As you know our passion for Tea started a long time ago but our journey started at the TeaSmith when we had our masterclass back in 2008. John Kennedy, owner of this amazing Teahouse in the heart of Spitafields Market, and his Japanese wife Tomoko Kawase, created the TeaSmith – a unique Tea bar where you have a great selection of exceptional Teas paired with indulging fine chocolates and patisseries from William Curley.
Today we had the pleasure to interview John while tasting some amazing Teas. During this interview John told us more about the complex and exceptional world of Tea.
M&T. What is the concept behind TeaSmith?
J. Our idea is to modernise drinkers attitude towards Tea, particularly British. Most of the Teas available are fairly out of style and the approach to Tea is often stuck in the past. We want to help people appreciate a wider variety of Tea in a very accessible and modernised way while demystifying what is a very complicated subject: Tea. Even our name – TeaSmith is a very down to earth name and it makes it more available to everyone.
M&T. How do you explain the path to your success.
J. I first got into Tea in 1991. My wife is Japanese so I already knew quite a bit about Japanese green Tea, but it was when I was working in San Francisco for a Technology company that I discovered the world of Chinese Tea in China town. My motivation started when I found that the Tea that I was drinking in my daily work commute was not as good as the ones I tried in China Town. I started to explore and discovering a whole new world. There is just another dimension further to the taste and aroma, which is the power and effect of Tea in your body. You don’t find that in other drinks. I spent a lot of time talking to people in China town, reading a lot about Tea and tasting a lot of different Teas. When I decided I wanted to do more with Tea, I looked for someone who could teach me more. I had tried these amazing Teas that were being sold at Selfridges and contacted the person who made them. I met Leo Kwan, a world-class expert in Tea and founder of the Tea Guardian website, and not only worked in his Teahouse but also had some formal training in China during the summer of 2004 and 2005. When I felt ready, I opened TeaSmith in November 2006.
M&T. How do you balance the blend between tradition and innovation?
J. We make Tea in a very traditional way, using the small pots, cups and serving Tea using the Gong Fu Cha methodology, in a modern and familiar environment. The shop design is quite modern and, for example, the music we listen to is different from the traditional Tea House music. We also wanted to reflect the East London style. People come to East London looking for a different experience, to discover new things and therefore the way we present Tea is not a shock to them. I regularly go to Tokyo and use it as a source of inspiration. The Japanese have an appetite for reinvention and innovation and so it is very refreshing to go there.
M&T. What are the most common mistakes that people do when making Tea?
J. Good Tea leaves always taste good (unless you do something really wrong…). I would say, don´t let the process get in the way of enjoying your Tea. In practical ways, people should feel the Tea and experiment to see what is the best flavour for them. A good cup of Tea can become a moment of immortality and we should let those moments happen. The same Tea can taste different every time you drink it, it depends on the water you use, the temperature you brew your Tea, your mind frame, your body… Once you become sensitive to the effects of Tea in your body, some Teas can get you amazing experiences so just enjoy drinking Tea and enjoy these great moments of immortality.
M&T. Finally, what do you want people to feel when they go to the TeaSmith?
J. I want people to feel inspired, rejuvenated, educated and entertained.
For more information please visit:
6 Lamb Street
London E1 6EA, England
TEL: 020 7247 1333