The Story Behind Our Journey To FRESH TEA - PT:1
It’s taken me a long time to be ready to tell our story. Truth be told, I’m not sure I’m ready yet. But as it is with anything in life, the important stuff isn’t comfortable. It’s messy, and leaves you feeling vulnerable and exposed – afraid of being judged, of looking unrefined, of hurting someone’s feelings or getting in trouble like a child who speaks out against an adult.
I’ve also learned over these three years since starting down the journey to create a new global category of tea – it’s the messy bits that shape us. And teach us. And that make the journey exciting. And memorable. And important.
And sharing them is a part of how me and my TEAm will grow into the company that accomplishes the enormous good we intended when we created Millennia TEA.
So here goes…
It started in December 2015. Rory’s father came over and shared some painful news. He’d just received a cancer diagnosis (*we would later learn it was a misdiagnosis, mercifully, and he’s doing really great).
This was our first close encounter with a life-altering health challenge, and once the news settled in, Rory set out to understand what happens in a person’s body to allow cancer to form. He learned about free radicals – how they’re roaming around in our bodies and, if not neutralized, can lead to all kinds of negative health outcomes, including cancer.
He learned about antioxidants’ role in neutralizing free radicals and protecting cells. And how there’s a powerhouse antioxidant found only in tea that’s especially effective at fighting free radical damage and protecting cells. It’s called EGCG (Epigallocatechin gallate). So Rory dove into the research on tea.
There were three things that came up pretty quickly that we didn’t know (*worth noting… at that time we weren’t tea drinkers aside from the occasional cuppa):
- All teas start out from the same plant, called Camellia Sinensis. It’s the way tea leaves are processed after picking that determines whether the finished tea will be a high-end loose-leaf green or white tea vs. a black “tea bag” tea you’d serve with milk and sugar.
- Antioxidants are highest in fresh-picked tea leaves and degrade with prolonged exposure to heat, light, and air (i.e. processing), which is how all conventional teas are made.
- A millennia ago (thousands of years ago) when tea was discovered, it was considered medicinal and enjoyed with leaves fresh from the field. It’s only when countries started exporting their teas that they started drying and fermenting them to survive the journey.
So, naturally, we went looking for “fresh tea.” Problem is, we couldn’t find anyone selling it.
In spite of all the gorgeous tea field landscapes on companies’ web pages, we couldn’t find anyone selling real, raw, unprocessed tea, which left us a little confused – and more than a little frustrated.
So Rory dug in deeper.
He started looking at the chemistry – about the enzymatic reactions of tea leaves post plucking. And that ever-analyzing-problem-solving brain of his set out to devise a way to safeguard maximum antioxidants in tea, while keeping it in its “fresh-picked” state. His hypothesis was simple: if we can preserve more of the antioxidants in tea by keeping it in its most natural state, it will be a more powerful ally in promoting wellness and preventing and fighting disease.
His belief was buoyed by the incredible library of research and medical studies on tea’s immense potential to help people get well, stay well and live longer, more enjoyable lives – feeling good in their bodies, focused and clear mentally, and more radiant physically than their non-tea-drinking counterparts (EGCG actually slows your cells’ aging).
Rory found his answer to preserving more of the “good stuff” in tea in flash-freezing fresh-picked tea leaves with a process and extraction method we’ve gone on to patent, that I’ll describe another time.
And in May 2016, five months after a health scare propelled us into learning about tea – and months before we would ever lay eyes on our first real tea leaves – we incorporated Millennia TEA and started a journey that has rocked me to the core of my being, both personally and professionally.
I’d like to share that journey with you here … firstly because we make tea in a way that’s exactly opposite every other tea company in the world, and in order for you to know what we know, it’s probably best you hear the whole story. And secondly, because I’m a storyteller at heart – as a former television reporter and then communications lead for a provincial emergency services organization, I’ve spent my career sharing information people can use to make decisions that matter.
The story of Millennia TEA is no different, and I’m humbled and oh-so-appreciative for the gift to be able to share our story with the intention it will create dialogue, inspire curiosity, and maybe even a connection around something we have in common.
Next post, I’ll tell you how we reached out to the #1 specialty tea company in North America and almost got our first taste of fresh tea before things went south in a big way.