Visit Paul's website www.tomtelife.com to explore more about tea.
Where did your passion for tea begin?
I stopped drinking coffee over two years ago now. At the time, I was working over eighty hours a week in the corporate world. To survive, I was drinking a lot of coffee and soda to stay focused and I was getting unhealthy fast. I substituted coffee and sodas for tea after learning about the health impacts of insulin spikes from milk and sugar based drinks.
My real passion for tea began while traveling. In the last few years, I have been lucky enough to visit Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Hawaii, and all through the United States. I explored the tea being served at each stop along my travels. It struck me how different tea was overseas compared to back home. My fascination grew at the prospect of how much more this brew could be.
How did you come up with the idea for Tomte?
I have a friend in America, a software guy who swears by pu-erh tea as his daily tea of choice. On his strong recommendation, I tried it by purchasing it from retailers here in Australia. Each time I tried it I couldn’t stomach it! I have spent thousands of dollars purchasing different tea trying to find a good cup. It’s so hard to find what you want, when you don’t know what you don’t know.
I thought my friend was crazy. When I finally visited him, he took me to his local tea house to try some pu-erh tea. I was blown away. It was completely smooth and complex at the same time and didn’t require artificial flavour or milk. The staff refilled my teacup sized teapot over 5 times with each infusion tasting just as fresh as the first. We sat there for over 2 hours, pausing and connecting over tea. I still remember that conversation.
But I was perplexed, I couldn’t understand why for the same price, pu-erh tea back home was undrinkable. The more I travelled, the more I had a similar experience. I was finding teas that were either nowhere to be found back home or would be a much higher grade (quality) overseas. I could walk down a street pretty much anywhere and be served a beautiful cup of tea. But in Sydney, I struggle to find a barista as passionate about their tea as they are their coffee.
I don’t want others who want to learn more about tea to have to go through what I went through. So I founded Tomte to bring those amazing teas and experiences from around the globe and make them easily available here in Australia.
What exotic places have you been to source your tea?
Many, but my favorite place was definitely Hawaii! Hawaii is not known as a traditional place for growing tea, but after a decade of experimentation they are now producing some of the best artisanal teas in the world. My favourite Hawaiian tea right now is Mike Riley's Oolong (which is grown next to an active volcano!), he hand-rolls these tea leaves 25 times over a 2 day period to create an amazing Oolong that can be re-infused from the one teaspoon serving of leaves over 5 times!
What are the benefits of drinking tea?
There are too many to list - tea has much less caffeine than coffee and loads of antioxidants.
Why tea over coffee?
After switching from coffee to tea, I found that tea gave me a slow consistent amount of energy release without the crash. And there's a real ritual to pausing and sipping tea.
What’s the best way to enjoy a cup of tea?
Practice pausing. The ability to be fully present and mindful when brewing tea actually makes it taste better. Try this: take three full deep breaths right now and notice how you feel.
If you have milk with black tea should you put into the cup before or after?
I personally don't have milk in my tea anymore, as I have found so many amazing teas that require nothing more than fresh water and leaves. But if you do, you should put your milk in as soon as possible after your tea is fully brewed, rather than waiting to the moment before you start drinking it. It results in your tea taking much longer to go cold. Thanks Nathan Myhrvold for proving this!
Why are tea leaves better than tea bags?
Tea bags are built for fast flavour and convenience, while whole leaf tea is crafted to be bring out the full nuances of flavour and can be enjoyed over a number of steepings.
Tea is best brewed allowing the leaves to flow freely within the brewing vessel. Tea leaves expand while brewing, and being stuck in a bag only allows them to expand by so much.
How do you judge a good tea? Flavour, colour etc
There are five main types of tea: white, green, oolong, black and pu-erh. But all of these teas actually come from the same plant, the tree Camellia sinensis; the difference is in the way they are crafted.
There are a number of things I look for in a good tea. Consistency of the size and form of the leaves, fullness of flavor without bitterness or astringency, ease of brewing - critical I believe, and how many steepings or re-infusions I can get from the one serving of leaf. High quality whole leaf tea will give you 3-5 infusions, allowing you to enjoy the same pot of tea over a number of hours.
Favourite place to enjoy a cuppa?
Personalised news feeds and conversation are all good for creating the building blocks of ideas and creativity, but they are worthless without dedicated time for synthesis – the binding together of your insights. I use tea to deliberately carve out time for synthesis. Try forming your own ritual around pausing and sipping tea. Stop what you are doing, find an empty space, and allow the ritual of preparing, serving, and drinking tea to let you slow down, to let your senses take over, and to be in the moment. My best thinking and creativity always come when drinking tea.
My favourite tea right now is our Hawaiian-Grown Oolong Tea. It comes from Mike Riley's tea farm which is nestled next to an active volcano! He hand-rolls these tea leaves 25 times over a 2 day period to create an amazing Oolong that can be re-infused from the one teaspoon serving of leaves over 5 times! It's incredible seeing these leaves unfurl into full leaves as they are steeped.
Lastly, why does tea bring people together?
I'm wildly passionate about using the best tea as a vehicle for positive human connection. In a world full of distractions, tea provides the perfect ritual to pause and truly connect with another real human being, in person.
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