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High Tea @ MOV: A chat with "The Tea Guy"

High Tea at Museum of VancouverBy Tyaka Graves, High Tea @ MOV organizer

Lucky guests joining us for the High Tea @ MOV will be delighted to hear our guest speaker Brendan Waye provide insights on the traditions and rituals of high tea culture over time.

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to interview Brendan, better known as the ‘The Tea Guy’, he is an Accredited Tea Sommelier (TAC), Certified Tea Specialist (STI), and Happy Tea Sipper. In other words, Brendan is a local tea connoisseur and will leave you with a whole new appreciation for tea.

To start, tell me a bit about The Tea Guy, and what you do?

Theteaguy.com was registered as a domain name in 2002 after I had opened a series of teahouse’s called Steeps Tea in Alberta and BC. People called me “the tea guy” so I thought I would make it official by setting up a website dedicated to disseminating correct and accurate information on the tea business and  all the aspects of drinking loose leaf tea.

What inspired you to become an accredited tea sommelier (TAC)?

It started with my love of the leaf and then progressed into a desire to get as educated I could on all aspects of the tea industry. I have always been an information sponge and the more knowledge about tea  I acquire, the more I realize how little I actually know. Learning about tea is not a destination one arrives at, but a life long journey of exploration and tasting.

How and where do you source the teas that you distribute?

I work with blenders and importers who have been in the business a very long time. A few teas I get directly from the source when I have the connection, but most I get from a select few blenders and producers who have quality, organic, and fair trade principal as the central thrust of their own tea procurement. I create the recipe, make it in a small sample batch, and then outsource the concoction to a large blender who can make it in large volume for me.

Describe the best cup of tea you have ever had, and what made it so amazing?

There are too many great cups of tea to narrow it down into one type. Recently though, I acquired a rare Phoenix Mountain Oolong from Guangdong province in China. It was picked from a single trunk rare 100-year-old tea tree. The pickers must climb 30 feet up these ladders to harvest the fresh new leaves off the top canopy of the tea tree. The long slender leaves then go through a very elaborate series of hand twisting, drying, and fermenting to create an unbelievable cup of tea. It is unlike anything that I have ever had from an oolong tea.

What is your number one tip for making the perfect cup of tea?

There is no one great tip really except don’t buy it from a grocery store, find a boutique tea shop instead. When making the tea, you have to take into account at least three variables to get the perfect cup of tea. They are:

  1. Fresh boiled water at the right temperature
  2. Fresh tea leaves that are not from a supermarket
  3. Correct steep time of the leaves

If you can nail down these three variables for each type of tea, then you will be blown away by how great tea can taste.

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