I caught up with Tavalon’s Chris Cason to discover one of the personalities the drives the tea industry. Chris is Co-Founder and Tea Sommelier for Tavalon Teas. He has written books and conducted research on teas and tea blends.
1. I read your interview on Behind the Burner in which you talked about your mission to “revitalize the image of tea.” What have been some of your proudest moments in this mission? I think when I did my first book signing for “A Guide to Tea” was one of my proudest moments – folks were so excited to give up their old notions of tea and learn about it in a new way… very inspiring. Plus, it is every writer’s dream to have a book signing (at least until you’ve done 10 of them).
2. Tavalon’s stated goal includes creating the best tea blends and catering those to the American palate. The result has been innovative blends like NYC Breakfast and moTEAjo. What can you tell us about the work of shaping these blends from inspiration to popular choice? The (now over 70) blends underwent almost 200 focus groups of all types of Americans. Only those which scored an 8.5/10 or higher made it onto the roster. That means that these teas are specifically sculpted for the American palate, allowing us to not just transport an existing tea culture, but to create a new American tea culture.
3. You and Tavalon have established a solid presence in the New York tea community. What changes are you seeing in the NYC tea scene? Well, in the past, coffee has dominated most of the US, but NYC specifically was significantly coffee-centric. I see at least two reasons for this: first, there just wasn’t that much good tea available, and second, those that were available weren’t really exciting and accessible to most New Yorkers. This is where Tavalon excelled in both aspects. We’ve seen quite a few companies pop up with similar ideas, and I’m quite flattered by that!
4. What’s next for you and Tavalon? We are looking to expand our retail presence, opening up shops in many metropolitan cities in the US and abroad. As for myself, I’m currently working on a new book tackling Tea Cocktails and always coming up with new tea blends, recipes and fun ideas.
5. What is your favorite word? myriad
6. What is your least favorite word? interesting (as in, “Chris, this tea is… interesting”)
7. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? when someone really puts their passion into their art. Whether it is a musician, a chef, a writer, a farmer, or any other artisan, the difference is clear and the result is beautiful.
8. What turns you off? a lack of a sense of humor.
9. What sound or noise do you love? I love to talk about tea, whether it is for one person or a full audience. But I have to say, applause is always a favorite sound to accompany the latter.
10. What sound or noise do you hate? Throughout the day, I set alarms for myself to make sure that I remember the important things that need to get done. However, as there are myriad things to do in the life of the Tea Sommelier, that pesky alarm always seems to go off too soon!
11. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? “Well done.”
For more on Chris Cason and Tavalon, see The Voice of Tea, a tea sommelier’s blog.