It began in a roundabout way, while studying in Ireland and drinking Irish Breakfast tea. You might be asking yourself, “what started?” If so, the answer is, “my introduction to tea!” I discovered my love for tea during many afternoon tea times throughout Ireland in 2012. After fostering my love of tea, I quickly became a tea snob…err, I mean, tea connoisseur. Within a couple of years, I was researching tasting and traveling to experience teas across all parts of the United States.
A very important conversation I had was with a lady named Toni. Toni owns a tea shop in Boise, Idaho, where she sells her own tisanes and serves a mean falafel lunch (along with other café items). While browsing Toni’s tea selection, we struck up a conversation about tea and how terrible store-bought teas are. She shared with me the name of the guy who she gets her tea from, and told me a little about him. His name is David Lee Hoffman, and he may be the reason America has any good, high-quality Chinese teas. To make an incredibly long story short, he was the first to go to Chinese farms and work out deals with farmers to make the best tea without using growth additives. He began paying them very well for good, high-quality tea and brought it back to America. This conversation with Toni also introduced me to a new dimension of tea, yerba mate.
Toni makes a tisane called “matejuana,” which is a mate-kavan blend that provides quite the energy boost while also being pretty tasty! I bought some tea from her and went my way. I continued to pursue this world of tea by learning as much as I could from David Lee Hoffman.
Along with tea, I was an avid outdoor extremist; traveling, backpacking, camping, rock climbing, risking my life and doing pretty much anything stupid that you could do outdoors (hint, it’s a lot). One day, my climbing partner and I were watching an incredible documentary called 180 Degrees South, about a man who wants to go to the Patagonia ranges (in other words, south) in order to climb them. When he gets there, he runs into the founders of both The Northface and Patagonia, and they help him climb. The most interesting part of the whole movie was the interviews with both founders. They did interview after interview, talking about a lot of different things, and every single time they were on screen (and not climbing), they had this really strange earthy-looking cup with a metal straw hanging out of it, and some green leaves inside. This caught my attention immediately. Luckily, my friend knew what they were drinking, which was mate out of a mate gourd with a bombilla. He told me a little about it and then showed me a gourd. Not a mate gourd, but just a regular gourd. I was broke as a bum at this time, to the point where I was unable to buy a gourd and some good mate, so I essentially forgot about it all until one day I found some mate in a spice shop. I bought some, took it home, and enjoyed its delicious warm flavor; not out of a gourd (boohoo!), but it was still delicious.
From that point, life moved on for me. I still enjoyed my teas almost every day, arriving at the conclusion that I love all teas and will drink any tea whenever I get the chance to order from new harvests in China and Taiwan. As time went on, I grew up, started college, got married and forgot about mate (again) as I was drinking other types of tea. I really got into making and selling pottery, and still traveled a little for a school club I ran, and was enjoying my life!
Last summer, I went on a trip to Colorado with a good group of friends. My climbing partner and I ran into a mate café, which reminded me of this wonderful drink! We both fell in love again and bought gourds, bombillas and mate! We have thoroughly been enjoying the wonderfulness of mate ever since. I am still drinking out of the gourd I bought then, but, as a potter, I have a unique opportunity to explore the world of ceramic gourds/mate drinking vessels and am exceptionally excited to start that process!
Overall, it’s been a long and fun journey, but I couldn’t be more excited about where I am with life, as well as where I am in the wonderful world of tea and mate. Hop on over to my Instagram and Facebook to check out my pottery and my gourd! Those spots are also where I’ll post some gourds once I make them.
Keep the journey going, my friends, and drink on!