// Life in the tea world and day-to-day with Heather Torrey. //
We've gotten to know Heather Torrey for the last few years now as we've worked closely with the Rishi Tea crew on events around the country. Working with so many different beverages, and the resurgence of quality drinks across the country makes it difficult to keep up. And, that's our job! Heather has always been a great source for us with tea, and Rishi has such a passion for their craft that they have been a reliable source to keep us in the know with tea as you'll see in this fun chat with Heather as we talk sourcing experiences to family life.
~ Jason with The LAB team
Photo provided by Heather Torrey.
The LAB: What is your weirdest personal pairing with tea that you've discovered?
Heather: Tea + cheese is rather strange to me. Last year we were approached by a Wisconsin creamery to collaborate on a tea infused cheese. I was a bit scared of what would come out of it, but they managed to produce an amazing Blueberry Rooibos Cheddar. The curds were infused with the botanicals, the wheel was brined in it, and then the final product got a Blueberry Rooibos rubbing. Sounds crazy, but it was delicious.
Photo of cocoa mint provided by Heather Torrey.
The LAB: What is your favorite tea right now from Rishi, and your favorite winter drink outside a cup of tea?
Heather: Cocoa Mint – it’s one of our limited offering seasonal blends. When it comes around every winter, I buy a few pounds so that I can stretch it out as long as possible. I brew it extra strong, then add a bit of almond milk. And, if I’m feeling decadent I pair it with an oatmeal walnut chocolate chip cookie. There is something about the heat of the tea and the chocolate chips that explodes the mint flavor.
My winter drink? I think it would be fair to say it’s my any day of the year drink. I’m a total sucker for red wine. I lived in France for years so I picked up appreciation for wine at any time of day. If I was a lottery winner, I’d be drinking Pinot Noir from Burgundy. Gevrey-Chambertin and Morey-Saint-Denis are magic words to me. Since money doesn’t grow on trees, I tend to pick up really robust blends.
Photo from Pexels.com.
The LAB: What are you most looking forward to in the new year with the family?
Heather: In June we are taking a family trip to Hawaii to celebrate my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. How cool is that? Sure Hawaii will be awesomely tropical, but to be married for 50 years? Not many people claim that milestone. There will be 19 of us – my parents, my siblings, their spouses and all the grandkids. When we were little we HAD to vacation together in the woody station wagon, but now that we are adults, we CHOOSE to vacation together. I think that speaks volumes. I’m most looking forward to snorkeling, paddle boarding, watching the kids surf and getting in some good history time at Pearl Harbor.
The LAB: That'll be a good time, Heather. My wife spent a lot of her years growing up in Hawaii. It's probably her best memories of childhood, and the stories are so foreign to me. 50 years? That is amazing. Congrats to your parents!
Photo of Guatemala provided by Rishi Tea.
The LAB: Can you share an exciting sourcing trip and adventure from a fellow teammate with us?
Heather: Rishi has taken a direct, hands-on approach to sourcing organic herbs in Guatemala for over 8 years. We began by sourcing organic cardamom from remote growing areas situated high in the lush mountain jungles of north-central Guatemala. This highly fragrant cardamom is prized for adding exotic top notes to our Masala Chai tea blends. Cardamom is a tricky crop. It grows in near-wild conditions throughout the Guatemala rainforest. Farmers hike for miles along winding paths to the growing areas. They collect the cardamom pods and haul them to a co-operative processing factory in large, heavy sacks. The cardamom growing season lasts only about five months and ends in late autumn, just after the Day of the Dead festival.
In recent years, we have collaborated with our farming partners in Guatemala to introduce new organic herb crops used for our botanical blends. We have begun growing organic turmeric root, organic hibiscus flowers, and even a local type of bright and zesty citrus known as Lima limone. The introduction of these crops has made a significant impact in the livelihoods of the farming families living in the mountains. These herbs can be farmed and harvested at different times during the year, so not every farmer is limited to just a cardamom or coffee harvest. The story is even sweeter knowing that the purity and aromatic quality of the herbs growing in such a lush environment is above and beyond what we expected when we originally set out to develop new crops. That’s what truly hands-on, direct trade sourcing looks like.
The LAB: Beautiful story. I love hearing about those connections.
GIF from Giphy. We apologize for the sachet bag, but this was too good to pass on.
The LAB: What is the number one thing pertaining to tea that you always have trouble remembering?
Heather: I have trouble remembering brew time and temperatures. Tea is very sensitive – boiling water on an oolong or green tea can create a very unpleasant experience. And, since we have SO many types of teas, I feel like I always have to double check the packaging to make sure I don’t over steep my cup. There are a lot of tea people who can just “feel” when the cup is ready too, but I shamelessly admit that I always have to set the timer. Forever a Type-A who needs to perfect her Gongfu Cha.
The LAB: Ha ha, I hear you on that. I have been around roasting in coffee for over a decade, and still to this day have a tough time explaining any roasting details to people on the fly. For some reason my experience around it goes in one ear and out the other.
Photos provided by Heather Torrey.
The LAB: More fun in your opinion watching the Super Bowl, The Emmys, streaming a show series, or going to the movies?
Heather: Going to the movies, for sure. It is 2+ hours of devoted viewership without any possible interruptions. You HAVE to turn off your phone and just be present in the moment. There is no possibility of multi-tasking – no dinner can be cooked while you sit in a theatre. The biggest diversion is that huge bucket of popcorn that MUST be well doused with warm, heart-clogging, butter.
The LAB: Oh wow, I can relate to that. Simply put, family life with kids.
If you could pick a country to travel to for work which would it be and why?
Heather: I am fluent in French, which doesn’t come in too handy for tea sourcing, but I could put my language to use in Vietnam, where we source our cinnamon. I’ve never travelled in Asia, but it’s definitely on my list. I’m fascinated by the culture and landscape. Since I would have flown SO far from the U.S., it would be worth my company time to pop over to Thailand too – just to check in on our farms in the Doi Mae Salong region. They happen to produce a special type of oolong tea for us called Ruby Oolong – it’s my go-to cup every morning. And, then I’d take some vacation time in the region ☺. (Heather's own emoji insert)
The LAB: Heather, thanks again for your time, and certainly some fun additions in here I didn't know about you and Rishi. A very happy 2017 to you and your family. Looking forward to working with you again here soon. Cheers ~ Jason