My friends always ask me what I like more: coffee or tea? In different stages of my life, I would answer differently. As a child growing up in Russia, I preferred tea, when I went to university I preferred coffee… But now I want to say that I love both equally. And this balance occurred quite accidentally.
Tea has been a part of my life for a long time. During my childhood in Russia, every morning started with cup of tea.
I would also prefer to drink tea at lunch and then in the evening when everyone got together during for our family tea-party to share our news of the day. I think I drank more tea than water. In fact, I don’t think I considered tea as a “tea”. It was so usual for us to go to kitchen, take a tea bag, put it in the cup and add hot water. Easy. Back then, I did not pause to consider the quality of the tea or whether I made it right. All that mattered was having the drink at hand, out of habit.
More than 95% of the tea consumed in Russia is bought from tea auctions at the place of cultivation (in Sri Lanka, India, China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Kenya), and imported as industrial raw material. 95% of the population in Russia drink tea every day and 70% of adults drink 2–5 cups per day. This is a huge number! But the problem is that we don’t give much thought to what we drink… It can’t be named “tea”.
This is why I cannot say that I enjoyed tea at the time.
It was just a matter of time before I discovered coffee when I joined college. A completely different and delicious brew that I had never tried before. I fell in love with coffee. From that day, I tried to drink as much coffee as I could. Since the start, coffee triumphed against tea in keeping me company through the long preparation for exams and the many sleepless nights. Coffee and I were bonded for life, so it seemed.
Just when it seemed that I was quite sorted in my love for brew, I was surprised to find it tested when I visited Bosnia and Herzegovina. Upon arriving in Sarajevo, I discovered that people don’t drink tea as much as we do in Russia. They do not keep tea pots handy and the only tea I found in my visits to the supermarket was green herbal tea in tea bags.
Since I was already pretty much in love with coffee, I drank just that through my first month there — in the morning, at lunch, for coffee-breaks, and even in the evening. Although refreshing, I still missed tea. One day my friend showed me a café in Sarajevo that is known to sell good tea. That was my introduction to the Franz & Sofie café. Right after my first visit, I became a fan of the place and I visited almost every day to drink my favourite Earl Grey Black Tea. The café offered a nice atmosphere and good company. It was here that I tried various kinds of tea and started to understand the difference in quality. And I liked it. I realized how much I missed tea and how I did not need to give up loving coffee. I just enjoy my cup of tea… nothing more.
After two years, life took me from Bosnia and Herzegovina to India and I joined a tea company… this changed my attitude to tea forever. With my new-found access to different types of high quality tea, I have found a new passion. First I smell leaves, then try to brew it correctly. I now take tea without any additions to savour all the notes that our tea expert mentions. What I can say? Sometimes I succeed. I have time at hand now to better understand tea and its many twists and twirls.
This will help me with my mission here.
Back home, the tea trends are seeing a change as well. More and more people are looking for premium teas to savour through the day. Black tea is the most popular variety on the market, with 86% of people still taking their tea this way. While coffee is also starting to gain ground, the first half of 2015 saw a total import of 68,076 tonnes of tea costing up to $256.7 million. The numbers for tea has risen considerably since.
The tea-drinking tradition is clearly going to stay and while my inner debate over tea or coffee has abated, I hope my fellow Russians get a taste of premium teas and can savour their samovars.
I can now see difference between what I drank in Russia and what I drink here in India. I want to show this difference to my family and friends back home so that they understand the value of tea. It motivates me to do my job well.
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