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Everything Stops for Tea – Velvet Magazine Feature April 2020

Cambridge Tea Consultancy

Back in April, I gave an interview to Velvet Magazine on my favourite subject – Tea of course. It was pre-COVID19, and how different the world looked! My plans for May and April have of coursed changed into lockdown – stay at home (or stay alert now) but hey, stay safe and healthy.

Here it is for you to enjoy just as it was published by the lovely Lisa Mallard

Cambridge Tea Consultancy
Spend just a short time in the company of tea enthusiast and founder of the Cambridge Tea Consultancy Joyce Maina and you will soon be converted to the wonders of a quality brew. With 30 years in the trade working in a number of roles for all the leading global brands (Yorkshire Tea, Twinings, Tetley and Lipton to name a few), Joyce has travelled the world increasing her knowledge and sustaining her passion for tea.

“Growing up in Kenya, I just had to like tea,” says Joyce, who has recently returned from Ethiopia where black tea is enjoyed with cinnamon.

“I was given tea from a very young age and I loved the sweet milky hot drink. I must admit my tea repertoire has grown much more diverse over the years as I have discovered many more wonderful teas.”

Last year Joyce decided the time had come to put her vast experience to work in her own company and launched the Cambridge Tea Consultancy to offer business advisory services to all players in the industry –from start-ups to multinationals. “We create new blends, products, marketing strategies and provide sourcing guidance for those looking for interesting teas that are great quality and made where workers and the environment are well cared for,”says Joyce.

As well as the consultancy Joyce runs The Cambridge Tea Academy that oversees a Tea Sommelier Certification programme and fun educational tea classes for enthusiasts and professionals

“Tea is one of those things which you can only learn from others – no amount of reading can teach you to taste and interact with tea”

“Cambridge was an obvious choice for me to start out on my own. It is a vibrant, dynamic city with a lot of interest in food and drink, and tea sits beautifully in that space.”

Joyce thinks levels of consumer knowledge about tea have not gained the traction that wine, coffee and gin enjoy and hopes her work will help to engage people more in the complexities and charms of tea drinking.

“Tea is one of those things which you can only learn from others – no amount of reading can teach you to taste and interact with tea.”

When Joyce started working in the industry in the 1990s tea was a man’s world.

“I was a bit of a novelty going in as a manager in tea gardens and factories but I relished the opportunity and learned as much as I could, throwing myself at all tasks with much gusto. I learned tasting, selling, quality control and the exhilarating job of auction buying. It felt amazing to sit in the buyer’s chair and bid on and buy millions of dollars worth of tea in a day. Most days I would be the only woman in the auction room but I’m glad to say that is no longer the case.”

Blending tea is a creative process that takes many years of experience and Joyce loves making new blends and flavours.

“It allows my creativity to come together with my tea skills in a most rewarding way. I have created quite a few products and blends with tea as well as herbal teas and it is always a great feeling of achievement. I particularly loved creating a special tea for drinking with non-dairy milk. I wanted to bring back the joy of a good cup of tea to those who want a plant-based diet and the blend does just that. I am working on a few more in this space.”

It is, Joyce thinks, an interesting time for tea with a number of different factors shaping the consumer market including a desire from young people for greater choice and increasing interest in authenticity, provenance and sustainability. When asked the flavour of her favourite brew Joyce is spoiled for choice.

“I am currently rather enjoying a beautiful blend of Darjeeling and Assam top quality long leaf with the best bergamot flavour layered into make a most exquisite Earl Grey. It is called Imperial Blend and sold by Ahmad Tea. I am also drinking a vanilla and chai blend which is rich and smooth and indulgent–this is my own homemade blend and it’s divine. Next time we speak no doubt I will have discovered a new one.”

Planning a number of tea training and tasting courses this summer in London, Nairobi, Mombasa and Cambridge, Joyce is looking forward to enlightening more people to the pleasures of tea: “If you come to a tea tasting class you will never look at tea the same way again.”

INTERESTING TEA FACT  In the 18th century in England tea was so popular and valued that the general labourer spent 5-10 percent of their income on tea and the accompanying sugar.

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