Introducing Teatime: a new storytelling series that shares people's experiences with tea. Tea has an intimate and often nostalgic place in people's lives. Tea's reach is global & the ritual of tea varies from culture to culture. Through this storytelling series, we hope to create conversation about the complex history of tea, the role tea plays in people's lives + the differences across cultures.
We spoke with Michelle Cheng, founder of Ceremony
Ceremony is a modern tea house focused on the experience of tea drinking. The founder, Michelle, pays a lot of attention to sourcing teas. By working directly with single estate farms, Ceremony can ensure sustainable farming practices, fair wages for growers, and the highest quality tea.
Q: Share your mission!
Our mission has always been to bring value and appreciation to handcrafted teas. It is extremely labor intensive, and the yield is very small. We work directly with single estate farms and producers across Asia to ensure that we source ecologically sustainable products while stimulating the livelihood of our growers.
Q: Why single origin/direct trade?
There are two parts to this question. One is, we work directly with single estate farms and producers to ensure that we source ecologically sustainable products while stimulating the livelihood of our growers and their communities. We work with farmers to select small lots of leaves that can be traced directly to their source. Our method of sourcing merits us the ability of ensuring the exact location of our leaves, the conditions that our leaves are grown under, quality of those leaves, and the preservation of fair and equitable trade with our growers.
While tea plants can thrive in a broad range of soil types, different regions, and different climates can contribute to a tea's final character. A growing area is what ultimately lays the foundation for a tea's character and. Environmental factors such as: soil type, surrounding flora and fauna, elevation, and climate, will all make a huge contribution to the quality, taste, and aesthetic of the tea leaves. For example, high elevation teas will grow slower, creating more flavor and aromatic compounds without bitterness or astringency. The result is a tea that is smoother, more complex and more flavorful than their low-elevation counterparts.We source single origin teas so that we can enjoy that terroir's unique character.
Q: What is your relationship to tea?
Immigrants in this country leave behind a lot to come to a new country. I miss the families we left behind very much, and before we had technologies like today which allows us to FaceTime, zoom, or text someone across the world within seconds. When we immigrated here in the 90s, the way we coped with homesickness was by sharing a special pot of tea that we brought from China. My bond with tea goes beyond taste & smell. It's part of my childhood that I shared with my grandparents who are no longer here, it's part of a community I share with my farmers whom I visit annually, it's something I look forward to sharing with the rest of the world as we grow our company.
Q: What place does tea have in your family / history?
I grew up in Anhui China, which is best known for its prized green teas. We never purchased teas in retail stores, we've always visited farms each Spring to purchase fresh green teas. The most prized teas never make it to retail shelves, it's typically all reserved prior it's being produced, typically for government, or for family and friends (anyone who conducts business together are considered to be friends in the Chinese urban dictionary).
Q: How do you drink your tea?
Prior to having a baby, I had a daily tea ceremony ritual each morning. I would practice meditation after my first steep, and enjoy the rest of the tea throughout the day. Due to the quality and how our teas are produced, each tea can be re-steeped up to 8 - 10 times, since the caffeine in our tea is released slowly throughout each steep, the flavor gets bolder but caffeine gets weaker throughout each steep.