Anthony Capobianco has more than 10 years of tea industry experience. In 2008, he founded Zen Tea Traders, a full-leaf artisan tea purveyor. He expanded his knowledge of tea cupping in Japan. He also consults with tea companies to assist them in improving their customer experience thereby increasing revenue, as well as consulting restaurants, hotels and other establishments with regard to enhancing their tea offerings. He has shared his tea knowledge on television shows, podcasts and in newspapers and magazines.
What sparked your interest in tea?
I was introduced to tea by my grandmother around the age of 7 and have always drank tea since then. It was always Lipton and Red Rose for the most part until I grew older and began asking the question if this is out there what else is out there. It was around 2005 while I was an Executive Mortgage Banker for a large Detroit based Mortgage company that I found myself drinking full leaf tea. Tea had a w ay of Zenning me out so I kept exploring.
How/where did you learn about tea?
In 2008 during what became known as the “mortgage meltdown” the mortgage business slowed and I wanted to start my own business and realized that I really loved tea and wanted to learn more. I heard about the World Tea Expo so I took a trip to Las Vegas and attended my first Tea Expo. While there I took the New Business Boot Camp course as well as a level 1 course from the Speciality Tea Institute as intro to tea. As the years went on I kept attending the Expo and took levels 2-3 from STI.
What are your criteria for judging?
My criteria for judging iced tea are
Is the liquor clear or cloudy ?
What is the weight in the mouth ? Full bodied or thin?
If the tea is flavored is it well balanced or over powering?
is the aroma strong and overpowering subtle or balanced
These are some questions I ask myself when evaluating an iced tea.
What are some changes you have seen in this competition over the years? (For those who have judged before.)
In 2015 we noticed that there weren’t as many flavored entries as we’re in the past this was a sign that people’s palates are shifting and appreciating more of the artisan and single origin tea.
What kinds of teas do you usually drink, and why?
I tend to gravitate toward Japanese Sencha. I spent time in Japan at the tea gardens and really developed a love for this tea. Once fall hit I began drinking more Hojicha , Genmaicha and also Puerh.
Do you grow your own tea ?
A few years back I picked up two camellia sinensis plants and tried to grow the plants on my front porch. Fast forward two months later and it was game over. Both plants didn’t make it. Either I don’t have a green thumb or trying to grow tea in Southern California is not easy. It’s probably a little of both.