This is not something I wrote but the translation in English (thanks to @jackie and @lahikmajoe for proof reading it) of a post made by Guillaume Leleu, the owner and founder of the French tea company Theodor (www.theodor.fr), on Monblogdethé (www.monblogdethe.fr).
The original post was in French and in it, Guillaume Leleu speaks about flavoured teas.
But I will let the stage to the maestro himself.
This is about tea. Tea? Yes, so much talk about what one claims to know. Success? Reputation? Respect? Dare I believe that all of this is only pure jealousy?
Why do I find it hard to believe that this is a subject where people speak frankly, objectively and without ulterior motives, or nasty intentions? Because if I were wrong, at least, we would open up a debate. Public or not, it would allow the exchange of ideas.
But this cannot happen, as long as the narrow-mindedness of some, the meanness of their comments, their lack of arguments are not publicly exposed.
To have the courage to voice their opinions, and to speak out against those of others, are acts of chivalry, something of another time, nothing more than a dream today.
So be it, but let’s use the same weapons of treachery and hypocrisy that our friends use. Let’s say things out loud without naming anyone, the evil of what is left unsaid.
I have rarely seen as many articles, posts, memos as I do today, lamenting all the wrongs of flavoured tea, how it infringes on on the “holy drink”, the only tea worth our attention; unflavoured and single origin tea. A term used by pseudo experts, not marketing driven at all, of course, not what were you thinking?
So, flavoured teas are just a way of “marketing teas of unbearable taste… that stink… without body .. of mediocre quality… with “cheap” flavours”… only worth “cooking with”… “… to make things easy and profitable for tea merchants.”… “pulling the wool over your eyes” … and one should never “stoop so low as to consume such improper drinks.” As to those “poor fools” who consume, purchase and enjoy them I shall not repeat the comments made – one more glorious than the other – about these likely uneducated, uncultured, and ill-mannered people.
These opinions would not be problematic if they were well, just simply opinions, points of views open to contradictory response, leaving room for doubt, or recognizing difference. Rather they are verdicts in a rigged trial where guilt is proclaimed before the proceedings even begin.
Instead the remarks reek of intolerance beyond what education and good breeding allow. They are abusive, petty, mean, proof of a total lack of courage, and audacity. It is my duty not to remain silent, and I must restore a little bit of respect to this much maligned flavoured tea.
Of course this problem isn’t new. Wanting to create a scale of values in this righteous world, to establish a noble lineage – more noble than others, to boast about privilege has always been the joy of the pseudo intellectual bourgeoisie. Better value yourself, rather than wait for others to do so, especially if you know how little you are worth. It is easier to pretend to be, than simply be.
So is flavoured tea a “second league” tea?
You will have understood that according to some: YES, or even a third or fourth league one.
In my humble opinion as small creator of such blends, but also as a mere consumer: NO and far from it.
Flavoured tea is one of the many facets of tea and always has been. It is one aspect, alongside the gardens, varieties, and methods that make up tea to the most noble degree. It is an integral part of the drink and merits the same recognition as a Dan Cong, a Darjeeling or an Oolong from Taiwan.
Lu Yu would turn in his grave if he knew of this stance that perpetually questions the value of flavoured tea. Because it goes against the whole philosophy behind tea. Tea is the drink of hospitality, of welcome, it is the drink of the poor and also the rich. It is the drink with more than a thousand and one faces.
Tea is the ambassador of tolerance, of respect, of cultural encounters and exchange.
There isn’t, and there never was a degree of nobility in a cup of tea. It is a drink, and the harmful Western way of assigning degrees of value to man should not be applied to tea.
Personally, I drink more pure tea than flavoured teas because I enjoy the widely variable characteristics of the former. Does this give me the right to judge or shun my neighbour? Does this give me authority to pretentiously dismiss those who do not share my tastes?
After all, this is nothing but a matter of taste, not of finesse, elegance, nor even the spirit of taste but one of egotistical self appreciation, of loving what one loves.
Flavoured tea, not only the teas I create are nothing but nature meeting nature, one plant “Camelia” mixed with other plants, be they fruits, flowers, spices. How is this less noble than a single origin tea? I don’t know.
Do these critics ever cook? Do they only eat their tomatoes plain, without vinegar, salt, pepper? Don’t they cook their meat or their fish? Do they eat everything raw?
Is creating a flavoured tea a diabolical act where you alter what is most noble? Does this make me guilty of sorcery? Am I committing the unforgivable in wanting to create a cookie flavored tea – to the point where comments, one more flattering than the next such as “”marketing tea… that stinks… without body…” are applied?
IF this is the case, I am lucky that I was not the first. Poor Chinese, Arabs, Indians and other devils who showed me the way! Oh no, I forgot, a Chinese flavoured tea is as noble as a tea flavoured in France yes, yes I assure you. Probably the lineage
When Hennessy requests my expertise to match its “fine de Cognac” with tea, to create a new drink, is that wrong?
But my God, Chanel dyes the cotton and the linen it uses to make its most beautiful dresses! Hermès mixes leather and zamak, that it uses as clasps for its handbags. I ask myself what is the world is coming to?
I had hoped that 2012 would allow us to focus on the most important values in life: sharing, respect, self-sacrifice. It is a waste and I am truly saddened when I see myself having to write this letter to respond to poor comments.
What reassures me, however, is that in our modern world, most tea consumers don’t listen to such rhetoric. They don’t impose their tastes on others by presenting them as the only way, thus claiming the monopoly on wisdom. . How many tea lovers have I known who discovered the flavour of Puer thanks to flavoured teas? And let’s dare ask, would we find pure tea today if flavoured tea wasn’t sold? I can assure you the answer is NO.
My morning tea is a Souchon, my daily tea is quite often an Oolong, or a wonderful Japanese green tea. I must confess that I like the multiple and complex notes of a plain tea… but those aside, I am always eager to taste the elegance, the surprise and the pleasure of the floral, spicy or greedy notes of a cup of flavoured tea. There is one thing that is true: I do not prepare it following the Gong Fu Cha and I suggest those who prepare a flavoured tea in such a manner, should refer back to their pseudo expert – as for their information – this ceremony is reserved for Wulongs.
To conclude, these are the same people who, with their double speak of flattery and hypocrisy, call the company I have the honour to have founded “the best company” for flavoured tea, “renowned for its blends.” This permits them to infer politely that at Theodor you’ll only find third rate teas.”
So, Ladies and Gentlemen, you the self-righteous of the tea world, worldly in another world, it is with pride and unconcealed joy I inform you that I serve my creations and blends to thousands of tea lovers every day.
Understand that our blends are highly respected and accompany the meals in the best restaurants of the world, as well as those in simple establishments. It is with dignity that I strive to maintain the glorious title you have bestowed upon us. And if you permit me to give you one last piece of advice – because unlike you the company I represent does not practice discrimination: You will also find some of the finest selections of teas that the world and nature offer us, through the gardens, the plantations and the people. It is up to you to find merit in this aspect of tea. However, in order to do so you will need to become a little more open-minded.
Long live the mixed, the melting pot, and diversity. Here’s to a long and peaceful life to pure tea, flavoured tea, smoked tea, and all the other wonderful plants, flowers, and fruit infusions that bring sensory pleasure and smiles into our cups and glasses every day.
I live on the other side of the pond but you had probably found this out thanks to my “strange” English.
I am a tea addict and I studied several (and I do mean several) years ago marketing, hence this blog, which will try to combine both worlds.