The Story of the Man Behind Teazaar
Hello everyone and welcome to Teazaar. My name is Renco Verhoef and today I’d like to tell you the Teazaar story. Our story is about changing the world of tea by supporting authentic tea farmers who grow their tea naturally and in a biodiverse environment. By supporting those tea farmers who have stayed true to their values, we are also supporting you, the tea drinker.
This is because we are convinced that healthy tea can only come from a biodiverse environment. The day that all tea areas are fully natural and undisturbed is the day that all tea drinkers can sip healthy tea, and is the day that we’ve managed to create a meaningful world of tea. From that moment onwards, we can enjoy the best and most natural tea while also taking care of our environment.
Our story started ten years ago, and we are only halfway now. We are convinced that we will complete our mission to build a Teatopian place, a tea world with endless unique and handpicked tea, handmade porcelain, biodegradable packaging and carbon footprint-free shipping. All this can be attained in the next decade.
It all started in 2008. After I graduated as a sociologist in Amsterdam, I ended up in Xiamen. One day I visited a Xiamen tea house, a concept I was not aware of until that moment. The tea was served in a tiny porcelain cup. I never had such a small cup before. My hand was basically unable to hold it. It was a cup of Chinese Tieguanyin tea. The experience was incomparable to all the other teas I tasted before in life. The flowery, sweet fragrance, the different flavors and the sweet aftertaste…simply amazing! From that moment on my life changed completely.
I am from Holland and people in Holland drink tea too. In fact, a lot of Dutch people have tea with breakfast and in the afternoon after coming home from work or school. The tea is always prepared with a small bag and steeped in hot water for a while. These teas carry names like English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Ceylon and even Mango tea. Almost all these teas are low-quality. They are mainly from monoculture tea farms and not processed by experienced tea masters. I always thought that this was proper tea, but from the moment I visited the tea house in Xiamen, from that cup of Tieguanyin onward, I understood that all my life I was drinking something that could hardly be considered tea.
Later on I also realized and started to understand that the way we grow tea has harmful effects on the environment. I made it my life’s mission to change the world of tea.
Good Tea for Everyone
This is where my mission started. No one should be tortured with low-quality tea and everyone should be drinking that which gives them a good feeling. In all the western countries I visited, I was unable to find a merchant selling high-quality natural leaf tea. As a result, I had no other option than to start selling tea from China myself. This marked the start of Teazaar, one of the first companies selling leaf tea directly from the source to tea drinkers all over the world. This may sound like an easy project, but it turned out to be a rather complicated one.
What is good tea?
It’s very difficult to know what good tea is. There are thousands of varieties and countless grades (and even all these standards don’t always resonate with what you find in the field). The only thing you can do is visit all tea farms one by one to confirm that the tea is indeed good. But even when we visited them, we couldn’t 100% confirm that the tea was theirs.
Often tea is bought from a different area than what is written on the package (just because there is a profit margin issue). A business person will take the opportunity to grab a profit margin. This is the first reason why it is so difficult to make good tea available for everyone.
Also, it is almost impossible to find good tea! I have been disappointed so many times. Tea is something that most farmers and merchants simply don’t care about. For them it is just a way to earn money. I know that if you don’t really care, it is almost impossible to offer something good. Think of a lazy tea master. How will he find the time to master every single aspect of processing tea? If he cares, he will find that time. That beautiful process of growing and processing high-quality tea cannot be done by machines or robots. The true tea master knows what to do.
Passionate people or small tea farms don’t have brand names, fancy websites and advertisements. Some even think that we are just not interested in purchasing their tea, because they have small tea farms. More importantly, they do not see the need to sell their tea. It is just not their aim. Their only aim is to create something natural and beautiful. That is why we now know that if something is easy to find, it is often not very good. It needs to be difficult to find and difficult to make. That is when it becomes pure and special. However, a business market doesn’t work like this. Companies need convenience, uniformity, big quantities and low prices.
Teazaar will keep focusing on finding purely grown teas. Another reason to do so is the environmental impact. If we don’t do something soon, the world we live in can become a world of natural disasters: Typhoons, relentless rainfall, draughts and more. If we don’t act, our access to healthy water and soils could become a luxury.
However, there is something we can do. And there is something we should do.
Natural Enviroment, Healthy Tea
Through the years we realized that there is a big difference between chemical tea and natural tea. Tea produced with chemicals has a negative effect on the local environment, while natural tea has a positive effect on the environment. The secret is biodiversity. When a piece of land is biodiverse, an ecosystem will be resilient. In other words, the area can take care of itself. A minor pest or disease is like someone with a healthy immune system having a cold. These small issues make the ecosystem and the human body stronger as they continuously adjust to the always changing circumstances.
What we’ve seen in the tea world is depleted soils, polluted water and even influence on the quality of air. From my experience I can say that most of the tea areas have this problem. We are convinced that when an area is not healthy, the tea cannot be healthy. By purchasing chemical tea we are digging our own grave (even before we drink it). Despite all the stories about how healthy tea is, there is usually something missing: The tea should come from a natural environment. There is absolutely no need to use any chemicals. The only difference is the yield. This is why Teazaar always focuses on a natural environment, a biodiverse tea farm.
When the air quality, the water quality and the soil are all in great condition, they benefit us. We are part of nature, it is important that our surrounding is natural. Once this is achieved, we can enjoy all the wonderful teas from biodiverse farms. If we want to provide tea drinkers all over the world with pure tea, we need to support and encourage tea farmers to grow tea in a natural way. It is not very difficult to achieve this. All we need to do is buy their teas. Other tea farmers will then change their approach.
A tea farmer
Question: If you could choose, would you prefer to drink a cup of tea made with chemicals or a cup of tea from a natural, biodiverse tea farm?
Indeed, everybody will choose the natural tea. But most people actually drink the chemical one. The tea grower usually gets the blame for this and is then required to get more certificates, change their approach and inspect their labour circumstances. This problem is not their fault. Most tea farmers would like to grow the best and most natural tea for tea drinkers, but they can’t sell it. This is because they never sell directly to a tea lover. A tea lover never buys directly from a tea farmer or tea master. They buy through a company, and the company tries to keep their profit margins high. This is achieved by low prices for tea farmers and high prices for tea drinkers.
When they push the tea farmer to produce uniform quantities at a lower price, they force them to grow tea faster, to move the tea farm to a more convenient place, to hire cheaper tea pickers and to focus on quantity. The obvious effect is not a good one, but it is skillfully covered by marketing: Ads and pictures of a happy tea picker at a ‘natural’ tea farm.
Here, at Teazaar, we are approaching things quite differently. We want everyone to benefit, not just the seller, but also the tea drinker and, perhaps more importantly, the environment.
A Sustainable Tea World
Once we’ve achieved our first step, once everyone in the world has access to natural tea, once most of the tea areas become biodiverse hotspots, then it’s time for Teazaar to take the next step in creating a completely natural world. In this sustainable tea world packaging will become biodegradable and tea drinkers will go by bike to a tea shop nearby. They don’t buy packed tea, but instead bring their own canister. The tea shop only provides the loose leaf tea. In this sustainable tea world, all shipping will be done by sailboats or electricity-powered boats, no need to burn (too much) gasoline anymore. All teas will be harvested during one or two seasons, and shipments only need to take place once or twice per year.
Question: How does a perfect tea world look like in your opinion?
Yes, we all want to live in a natural world. We all would like to know where our tea comes from. We think that convenience matters most, but it doesn’t. A meaningful cup of tea, from a biodiverse mountain tea farm, processed by an experienced and passionate tea master. That is what matters! A cup of tea which makes you feel great and lets you experience all the beauty nature has to offer. A cup of tea you share with your friends, which you make in wonderful tea ware made by porcelain artists. By living this wonderful tea life, we don’t harm the environment in any way. In fact, we just support it.
This is Teazaar. This is our perfect world. This is our Teatopia.