There are those who travel just for the love of it. And then are those like Drew Bednasek who travel to chase after the things they love in his case tea.

I have known Drew part tea expert, part tea devotee from the UK through his blog page and the emails we have exchanged over these past few months. His love for tea, apart from his unassuming personality, has stood out right from the start. He has travelled to many countries since he left the US back in his 20s and his journey and adventures have ended up being about tea, pretty much always. Small wonder that he calls his personal blog page Teaxplorer a journal of all his tea notes and reviews.

He claims to be an avid disciple of the craft, eager to learn and inculcate all things that have to do with world tea traditions… For someone who loves teas, is in the profession of tea, and love writing about teas, a conversation with Drew was one I was looking forward to having. Here, he talks about his journey in teas.

An American by birth, globetrotter by choice how did you get started with tea?

I grew up in the middle of the US and I remember drinking iced tea at a very young age. It wasn’t until I was around 20 years old that I started drinking hot tea. I was at university, and we were having a particularly cold, long winter. Staying warm was a constant challenge, and I started experimenting with hot tea because coffee did not quite settle well with me. I was soon hooked and started drinking tea every morning and gradually progressed to drinking it throughout the day. It did not take long for me to grow tired of the supermarket teas, and I quickly realized how superior loose-leaf tea tasted compared to tea bags.

In the last couple of years, I happened to travel to few countries the US, UK, Turkey, Morocco and Kenya and every place offered a tea experience unlike any other. There are cultures old and new sown around tea; friends come together around a shared cup of tea, and whether its peak summer or theres a nip in the air, tea will comfort you no matter. How can you not fall in love with something so agreeable?

From iced teas to artisan leaf teas thats quite the transition you have made…

In fact, I recently started working at Postcard Teas, a small tea shop in central London that specializes in loose leaf teas and works with small/family tea farms. Thanks to this, Im constantly drinking teas and reviewing them for my blog, and it’s swell. Hard to believe that until very recently I was a lecturer on the subject of human geography, a doctorate at that, at a university here.

Truth be told, I’ve always wanted to work with tea.

So, are there any rituals that you follow when making tea?

I am only conscious of the teaware I use for different kinds of teas. Generally speaking, I prefer to use ceramic or glass teapots for black teas, a Yixing pot for oolongs, a gaiwan for pu-erh and small glass teapots (or gaiwan) for green teas. I prefer to make them in small amounts (about 200ml), and drink it with small cups. Just that.

How did Teaxplorer come about?

Over the past 15 years I have been fortunate enough to have had opportunities whether for leisure, research work or university studies to travel and experience different tea cultures around the world. And after getting a lot support from my wife, Maria, to start a blog, I began writing about tea in April 2013. The blog started out as something that I thought I would do every now and then when I found something interesting in shops, but I soon found myself being approached by companies from all over the world to do tea reviews, and samples came flowing in. Maria finds it amusing to see all these packages coming in from all over the world as well as the teaware collection I’ve amassed. To try to compensate for all the space I occupy with my tea obsession in our home, I make her as many cups of tea as possible and put on nice tea tastings every now and then.

Looking back, I guess I had a decent knowledge of tea before starting the blog but I have learnt a lot more about tea in these last two years for sure. There are so many flavors in tea from sweet to floral to fruity to bitter to smoky to grassy to salty I can always find something good. It has really been an amazing adventure.

5. There must be so many stories from your travels. Tell us one of your favourites.

A summer I spent in Kenya drinking chai is my favorite tea-related memory. I was in Kenya with a professor and two other students taking a university course, and we stayed with families in a small, remote village. For breakfast or an afternoon treat, a super milky, super sweet chai was served and it was quite a treat. It was often served with mandazi, chapati or a slice of bread and that would help sustain me until dinner. And if you visited someone with a cow, it is very likely they might have just milked the cow for the chai so the tea was always extra creamy a meal in a cup you can say.

Teaxplorer-with-teabox
Drew, indulging in a spicy cup of Moroccan tea at the famous Jamaa el Fna night food market in Marrakesh.

How does your wife handle this tea fixation of yours?

Well, my wife, Maria while very encouraging of my interest prefers coffee (I still love her though). She’s from Bavaria, Germany, if that can explain this. But in the time we have known each other, she has developed a liking for good teas.

What’s next in your tea journey?

The great thing about tea is that you could live a thousand years and not know everything about it. I will unashamedly admit when I dont know something about tea. At this point, I think I am most curious about learning more about tea estates and farmers, buying, blending and roasting oolongs.

What teas will always, always find a place in your heart and kitchen shelves?

While I love the vast variety of teas that I have in my tea cupboard, I could probably live albeit not as happily with five teas. I would need a good Assam, something like a Halmari, which could go well with or without milk. Next, I would need a nice rolled Taiwanese oolong that is medium roasted. For afternoons and nights, I like to keep a grassy green tea on hand like a sencha and a medium-strength Darjeeling, could be first or second flush. And lastly, I think having some pu-erh is vital. My favorite is cooked puerh, but I’ve had some great raw ones that I cannot get enough of.

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