Conversation with a tea blending guru David De Candia
In my tea travels, I had the fortunate to visit many tea establishments in NYC as well as many around the country and the world.
On these tea jaunts, one establishment, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, seemed to be popping up in a few areas in Manhattan, my city.
Though I have visited, a few times, my tea preferences are those establishments where “everybody knows my name”.
Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf went into my tea list as a possible meeting place or “tea in a pinch” location.
At the recent World Tea Expo 2016, I got the fantastic opportunity to meet the esteemed tea blender of the CB&TL establishments and was charmed by our conversation.
To get a better observation, I chose to drop by a Skill Building Workshop he was conducting at the expo, called Creating Unique Blends.
Upon entering, I saw David, Sr. Manager of Tea & Tea Master Blender at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, as he was giving additional instruction to the class, encouraging them to create another blend.
The room, filled with the comforting aroma of herbs and spices, was aglow with the enthusiasm of the participants, thrilled with their creations.
I departed after capturing a few shots and proceeded to the pressroom to get ready for the actual interview.
Unsure how this would go, I began formulating thoughtful questions and potential direction.
One thing for sure I would ask about blending. Blending is of interest to me as a Certified Tea Blender myself.
David is what one would describe, as an excellent storyteller.
He recounted how he found himself, as distribution manager, surrounded by bales of leaves, and created a new future for himself as manager and blender.
His tea journey has taken him all over the world and earned him the position of honorary tea ambassador for pure Ceylon tea in the United States and Canada; this keeps him quite busy.
He has also served as an esteemed judge for the recent TOTUS awards, choosing the best of the best American grown teas.
During the interview, I found myself most impressed, to the point of visual transportation, when David spoke about tea and the process of blending.
He shared, with a distinct passion the process as “not a mechanical, but a spiritual thing, if you are not in the mood…”
He spoke about the environment and how it affects tasting things. He commented on the time, space and dress utilizing, casual, dress comfort music and inspiration.
He mentioned the aspect of “feeling intimate with ingredients and how they work together” as well as maintaining an “artisan focus, being on the edge and doing something different.”
As a tea blender, these are experiences I could relate to and many I have felt myself.
Our conversation also touched upon the socially responsible efforts he helped to develop, being utilized by the company to give back to the people who work diligently to provide the brew we all enjoy.
Caring Cup, a group of programs that cares for orphans, provides educational programs and much-needed supplies to families in a variety of countries, a few being Sri Lanka, Kenya, Darjeeling and others.
In our conversation, David also mentioned his accomplishments as an author. He has written a children’s books with the inclusion of tea in the storyline, Master Davey and The Magic Teahouse .
The more the interview proceeded, the more smiles I exhibited, seeing how both he and I had similar experiences on our individual journeys, as I have written two children’s books infused and fueled by tea.
It felt as if we could have continued our exchange forever, though time quickly passed and the interview came to an end with the sharing of business cards.
It was my feeling that to experience the work of this consummate creator; I needed to make a trip to Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and sample a blend or two, also, read his book offering.
I have since visited.
Here are my impressions:
I visited an Upper Broadway location
First, let me say that, for my palate, the amount of water (12oz) used for the volume of tea in the tea bag did not bring out the best for either of the blends I tried. Upon my next visit, I will ask for less water to appreciate the blend.
Ginseng Peppermint– Peppermint, Chinese Red Ginseng, Eluthero Root and other herbs make up this blend. As a testament to the blender, I could detect both main ingredients with equally matched notes in the cup. The earthy sweetness of the ginseng was a lovely accompaniment of the peppermint and smoothed out the peppermint bite.
Pomegranate Blueberry-another nice compliment of flavors, a Lung Ching Dragonwell, Oolong and Ceylon teas blended to this, the sweet-tart notes of the pomegranate flavoring brought to a fine pitch by the blueberry flavor introduction and a sweet finish.
I recently downloaded the children’s book offering and look forward to reading it soon. It may prompt me to write a short book review.
If you would like to read more about this Master Blender see the links I have included below.
Thank you, David, for such a pleasant experience.
To try the blends