Where there is coffee, there is usually tea. And where there is great tea, you can find Spirit Tea.
Based out of Chicago, the importing tea merchants are “dedicated to preserving the integrity of tea from cultivation to preparation, infusion, and experience.” Spirit Tea was established over six years ago by industry specialists Jordan Scherer and Taylor Cowan. From small beginnings, the duo has grown their company and wholesale by focusing on fostering solid producer relationships, curating uniquely crafted selections, and providing approachable education.
Concerning products, the brand offers a range of not-so-common seasonal selections, including the delicate oolong infusion referenced in our Brewguide.
In the following interview, we spoke with co-founder Taylor Cowan about the Brewguide, myths about one of the world’s most popular beverages, and the future of the company. Our brand new Brewguide was created in a collaboration between Taylor’s team and our own team at Acaia.
Scroll down to find the Brewguide or click here.
The interview has been edited for clarity.
Tell us a little about yourself and your role at Spirit Tea.
I am the co-founder. I had no idea I'd end up in tea—my passion was always theatre. I moved to Chicago (where we're based) and went to school for Playwriting but sometimes tea finds you.
Tell us about the Brewguide you have created.
The Brewguide is for one our many beautiful oolongs we carry right now, from Mr. Luo who is at the cutting edge of Taiwanese tea. He won a gold medal in a black tea competition last year, but also produces two of the newest cultivars to be officially licensed and released by TRES (Taiwanese Tea Research and Extension Station). This one is #22 whose name is difficult to translate (sometimes as 'steeping jade' 'oozing jade'), but we opted for Exuding Jade.
This cultivar has only been on the market for a few years and has barely appeared in America. It's a truly beautiful and dynamic oolong style in which each steep unfurls an aspect of its character. This recipe takes us from compound butter to florals to herbaceousness. Three different faces of this tea.
How do you use Acaia?
I use Acaia at home and at the office. Tea is so lithe and delicate that we require a scale that detects minute differences in weight—even down to the hundredth of a gram. How much does a single tea leaf weigh? Also, a tea's diffusion starts as soon as there is contact with water, so being able to time and program recipes is such a relief versus pressing the "Seconds" button fifty times on a timer. Acaia scales, like tea, invite you to be present.
What is your favorite tea that you are serving right now?
At the moment, my favorite is the Himalayan Snow Curls. This is our first time working with Simpani, the garden that produces it. It's an all-organic cooperative that started relatively recently in Sakhejung, Nepal. Every year I'm rooting for Nepal—a region that was once overlooked but is starting to get the recognition they've long deserved. The Snow Curls have a plush mouthfeel with crisp grilled vegetable and floral qualities—a good friend recently called it "foxy."
What is the biggest misconception people have about tea?
That making great tea is difficult—that there's not enough noticeable difference between a teabag or commodity-grade tea. Making great tea is much simpler than coffee.
How was Spirit Tea affected by the pandemic? Was it positive or negative?
In every quantitative sense, negative. Even though our website saw an uptick, our wholesale sales went down 80% at one point. In terms of the hard lessons we learned, I'd say the impact was positive. We learned that no matter how hard and creatively you problem solve, you can not control each factor—especially being an international importer—sometimes you have to let go.
Thanks again for the interview, Taylor!
Find the exclusive Spirit Tea Brewguide by clicking on the image below.