A Journey of Discovery
Daniel Primack of Winerackd Ltd describes the revelation of single-terroir small-batch tea and its parallels with his journey of discovery in wine.
I’ve worked in the wine trade for over ten years and when you are first learning about wine, every discovery is a revelation. As time goes by, the frequency of eye opening tastings decreases to a point where they become a rare treat. That’s not to say there aren’t many great wines enjoyed on many occasions, there are just fewer new discoveries.
When I first encountered Lalani & Co, I was very proud of my passion for White Jasmine tea. I had tried many different versions. During an early conversation, I admired the strength of Lalani’s conviction when I noticed just a trace of a scowl at my pronouncement about the tea I enjoyed. Nevertheless and always willing to attend a tasting, I went along to try some Lalani tea. That first encounter reminds me of that first sip of a great wine many years ago, that started me on the journey of discovery in wine.
Knowledge enhances perception, and the desire to acquire knowledge about the complexity of any consumable is ultimately about self-reward but also about sharing. I cannot put into words that first sip of the finest tea, except to say I knew I was drinking something I had never drunk before and that it was of the highest quality. As a wise man once said, ‘it doesn’t take a day to recognise sunshine’.
When learning about wine you go on a journey through the different styles of wine produced, initially being impressed by big bold flavours and the seduction of new oak. Most wine enthusiasts will ultimately declare Riesling to be the holy grail of white wine, but those new to wine will often set it aside. This journey is formed of experiences and a developing palate, a journey which I am certain has parallels with tea. I am still very new to this drink which is so far removed from the bags of black dust that the supermarkets sell.
Another similarity to wine is in the delivery. With wine we say that the wine glass is the loudspeaker. If you change the shape of the glass or the temperature of the wine, you change the way the wine tastes. It is the medium that changes the flavour, much like different hi-fi changes the way a CD sounds. I have quickly been educated that brewing time, water temperature, leaf movement in a pot and the shape of the vessel from which the tea is drunk, dramatically changes the way tea tastes, for better or for worse.
My experience with wine has also shown me that I do not have the experience or vocabulary yet to describe the flavours, and I am excited to develop this language. Ask someone if they like Japanese food and if they reply “Yes I love sushi” then you know that they have only experienced one small aspect of the many Japanese culinary delights. Before meeting the Lalanis, had you asked me if I like tea, I would have replied “Yes, I like White Jasmine”. Now I know that I know little enough to ask “Which type?” I look forward to the discovery of the world of tea thanks to the impeccable curators, Lalani & Co.
Daniel Primack is Director of Winerackd Ltd and tweets as @Winerackd.
Daniel’s current favourite batch is the Gopaldhara 1st Flush Wonder Gold 2013.