put a tea spin on traditional milk drinks.
Which is your favorite among the recipes?
I have two favorites for different occasions: the White Russian Caravan cocktail and the Lavender London Fog latte. The smokiness of the White Russian Caravan really comes through making it the perfect drink to start a fun night with friends. I love London Fog lattes; to create my own lavender-vanilla simple syrup to sweeten the latte sends me to heaven.
How did you come to the decision to combine the tea with alcohol for many of these drinks?
To me, adding alcohol is simply another opportunity to enjoy tea with my friends. I host tea cocktail parties called T-We Kikis the first Thursday night of each month at my store and they are a real hit amongst my guests. I included alcohol in a couple of the Got Milk? Winter Tea recipes because I wanted people to experience a new side of tea.
What is a cambric?
A cambric is a tea that is brewed in milk. The Slow Simmered Chai recipe and the Good Night Tea With Milk are classic examples of a cambric. Cambrics are traditionally made without alcohol, but to add a little extra joy this season, I created the Rum Horchata Chai Martini and the Holiday Peppermint Cocktail, which are cambrics with a little alcohol kick.
I have decided to make the White Russian Caravan and have bought the ingredients. Do you recommend a cocktail shaker? How do you, personally, prepare it?
The White Russian Caravan is one of the most attractive drinks in the Got Milk? Winter Teas campaign. I do recommend a cocktail shaker as it helps blend and cool all the ingredients together. A trick I do to make the drink more visually dramatic is to allow the milk to fall onto a spoon first then let it cascade on top of each drink.