Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Detroit Moment

Detroit. The name comes from the French word that means, "strait," referring to the river that links Lake Huron and Lake Erie. Today, Detroit is in another type of strait; one of the "dire" variety, as it will discover if their city will be allowed to remain in bankruptcy protection.

There are many symbols that come to mind when I see the name Detroit. Motor City, Eminem, 8 Mile, Motown, a city struggling to find its place in a country where factories are obsolete and the housing crisis is at its worst. One thing that doesn't come to mind is Tea.

Until now.

Joseph Wesley Black Tea, a company built on passion. That's how they describe themselves, and that passion emanates from everything they do. From the package that arrived on my doorstep...

to the simple, yet elegant containers...

To the very leaves themselves...

No detail is too small.

So, already, it's love at first sight. There is no doubt that the teas will be special.

The first tea I steep is Joseph Wesley Tea No. 4, Dian Hong Congfu from China's Yunnan Province. The dry leaves have a malty, almost honeyed, fragrance, and the resulting brew is a deep, rich, clear red. The first sip - smooth, malt, with a caramel finish. There is a rustic touch embedded within, almost reminding me of sweet hay. It's so intriguing, I steep cup after cup.

I had mentioned to Joseph Uhl, President and CEO of Joseph Wesley Black Tea, how he had created my dream company: one which focuses solely on single estate black teas. And as I sipped Tea No. 4, I read his handwritten response to me, cementing once more my understanding of his passion, his brand, and his vision.

On to Joseph Wesley Tea No. 7, Lapsang Souchong. I must confess, I was truly disappointed when I saw the second tea was a Lapsang Souchong. Though it is a celebrated black tea among many, I have never enjoyed it. I've found it to be too smoky, too heavy-handed. For years, I have avoided it.

But, Mr. Uhl had won me over with this Tea Company from Detroit. I decided to put my faith in his selection and give it one more try.

I'm so glad I did.

This type of tea is typically plucked from the larger leaves on the tea plant, away from the bud, and often smoked over a pine fire, which gives it that distinct flavor. I love that Tea No. 7 is a "uniquely crafted iteration" of what is one of the oldest and most famous of the Chinese black teas from the Fujian province. I also love that it is "harvested in the famed tea gardens of the Wu Yi Shan rock cliffs." Doesn't it sound picturesque?  There is a smoky quality to the tea, but there is a balance of sweetness so the result is not harsh but harmonious.

I was so taken by surprise at how much I enjoyed this tea. I immediately tweeted:

I drank it all day yesterday and started with it again this morning. You can't stop me.
I may be biased - it's my dream tea company concept - but what I've experienced here is perfection.
Yes, Detroit was built on gritty determination, relentless hard work, and a hardscrabble survival instinct. But it was also built on refined perfectionism: whether the finely tooled automobile or laying down the flawless music track, or in this case, the search, discovery and presentation of the next level of tea. 
Today, Detroit may be in dire straits, but it is because of people like Joseph Uhl and companies like Joseph Wesley Black Tea that this city will soon regain its rightful place as a thriving and innovative American metropolis.