Jhanne Jasmine has more than 20 years of tea industry experience. In 1999, she co-founded the TeaZone tea house in Portland, Oregon; and in 2006, she founded the Camellia Lounge, a tea cocktail lounge, which she sold in 2014. She has worked as Stash Tea Company’s Research & Development ever since.
What sparked your interest in tea?
I grew up drinking tea; it was one of my mom’s favorite pastimes. After opening a tea business in ‘99, one day I was standing quietly with a cup in hand savoring the moment. I inhaled the intoxicating aroma, and was struck by the notion that I was captivated by the spirit of the leaf and my love of the beautiful ritualized union of tea and water. It was a defining moment for me and the passion has been with me ever since…
How/where did you learn about tea?
I think most industry professionals feel like they are lifelong students of the leaf…
When I entered the tea industry, it was still quite small and intimate. I had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with and learning firsthand from some of the top tea authorities in the U.S. at that time.
I attended the inaugural tea summit hosted by Harney & Sons in Salisbury, Connecticut in the mid-90’s, and of which several of the aforementioned tea dignitaries were in attendance. That led to starting a tea business. I participated in every opportunity that arose to learn from the masters and read the handful of tea books that were available at that time. I sought out to experience teas of all grades and types by drinking them, one cup at a time, and to this day, I recommend that exercise as being the best means for developing one’s palate.
What are your criteria for judging the hot tea (i.e., quality, color, aroma, taste)? (For the hot tea judges.)
Criteria starts with the appearance and aroma of the dry leaf, followed by the evaluation of the brewed liquor in which aroma, color, body, mouthfeel, taste, nuances, complexity, balance, and sometimes uniqueness are all taken into account. Does the tea hit the mark in terms of what the tea maker set out to accomplish, and does the submission align with competition category guidelines?
What do you hope to see in the competition this year?
I’m hoping for that aha moment when a tea both surprises and delights. This may be the result of experiencing a new varietal or even perhaps a unique or interesting twist on a traditional technique for processing a tea.
What is this competition’s impact on the tea industry?
I feel the impact is multi-layered. It has helped define the standards of excellence in the specialty tea industry. It affords an opportunity for companies who have sourced something they consider special to receive recognition and establish a reputation for selling exceptional teas. It’s a great honor for tea farmers and manufacturers (some are small craft operations) to be recognized, and can provide them an opportunity to command higher margins for their teas and gain distribution and status within the industry. It shines a spotlight on teas that consumers may not know much about, but may become interested in discovering when their tea purveyors state “this is an award winning tea.”
What kinds of teas do you usually drink, and why?
I love all kinds of tea and drink a lot of varieties and styles because I want my palate to stay attuned to the plethora of teas I’m evaluating on a weekly/monthly basis. I love the energizing effects of green teas, great pu-erhs are wonderful and are becoming harder to find, oolongs are my favorite and still very much underappreciated, interesting malty blacks with surprising nuances are a delight, and a Silver Needle White can’t be beat during a quiet contemplative moment…