When I get asked for Canadian tea company recommendations, I always include ZhenTea on my list. Specializing in Chinese teas, ZhenTea is owned and operated by a trio and Phil Rushworth is one of those three individuals. Whenever I come across ZhenTea’s eye catching booth at the Toronto Tea Festival I always encounter Phil sharing his growing tea knowledge with others and, of course, the wonderful tea selection they offer. Phil’s tea journey started to take off when Zhen actually came into the picture. At the tea table Phil and I discussed how his tea relationship grew when he married into tea, how his personal tea sessions might look and some other fun things.
The kettle is on and I can hear it about to sing. What tea are you going to steep for us today?
I think we’re going to to have some Shui Xian. Yup, that’s what it’s going to be.
I think I heard once or twice before that Shui Xian was a favourite of yours. Where does your passion for tea come from?
Well, to be honest, I married into tea. I didn’t really find it on my own. Zhen had finished her master’s and was wondering what to do and I suggested she start a tea business. It turns out her mom had suggested the same thing. She was frustrated with the quality of tea she was finding and her mother, Jianli, has decades of experience in the business so away we went.
That’s just another perfect example of how tea can bring people together. How has your relationship with tea evolved since ZhenTea launched?
Well, my relationship with tea really started with ZhenTea so it’s gone from pretty much zero and had been steadily growing ever since. I’m super interested in so many of the aspects of Chinese and other teas. The processes, the chemistry the culture, but especially the people. Tea people are amazing!
Is there a particular tea that solidified your love for the beverage?
I mean, we’re brewing Shui Xian, my ‘favorite’ tea, but what really solidified my love of tea is the people. When you talk to other people who love tea they just light up. And not just about tea. They’re just really sincere, interesting folks with great experiences to share and bring to the tea table. 😉
Tea people are definitely the best 🙂 You’re about to sit down for a tea session. Describe how that would look for you.
Ok. Well, that’s pretty easy. My day is super busy. Working my day job, managing the studio business, taking care of property and I finally realize I’m spinning my wheels and glazing over. It’s time to get away from the blue light of the monitor and go sit at the tea table, which faces out our window. I’ll pop the kettle on, select a tea and I’ll sit through the whole process and push everything out of my head and just concentrate on brewing the tea as best I can and breathing. It’s as close to mediation as I’ve come and it makes a world of difference in my day.
For the nitty gritty of brewing I just use a gaiwan or tea pot and my favorite cup. The tea pets are always their too of course. I haven’t started talking to them yet, but I suspect that’ll come soon enough. I don’t think the physical process matters as much as just pushing out all the psychological noise and focusing on the moment and the delicious tea.
Black, Green, Yellow, White, Oolong or Puerh?
Oolong, Pu’er, black & white & yellow, then green. But I love them all.
Hot, Iced or Cold?
Hot (unless I forgot it. There’s no way it’s getting wasted)
Teapot, Infuser or Gaiwan?
Whatever works. I’ve got a cute office infuser that I use at the studio. The kind with the button on top that drops the tea into the pot below. Those are awesome for office brewing. I also brew in gaiwan right from our Zojirushi if I’m cooking. Whatever works!
Straight, Sweetened or Latte?
Cheese or Chocolate pairing?
Yes! But you forgot the Scotch!
Who has been your greatest teacher in tea?
Haha! Obviously Zhen, followed by her mom, translated by Zhen for now. It’s truly uncanny how much Zhen and her mom know about tea. I mean, their both really incredible and inspiring.