Mary Lou Heiss & Bob Heiss, dubbed “The Professors of Tea” by the New York Times in 2007, are the founders of Tea Trekker.
The roots of Tea Trekker began in 1974 when we first started selling loose-leaf tea. There was not much choice in tea at that time (most tea sold in the US and Europe was black tea from India and Ceylon) and blends such as English Breakfast, Irish Breakfast, Earl Grey, etc. dominated the marketplace. The quality was good, the breadth of choice was appropriate for the time (there was basically no China tea, other than what was served in Chinese restaurants, which now seems incredible!), but the intrigue of tea fascinated us. Tea and tea culture were little-known topics and over the years from the seventies to the turn of the century we determined to learn as much as we could about this exotic and distinctive beverage and its related tea wares.
Since those early days, and continuing for the 46+ years until today, we have been in the vanguard of tea retailing and tea education in America. Little did we imagine back then that we would make close to a dozen trips to Asia to source our tea and make life-changing relationships with tea makers and producers in remote tea growing areas of China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.
The New York Times called us “The Professors of Tea” validating our efforts to encourage tea drinkers to step away from the teabag and simple black teas and embrace the extraordinary flavors of fresh, pure, seasonal, whole leaf tea.
We are also the proud authors of four books on tea and beverages, including the bestselling:
- The Tea Enthusiast’s Handbook: A Guide to the World’s Finest Teas
- The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide, a James Beard Foundation 2008 Book Awards Finalist; the Paris-based Gourmand Awards 1st place Winner from the USA (2008); and an IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) 2008 Cookbook Awards Finalist
|The Tea Enthusiast’s Handbook||The Story of Tea||Hot Drinks||Green Tea|
Believing that seeing and learning from the experts is the best path to true knowledge (and never wanting to take the easy way out) we traveled frequently to China, Japan, and Taiwan starting in 2000 to purchase teas directly from the remote tea farms and tea factories where traditional, hand-made teas are still made, and to learn from the skilled workers who craft these teas. The tea farmers that we have met and their associated tea handlers are our treasured friends and colleagues, who we continue to work with in this trusted and trusting relationship of providing premium tea to our clientele.
We are proud to support dedicated tea workers who keep the traditional ways of tea cultivation and manufacture alive.
We purchase authentic tea that has a history and that grows in natural, mountain tea gardens — we do not purchase or sell intensively grown, commodity-driven tea from modern, commercial tea ventures. Call us old fashioned and opinionated and we will be the first to agree with that.
To read more about the difference between these types of tea, click here.
Understanding tea is a study in how’s and why’s. Tea knowledge is comprised of minutia, lots of it, as well as recognizing the importance of both the large and small differences in each category of tea. Studying tea is a lifelong quest; one cannot learn all there is to know about the styles of tea by observing a few broad strokes.
When we visit tea-producing countries we become students to the tea masters that teach us. We return home each time with new knowledge, clearer insights and a greater appreciation for the craft of tea-making that we in turn share with our tea customers and readers. Happily, gaining an understanding of the details of tea cultivation and manufacture and learning as much as we can on our tea travels is what inspires us to keep learning.
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And subscribe to Tea Trekker’s blog, an informative and educational addendum to our website and tea books, which will be delivered directly into your inbox with each new post. Our blog has been relatively inactive lately, but hopefully fresh content will be posted in summer 2020.
While we are no longer available to make presentations to groups, businesses, or civic organizations, and do not teach classes at this time, there may be some opportunity for teaching in the future.
Our extensive collection of photographs from our tea trips gives us the ability to create colorful and dynamic Power Point Presentations of places and processes that engage and educate. Please contact us with your interest as something may be possible in the future.
Below is a listing of various organizations for whom we have conducted presentations:
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- Boston University Seminars in Food, Wine and the Arts
- Disney Magazine
- Historic Deerfield
- International Association of Culinary Professionals ( IACP )
- James Beard Foundation
- National Association for the Specialty Food Trade ( NASFT) Fancy Food Show
- Smith College
- University of Massachusetts, Amherst Asian Arts and Culture Dept.