My Journey to Tea
By Mikael Zaurov
Ancient tea trade routes
Chinese green tea varieties
Hi tea lovers. I'm the new guy here at Adagio Teas. Not only will I be offering assistance through answering emails but I'll also be doing fun projects like writing these TeaMuse articles for you all to enjoy. First and foremost, I would like to introduce myself and what experiences led me here.
My family is from Tashkent, which was in the former Soviet Union and is now the capital of Uzbekistan. During my early years growing up there, I was exposed to a fusion of Asian and Middle Eastern cultures. This exposure really affected me in the sense of gaining openness toward experiencing different cultural practices. I especially gained a love for tea due to my early experience with Chinese tea. I've always wondered how Tashkent came to be such a cultural cosmopolitan city, so I did a little research.
The circumstances that allowed Tashkent to possess such a variety of cultural elements arose due to its close proximity to Samarkand, which was a major center of trade between China and the West. Samarkand was a place where Turkish, Sogdian, Chinese, and Persian merchants came together and traded, among other things, silk, medicine, ceramics, and tea. Tea originated in Yunnan, China and spread west through ancient tea routes, as illustrated in the image shown to the right. Samarkand was a major stop for traders who desired to buy and sell the most desirable goods available at the time. Due to these traders, Tashkent, lying quite close to Samarkand, was influenced directly with Asian cultural practices. This explains why I grew up in such a tea loving environment.
My years in Tashkent were very few. At six years old, I stepped onto U.S. soil. As I grew up American, the cultural influence from abroad still continued. My family would always end big dinners by enjoying good tea. This wasn't your standard Lipton tea bag. On the contrary I was raised to drink quality Chinese tea. Gunpowder green tea is my family's preferred choice. I knew there was something special about the experience of drinking tea, but my love for tea didn't fully bloom until I spent time abroad.
I spent a year studying in Asia to get out of the American bubble and see the world. The first six months were in India; there I found the chai too sweet for my taste. I never put milk or sugar in my tea, preferring the raw taste of the leaves, so the Indian tea culture did not suit me. I did have a really wonderful experience visiting a tea plantation in Kerala. The curvy green hills filled with tea plants were a beautiful sight. I have included a photo that I took so you can have an idea of what it was like. The tea that they produced was quite exquisite. Finally some tea without milk and sugar!
In China I really found my love for tea. As I sampled the various teas in Chinese tea shops, I was reminded of my childhood living in Tashkent drinking good tea, though of course the selection of teas in China were much more diverse. The varieties of tea of tea in China were all spectacular. I was fascinated with the whole experience of drinking good tea and sampling the spectacular varieties of green and oolong available there. I brought home huge bags of tea to share with family and friends, wanting everyone to try and know good quality tea.
Being offered a job with Adagio, I was extremely excited. Not only is this a company that offers quality tea, but it also does so with the intent of bringing good tea to a wider audience, which is so needed here in America. As I came home from China, I had a similar desire when I shared my love of tea with family and friends. I knew that America is a coffee-loving country with an occasional tea bag affair, but I was pessimistic about the possibility of Americans coming to love tea as I do. Now as I see how many subscribe to TeaMuse and participate in TeaChat, I'm overwhelmed with happiness. I was wrong. It seems like tea as a culture is growing in popularity here. I'm extremely excited to join this community and look forward to the many interesting discussions we will have.