This continues an interview with Claudia Aguilera, a trained tea professional and tea vendor in Mexico, talking about tea culture and her experiences in the industry in Mexico.
- Is there a connection between Mexican tea drinking and teas produced in South America?
Not really. Teas in Mexico come basically from American and European tea brokers. There is very little concern about tea production in our continent. In our case, only Mexicans attending tea expos get to know there are important places like Argentina and Colombia producing tea.
- Per my understanding there is essentially no tea production in Mexico, not even small experimental farms. Is that correct?
Right! There is no official data about it and no propaganda either. I’ve heard there are foreigners interested in our land for tea production but nothing concrete so far. Although our country has all the potential to start producing, we would need some support from experts.
- Part of my own adopted project is trying to expand on tea awareness in Thailand, using different means. How do you help develop awareness there?
It’s been a hard and very patient work here. I have always been interested on different ways to share tea knowledge. I started offering tea tastings, short courses, tea pairings at restaurants, cooking with tea classes, master classes etc. The objective in my case is to help people get closer to this amazing product and create awareness about the infinite possibilities.
Having this as a purpose, I developed a tea Brand (Té en Hebras Hindie) with a fresh and friendly image, and that has established a stronger base to increase tea consumption. With the brand, I can supply restaurants and coffee shops with good quality tea. This has been a very important tool helping me reach more people, achieving better tea consumption instead of bad quality tea bags. Loose tea leaves needed to be introduced and carefully respected. I think we, as tea experts, are making it happen.
- What tea type pairs best with spicy Mexican foods, or is that just an American stereotype about the general character of Mexican food?
I can say Mexican food is a fest of flavors; spicy can be definitely a way to describe it since we use many types of chili as a base of every sauce. Anyway, the variety is huge. I recently worked with the Mexican chef José Hernández on a tea-pairing event and we really liked the results. Our favorites:
Torta de Chilaquiles with avocado paired with a Darjeeling FTGFOP
Chilaquiles is one of the favorite dishes for breakfast, it is basically fried tortilla chips with red sauce; there are many options for the sauce. In this case the sauce is made of different chili, spices and tomato.
Churros de Yuca with Pu’er Blend (Pu’er, vanilla, strawberry and orange)
The Yuca is a fruit and churros is the name given to this typical food, churros actually came from Spain but we have our Mexican version, these are made with the pulp of the Yuca fruit and a little bit of sugar on the top. Since it has some greasy and sweet flavor, the tea totally matches and leaves a clean and delicious after taste.
- Is there any project, or business, or training initiative you’d like to share something about?
One of my projects as a tea sommelier is to keep on sharing the knowledge and of course, to never stop learning. So, in this journey I plan to support awareness and care for our mother nature, looking for the least environmental impact in our practice. Also, I am planning to develop a campaign against excessive sugar consumption, especially for kids.
Others I’ve spoken to are ready to do their part, related to tea education and running tea businesses. Lorena Foglio, owner of the BeauTea Full tea business, and Tea Sommelier and Tea Master, contributed pictures of her tea garden, shown here. It’s the only example of tea growing there that I’m aware of, based on limited research and discussion with some others working in the local industry. It’s not really for tea production on a significant scale–it’s her garden–but that’s inspiring enough to me. Once the plants gain some size she can borrow some leaves to experiment with.
One person can only do so much in bringing tea awareness to an entire country, and the means to try better teas, but it sounds like Mexico has some great tea awareness advocates working on it.