Friday, September 18, 2015
A Moment with Jane
I've known the name, "Jane Pettigrew," for over a decade, now. Since I very first began learning more about the world of tea, her name has been at the top of the list of leading experts and educators on the subject. Her name was on the marquee of numerous seminar and panels at the conferences I'd attended. The books that she wrote were and are known as the gold standards of tea tomes. And yet, I'd never met her.
There's always a tiny fear when one has the opportunity to meet someone he or she has respected and/or admired from afar. What if they are snobbish or condescending? What if they are full of themselves? Jane is non of those things. In fact, I found her to be as gracious, kind and effervescent in person as I've experienced from her presentations and writings.
As we chatted on our way to the studio, I learned that she got her start in tea 33 years ago when she and some friends opened a tea shop in London. They had no experience, no knowledge... they just thought it would be a fun and interesting business. Three decades later, she is recognized as on of the foremost voices of tea, as demonstrated by her 2014 World Tea Award for Best Educator and 2015 World Tea Awards (plural!) for Best Tea Personality and Best Tea Health Advocate.
I asked her what she's working on at the moment, and she shared the progress she's making in helping to found a Tea Institute in the UK. Yes, you read that correctly. There currently is no formal institution of higher learning on the subject of tea in the UK. And she's working to remedy that!
As we waited in the green room, we shared a cup of Golden Phoenix provided by Jesse Jacobs of Samovar Tea Lounge in San Francisco. As we sipped this incredibly smooth tea, I sat back and enjoyed learning of more of Jane's life, growing up in London, and learning that one thing she was most excited about was flying home in time for the finale of The Proms, an 8-week summer season of classical music concerts and events that dates back to 1895. Though one can purchase tickets to an indoor seating area for the concerts, what Jane loves most is that anyone can still just "pay a fiver," bring a picnic and listen to the music in the nosebleed section, and have that access to a beautiful moment.
Once it was time to get to work, I enjoyed seeing Jane in action as much as I enjoyed chatting with her. She was kind and engaging with every person with whom she interacted. She was genuinely interested in each of them.
There's a reason Jane Pettigrew has risen to superstar status in the tea world. Yes, she is knowledgeable, and well-spoken, and talented as a speaker and author. But there is more to it. She's a lovely human being.