Everywhere I go, people tell me how horrible it is to be drinking so much coffee. I get it. Extreme coffee experiences can put your whole sense of well-being out of whack even if it does jolt you to your basic senses first thing in the morning.
So more and more, I’m substituting my coffee routine with tea and I’ve rediscovered a long forgotten passion that began steeping in my soul since my childhood. Growing up in Texas, I was raised on iced tea. Huge tumblers of frosty deep amber tea with lemon. Tea has always been in my life in one way or another. And when I spent a summer in Winchester, UK when I was 14, my admiration for tea culture was officially born. I found the perfect teapot for my mother and I ritually drank my tea while reading Alice in Wonderland or The Chronicles of Narnia. Later, when I went to college in Boston, I had boxes of herbal teas stashed in every corner of my apartments just to help fend off the biting, inhuman cold. Later, I lived in a Zen Center in Hollywood, where I enjoyed the art of tea ceremonies during retreats and using hot tea at every meal to clean our eating bowls.
So it was with great pleasure that I recently discovered Samovar Tea Lounge. Based is San Francisco and shipping around the globe, Samovar recently put together a custom blend prepared for His Holiness The Dalai Lama called Ocean of Wisdom. The tea accommodated The Dalai Lama as he traveled to various art institutions exhibiting the project “The Missing Peace.” Samovar has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today rated Samovar teas as one of the top ten teas in the US.
Jesse Jacobs founded Samovar six years ago. I recently had the chance to ask Jesse some tea-related questions.
JHR: We live in such a dense coffee culture, but it seems like tea drinking is on the rise. Is that true and, if so, why? Also, can people really “get going” in the morning with a cup of organic, hand-crafted, artisan tea? Isn’t espresso, you know, faster?
JJ: In the ’90s, the specialty tea industry made $1 billion. In 2007, it was at $7 billion, and its forecasted by 2012 it will be at $14 billion. So, the tea industry is definitely on the rise. Samovar Tea Lounge has grown 300% in last 3 years. Tea has caffeine, and yes it can be used “as a get up and go beverage,” but with less jitters, and more focused awareness. It doesn’t have the same amount of caffeine as coffee, but artisan teas naturally carry caffeine and L-theanine, which induces the alpha state. Its scientifically proven that L-theanine aids in a state of relaxed awareness. This is helpful for the start of your day.
JHR: You’ve created a culture of mindfulness in your business. How important is mindfulness in the hectic life of a business?
JJ: Its very important because life is hectic and can be a frenzy, so there is more need for focus to get things done. I think mindfulness is the same as awareness. Awareness is the key to living fruitfully because if you are aware, you know what’s going on around you. You are sensitive, you can listen to the marketplace, to your customers, to your vendors, to yourself. And if you can listen, and hear, you can make effective and adventageous decisions. Interestingly, awareness is intrinsic in the practice of tea. So, the practice of tea aids in a successful practice of business.
Business is never ending, it is literally a practice, like meditation, or yoga or a martial art. It takes continual refinement, and as a practice, it requires mindfulness. Any study on mindfulness whether it be in meditation, drinking tea, yoga, martial arts, it’s helpful in achieving a better handle on how you approach business. I spent all of my life studying mindfulness practices, on the mat, on the cushion, in the martial arts dojo. Now, this business is just another manifestation of my mindfulness practice.
JHR: It seems like having tea is a time to slow down, connect and regroup. If someone wants to plan the perfect tea time, what are some important elements?
JJ: The important elements are having the freshest, best tea you can find. Having good quality hot water. And, having a moment to manage brewing the leaves, a mini-ritual to slow you down, stop you in the moment, and allow you to consciously take your next step.
JHR: What are some of the health and well-being elements of tea?
JJ: The scientifically proven health benefits of tea are that it is full of antioxidants, there are cancer fighting elements, and numerous vitamins and nutrients. Thousands of studies have been conducted on the benefits of tea. Additionally, a benefit of tea is that is it delicious, it pleases the palate, but also allows for a sense of setting a mood. It serves as a gentle awareness inducing uplifter. Tea brings people together, it serves as a natural social lubricant today just as much as it has when it was discovered several thousand years ago. It brings business, family and personal relations together, and today we really need togetherness. It creates ritual in our highly digitized, fast-paced, frenetic world. We are lacking ritual… the ritual that offers us to slow down, make us healthy, and connect us to the earth, and our humanness.
JHR: What is your current favorite and why?
JJ: Organic Masala Chai: I love this tea because the taste is very complex: spicy, great fragrance, nutty, sweet, aromatic, and earthy. Cooking the chai at my home or at Samovar, it fills the entire space with these overwhelming aromas. The caffeine is a natural and stimulating uplifter.
JHR: You started a podcast series called Passage to Peace linking tea to promoting universal peace. How did that come about and what has the reaction been?
JJ: It came about by looking at what our customers, and therefore the world needs. They need peace. This is part of our mission. So, I thought it would be interesting to connect the people involved in the tea business (i.e. carpenters of peace) to the world at large through a multi-media, educational visual medium. The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, which has motivated me to continue the series in an expanded new direction. We are launching a new video series.
JHR: What ignited your passion for tea?
JJ: My need for slowing down, and having time for myself and for my friends and family. And a remembrance of my childhood on the East Coast where I grew up with being surrounded by constant tea culture. I was always exposed to Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese and European influences.
JHR: Can you share five books that have either influenced you or that you just like to read with, well, a good cup of tea?
JJ: Shibumi: Trevanian; The Sun Also Rises: Ernest Hemingway; Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi; The Book of Five Rings: Miyamoto Musashi; Body and Mature Behavior: Moshe Feldenkrais and Carl Ginsburg
The Executive In Action: Peter F. Drucker
Note: Samovar Tea is nationally available for purchase at http://shop.samovarlife.com/.