A Chemical Engineer's Comments

Why do people enjoy tea so much? What makes them grab that cup of tea first thing in the morning or last thing at night? Tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world. It stands to reason that there must be something about tea to make it a much desired beverage. I interviewed a chemical engineer, who happens to love tea, in hopes that I could begin to discover a universal reason why tea is a much loved beverage. 

The Chemical Engineer 

Connor has always loved chemistry and it has always interested him. He feels that “chemistry in daily life” should be the first introduction into chemistry. “Real world chemistry may incentivize people to learn chemistry in high school and college” he expressed. I asked Connor for an example of real world chemistry. He explained that “chemistry is in everything. It is in the manufacturing process of what we make, what we buy, what we eat.” Connor emphasized that chemistry also included physics; the study of how material moves, and behaves through space and time. 

I had to pause and consider this comment. Is chemistry everything? While I had previously written about the link between chemistry and tea; I never really paid attention to how chemistry was immersed in daily items, numerous things, and basically everything? I reflected on the breakfast I had and yes…. chemistry was involved in the toasting of the bread. I noticed a scratch on my car that I will need to wax over and buff out; chemistry again. The sun is finally shining after three days of overcast weather and my grass is finally turning green; that is chemistry too. 

High school physics was actually Connor’s favorite class. He thought physics was “cool”, and his teacher’s enthusiasm for physics was contagious. Connor caught that enthusiasm and was enthralled with how items moved. In college, Connor was engrossed with organic chemistry and the lab work for organic chemistry. He decided to declare his major, in part, due to his college chemistry class and his high school physics teacher. 

Connor’s “Oh Wow” moment in chemistry, the moment he knew he was hooked on chemistry, occurred in college. He was in a chemistry lab and conducting a random experiment using common household items. The experiment involved electrolysis, and the end result resulted in a chlorine plume. His other favorite chemistry lab experiment centered around tea. Connor had to decaffeinate tea using a combination of chemicals. He thought it was interesting how chemistry had been, and continues to be used, to alter a beverage. Connor stated “that chemistry is very interesting and can affect daily living, including how we drink our tea.” 

Connor And Tea 

Herbal sleepy time tea was the tea he started drinking while in high school. Connor found that anything caffeine free, and blended with camomile, helped him fall asleep after late nights studying. His love of tea exponentially increased in college. He was exposed to people from all over the world, who brought their love of tea with them, to the college campus. Connor began to branch out from just consuming an herbal sleepy time tea. He stated that he “began to drink caffeinated teas as well. I had a roommate from Southern Asia, who made chai for me, as a spicy caffeinated alternative to coffee.” Connor exclaimed that it was then, after tasting the spicy chai, that he “was sold on tea!” 

Connor’s favorite tea varies from activity to activity. While he is working, he enjoys Oolong tea that he continually steeps throughout the work day. He noted Oolong tea subtly changes in flavor profile from steeping to steeping. Connor will consume an Earl Grey blend on his days off work. A chai tea blend is his go-to “anytime tea”, but he is partial to his previous roommate's blend. When he needs to have an herbal or decaffeinated blend, he likes a cinnamon and orange blend that is naturally sweet from the cinnamon. 

What is next on the tea list for Connor to try? Connor explained to me that as his tea knowledge increases, he is apt to try more unique teas. He enjoys tasting the teas and attempting to isolate each tea’s flavor profile and individual ingredients. He would like to try Blooming Teas. He is curious about how the tea leaves and flower petals are sewn into tea balls. In addition, Connor is interested in organic teas and what makes a tea “organic”. His love of chemistry, and his curious mind regarding how things work, or the mechanics of an object, are always an underlying contributor of what he would like to research next. This is evident in his desire to understand how the Blooming Teas are sewn together, and the definition of “organic tea”. 

Connor stated that along his tea path “I have met wonderful people from all over the world. With each new person, I have learned about their favorite teas and thus, have been introduced to new teas.” These new teas are added to Connor’s growing list of “must try teas.” He stated that he has been lucky to have traveled to South America and has had the opportunity to learn about South America’s tea rituals customs. 

Due to Connor’s increasing love of and appreciation of tea, he is delving into several ideas that he hopes to have patented one day. He enjoys adding honey to his tea and one of his ideas includes honey in a suspended state. “The honey would be easier to travel with, less sticky, and the shelf life would be increased” Connor emphasized. “Chemistry is big in the tea world” states Connor. The chemistry surrounding tea and tea additives, including honey, has interested him and spurred him on to continued learning and researching new ways to enjoy tea. 

Connor’s Tea Journey 

The journey of tea often is a lifelong journey. A journey that frequently starts out in happenstance. Connor started drinking tea out of necessity to help him fall asleep at night. From there, his enjoyment of tea grew. As his world sphere increased, and he met people from around the world, he began to appreciate tea as a world beverage that it is. Connor is enjoying his tea journey cup by cup. 

Hopefully this interview encourages you to start your own tea journey. You don’t need to be surrounded by tea, tea gardens, or tea manufacturing from an early age to create your own tea journey. Your tea journey can start now, just where you are in life. Your own tea journey can unfold cup by cup, or steep, by steep. 

Embrace your unique tea journey, 

Leslie


About the Author

Leslie Sundberg is a World Tea Academy Certified Tea Specialist, a World Tea Academy Apprentice Tea Sommelier, a Specialty Tea Institute Level IV trained Tea Specialist, and a Tea and Business Etiquette Specialist. On any given day, Leslie can be found teaching, speaking or sharing in the joys of a cup of tea.  No matter what Leslie is doing or where she is, one thing remains constant: 4:00 in the afternoon is tea time!

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