I think I can speak for the whole team when I say that the announcement of a new tea blend is an exciting occasion at Westholme. The most recent blend this month is certainly no exception, and carried with it a bit of extra significance - Cowichan Breakfast is Westholme’s answer to the traditional English breakfast tea we are accustomed to having in our cupboards, but made instead with the mindfulness for excellence and environmental integrity that the brand has become known for. Margit Nellemann, the co-founder of Westholme Tea Company and an accomplished ceramicist, is also the inventor of each unique, high-quality organic tea blend that we carry here, among many other hats that she wears as a small business owner with her partner Victor Vesely.
Though we love the selection of pure organic teas that we carry, the excitement about a new blend is well-earned. These creations are a lengthy procedure for Margit: analyzing flavour profiles, taste-testing, research, and creativity in combination. We do not have a lab. It is Margit's palate alone that must discern if a delicate floral black tea from Yunnan would flourish beside the strong malt of a black tea from Assam, or how a broken leaf grade might affect the astringency of the steep in relation to other combinations. The options are nearly endless, and involve negotiating between two or more complex individual flavours, and encouraging them to highlight the best aspects of the other in the cup.
As employees here, we're lucky to be a part of this process. Our meetings often involve several pots of tea, measured and steeped with precision, and a row of Margit's ceramic cups. We sip, smell, savour and deliberate over each potential union, taking flavour notes and giving our feedback. No matter how much work has gone into a new blend, only a fraction of them make Margit’s extremely high bar of excellence and proceed to our shelves and our customers.
And yet, despite my familiarity with Margit, Victor and their business, and the beginning of my second season of employment here, there are still many mysteries to me about her process of developing a tea recipe. When I ask her about it, she is modest and practical when telling me about her upbringing on a family farm, schooling as a chef, working in the culinary world, or her years of trial and error on the subject of tea. I don't mean to take away the significance of the lifetime of hard work that got her, and Westholme, to this point. But at morning meetings I sometimes catch a glimpse of her quiet, contented smile over a composition that worked, or her humble delight as she gets to see us come together to enjoy one of her creations, and realize that perhaps there secret ingredient is something we all love and recognize, but could never replicate: pure Margit.
We hope you enjoy Cowichan Breakfast as much as we do.