What do you think of when you think of getting drunk?
You might think of Friday nights spent bar hopping, or a night in with friends gone off the rails. You might think of stumbling back home after one too many glasses of wine. In any case, you’d be thinking about inebriation.
Which is fine, once in a while, maybe even more often than we’d like! However, when we met Shunan Teng, founder and tea specialist from Tea Drunk, we found that she had different ideas on what it means to be drunk.
We came to learn from Tea Drunk that in Chinese culture, being drunk doesn’t have the same connotations. Being drunk can also mean that you are steeped in something you’re deeply passionate about. You could be drunk on a lover’s touch (think Drunk in Love by Beyonce), you could be drunk on the beauty of a gorgeous full moon. Or you could be drunk on the stories, histories and flavors of some of the finest teas in the world.
Tea Drunk is a tea company with a deep focus on historical, high-grade teas. In commissioning historical teas, Tea Drunk also sets out to preserve the 2000 year old tradition of tea in China – a tradition that is complex, interwoven with the ancient and modern Asian and global histories, and through it all, deeply nurtured by the interplay between humankind and nature.
Tea is indeed one of nature’s most fascinating plants. What makes tea so special is how sensitive it is, to the soil it grows in, the water, wind and heat that nourishes it, how the tea is cultivated by farmers, when the tea is harvested and how tea makers craft the tea. Even the way you, tea lover, handle and brew your tea creates differences in the final brew you love to savor.
Tea’s sensitivity to its environment is in part due to the wealth of organic compounds and enzymes present in the tea leaves. Every tea leaf, plucked from every cultivar known to us, is simply teeming with organic bioactives, its cells bursting with enriching, organic compounds.
These compounds lend your tea its colors, flavors, aromas and also its myriad health benefits. Here is where things get super interesting. After fresh tea leaves are plucked, expert tea farmers and artisans step in to tinker with the composition of these compounds through crafting techniques perfected over China’s centuries-long history of tea making.
Our team at Nepal Tea Collective drinks tea everyday, some of us going through pots and pots of tea. Our office pantry, both in New York and in Kathmandu, is stocked with an impressive collection of international teas, owing to our founders Nish and Pratik’s international tea exploration and their infectious passion for the art of tea.
For the Collective, finding special new teas to try is perhaps even slightly less exciting than meeting the tea artisans, teachers and veterans who craft them.
Shunan is one such teacher, a true tea specialist. Our cofounder Pratik connected with her at a tea fair, where Shunan took a liking to Nepal Tea Collective’s black teas. They kept in touch over email, and on learning that Shunan was about to make the famous Annapurna circuit trek in Nepal, Pratik connected her to the team here in Kathmandu.
We welcomed Shunan to our Tea Bar, a cozy tea nook in the beautiful Kathmandu Guest House, with a flight of our favorite teas: White Prakash (white tea), Ganesha Green (green tea), Shangri-La Oolong, and Kumari Gold (black tea).
In under an hour or so, Shunan gave us a fresh look at the teas we drink day in and day out. Sometimes, even if you look at something everyday, you don’t see parts of this thing because you don’t know that you should be looking for these parts. We had a similar experience (and several epiphanies) looking at tea leaves under Shunan’s bright and eloquent guidance.
Even though we handle tea leaves everyday, there were aspects of tea leaves that we hadn’t known were there before! Shunan helped us identify why certain colors were present in the tea leaves, why some leaves were more elastic than others, why some leaves were more even than others, balancing the influence of terroir, climate, farming and tea crafting in her teaching.
There is nothing more inspiring and refreshing for a tea lover – other than a great new brew – than getting a glimpse into the vast treasure of tea knowledge curated for us by a tea expert like Shunan. With Shunan, we learned what it means to know your teas deeply, immerse yourself in tea’s stories and histories, and taste the soil and climate of the leaves with every gentle slurp. We learned what it means to get Tea Drunk!