Teatime with my Mother
She has always made tea with milk for breakfast since I was a small child.
Reminiscing time with my mother, there was always tea.
It was always tea with milk.
With tea we talked.
I remember very well the teatime with my mother at a French restaurant which she sometimes took me
when I was in an elementary school.
Fancy crafted candies as in a picture book and tea always accompanied them.
I later heard from her that she wanted to raise me through “experience”
so she wanted me to experience relaxed “teatime” in a lovely atmosphere even though I was a child.
Our family was not wealthy or anything but she let me experience many things when I was a child.
Though they would not be able to leave financial assets, in order to give me “experience” as an asset in life
they let me see with my own eyes and experience physically with my own body.
When I grew up I realized that “teatime with my mother” nurtured graceful heart
but not materialistic gracefulness.
In my early elementary school years I went to a department store by myself
and bought an English fancy tea cup with my scarce savings for my mother’s birthday present.
She was surprised to know that a small kid went to a department store on her own
will and chose to buy a European fancy tea cup with scarce allowance.
However, I think I just wanted to enjoy “teatime with my mother” more.
I once asked my mother why she would drink tea but not coffee.
She said she was drinking tea with her mother when she was a child like me.
According to her story, my grandmother loved tea with lemon.
When there was no lemon at home she’d go and buy a lemon only for the tea
and my mother was often asked to go for her, too.
Then teatime began with the words, “Let’s have tea.”
My mother’s family was not wealthy either but my grandmother was cherishing teatime.
When my mother was in an elementary school, she loved teatime so she’d go straight back home
right after her school.
Then with “tea and treats” which my grandmother had prepared she talked all that happened that
day at her school and then went out to play with her friends, feeling content.
My mother was spending teatime with me just like my grandmother did with her.
Through teatime I talked a lot with my mother.
Among them what I was interested in the most was the fact there were various countries,
cultures, ways of thinking, and each person’s feeling in the world.
I was taught the wonderfulness of seeing with my own eyes and of experiencing physically
with my own body.
So I started to think I wanted to see many different countries in this world.
When I grew up, while working at a bank, I travelled various countries
just following my interests as a backpacker using vacations.
The less information there was about the country in Japan, the more I was interested in.
How is the country? How are people who live there? How is their culture?
By the time I became 26 years old I travelled 39 countries.
When I was thinking which country I’d like to visit for my 40th country I suddenly thought
I wanted to explore the root of “tea” which linked my grandmother, my mother and I.
As the civil war in Sri Lanka ended in 2009 it became safer for us to travel.
I landed on Sri Lanka with high expectations.
I wasted no time to visit a tea plantation.
Workers were carefully picking tea leaves one by one.
Leaves were hand-picked with great care.
Fresh leaves that workers hand-picked whole day swimming through the bushes
with barefoot turn out to be just a handful of dried tea leaves.
For the first time I realized that there were people who were working that hard behind a cup of tea.
I asked people who were absorbed in picking tea leaves,
“What motivates you to pick tea leaves?”
Then, with a gentle smile, one person answered,
“I want my child to be able to go to school wearing a white uniform.”
Since there are large gaps between people of different races in Sri Lanka
those who are working at tea plantations cannot have higher education.
“White uniform”, “School”.
I noticed what you’d see normally in Japan was “a dream” and “an aspiration” in Sri Lanka.
They said, “That’s why we are working hard to make quality tea.
If we can make tasty tea, consumers would like it and have a lot of tea.
Then our families will be happy.
I am hoping everybody to spend warm teatime with a smile, drinking the tea we produced.”
I felt “mother’s love for her child” in the tea field in “Sri Lanka”, root of tea.
Their feelings were similar to those of my mother having “teatime” with me.
And, I was stunned there.
The tastes of tea were totally different depending on the places I visited.
I asked why they were so different.
“Tea is a crop so the taste changes every day.
Its taste differs depending on the elevation, soil, and climate.
Even if the fields were next to each other tastes differ.
It’s just like wine.
That’s why we are making tea with the greatest care so that it would taste best.
(The moment I heard it,) I was lost for words.
Then what was the tea I always had?
They always had the same taste.
The real tea’s taste differs so much depending on the growing place and the climate!
Why didn’t I meet this kind of real tea?
Then, the manager of the tea plantation explained to me.
“Usually, they mix several kinds of tea when they sell them. That is not a bad thing.
This is necessary when a big company has to provide tea with the same stable taste
and price to their customers because the tea is a crop.
But we are trying to make the best-quality tea which we can make only here
with this climate and this soil.
We are hoping people to have this kind of tea as it is.
We hope people to enjoy the taste of tea itself feeling the “area of production”.
But not many people in the world know about this tea and though
we’d like to spread this tea we don’t know how.”
The manager said this with a tone of disappointment.
When I heard this explanation I wondered how I could deliver their wish.
I seriously considered whether I could be a bridge between these tea makers and tea consumers.
I came back to Japan and dug deeper.
Tea without any mixing that has characteristics of the area of production
and the name of the tea estate is called “Single Origin Tea”.
There have been a few tea specialty stores that sell “Single Origin Tea” in Japan from before.
However, since the packages were simple, although the area of production were
printed on the package, to me it seemed like it was rather difficult for consumers
to understand what Dimbula (name of the area of production) was,
what kind of place it was or what the characteristic of the taste was.
In order to deliver to more people I felt we needed to interest even those
who didn’t know “Single Origin Tea” at all.
So how could I interest them?
My conclusion (after consideration) was
“to make tea product that you can feel the area of production.”
“I want people to enjoy the taste of tea itself, feeling the area of production.”
“I want to spread more to the world the beauty and the warmth of communication
through tea that connects people.”
With these strong wishes in my heart I decided to start a new tea brand.
I contemplated how I could convey my wishes.
I decided to print a drawing of the area of production on the package
with a story that fits the drawing.
This way one who picks up the product could understand about the area of production
from the story even if she/he didn’t know anything about the area.
One could see the drawing of the area of production,
read the story and have tea that was made there.
I wanted to make tea that you can enjoy with all five senses.
So the tea brand, “Elena Leaf” was born.
When you make tea
“Tetty”s, the leaf fairies come flying from nowhere to make your tea tastier.
They help you making tea and enjoy teatime with you.
There are many Tettys in the teatime drawings on the packages as well.
How many Tettys could you find?