Wednesday, August 29, 2012

People in Tea: Jessica Evans

While we were in Austin over the weekend, I was able to sit down with Jessica Evans of Zhi Tea.  Zhi, owned by Jeffrey Lorien,  specializes in organic whole-leaf artisinal teas that they blend themselves.  They are fair trade certified.  They also specialize in educating their customers about the entire tea experience.  Jessaca brewed samples of several teas for us to try, including a rooibos-based blend called Sweet Desert Delight, which was the first Zhi custom blend.  The shop had a relaxing scent in the air, and the whole place was very serene. 

Q. What got you into the tea industry?

A.  I worked in the natural foods industry and I got to know the best local resources for everything from local beef to local tea.  I was impressed by Zhi Tea's reputation.  I liked the way they focused on community relations and were always ready to donate to non-profits.  When I was looking for a job, I decided I wanted to work for them.

(They also offer discounts on re-fills for their tins, to save on the carbon footprint impact of their packaging.)

Q.  What is your favorite tea?

A.  Actually, it is difficult to choose just one favorite.  There are so many great teas that there is one for every mood and one for every part of the day.  Today, I'm in the mood for tropical green.  It just matches a sunny day and helps me keep up my energy.

(The shop was offering all customers samples of iced Kenya Chai, again a rooibos-based blend.  They do have a full selection of black and green teas as well, including the cleverly named Austin Breakfast.)

Q. Do you have a favorite teapot or teacup?

A. I really like this one.

Q.  What do you want people to know about Zhi Tea?

A.  Zhi's Jeffery Lorien has made tea his passion.  He samples thousands of teas, and only picks the best.  He is like a curator of tea, and he has put together an exquisite collection. 

Also, we are featuring a new way to make tea that allows you to steep iced tea without heat and without it becoming overly astringent.

Q.  What do you want people to know about tea in general?

There are some things you can do to make tea, which is already super healthy, even healthier.  If you want to avoid adding sugar to tea, you can steep some stevia leaves right along with the tea.  You can also make caffieinated tea into decaf by steeping once, discarding the tea and steeping it again.  Using tea concentrate instead of water is also a great way to add extra flavor to recipes. 

Sometimes people say that the don't like tea, or that they only like coffee.  This is often because they have only sampled one or two varieties of tea.  There are blends for every taste, which is why we display our teas in containers people can open and experience.  I would encourage people to continue exploring tea and trying new teas.  Remember to stay curious and always have a sense of wonder.

Thanks Jessica!  Want to try out Zhi Tea for yourself?  Next weekend is their fifth anniversary, and they're having a ton of special events.  If you want to go to the cocktail party (Friday 9/7), you will need to RSVP on facebook:

They are also having a picnic on Sunday (9/9), where everyone is invited to bring their best tea-inspired potluck item for a chance to win a $100 gift certificate.  Check their web site for other related events, though for some of them, seating is limited. 

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