Sunday, September 6, 2009

Norbu Tea

Norbu Tea is an online Chinese tea company operating out from Dallas, Texas in USA.  The proprietor of this company is Gregory Glancy (yes, he is the one in the pix).  He sells chinese tea and tea accessories like teapots, gaiwans and tea sets.Gregory tells me that he personally source for all the tea he sells in his store. 

 I am privileged to have an interview with him (via email).  I posed some questions to him and his answers shown below are unedited for your information and reading pleasure.

 Question - tell me about yourself.  Answer: “I was born and raised in Dallas, TX.  Split most of my childhood between our cattle ranch in East Texas and our home in Dallas.  I attended a small University in Texas called Southwestern University, where I graduated with a Bachelors degree in Religious Studies and Economics.  My religious studies coursework was primarily focused on Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam, and I studied how the roots of these traditions have shaped some aspects of modern culture.  Interestingly (and I am still amazed that I was able to pull this off) I ended up writing my senior thesis on food concepts (raw vs. cooked, pure vs. polluting, etc) in the Hindu worldview. My economics coursework was focused on international economics and learning about the developing world. Random facts about me:  I play the Bass guitar and the saxophone.  I have worked as a line cook and a cooking teacher/demonstrator to feed my passion for learning about and sharing cooking techniques and food culture.  I am most passionate about my tea and my cooking interests.”

 Question : why enter into a tea business? Why chinese tea?  Answer : “Ever since I was a kid, I have always been a tea drinker, but in Texas we always drink black tea (usually not Chinese) over ice with some lemon and sweetener if you want it (I still don't use any sweeteners in any of my teas).  I started seriously learning about tea a few years ago when I tasted some decent quality Taiwan oolong for the first was like a lightbulb went on in my head and I realized how much of a sensory experience there can be in good quality tea.  From there, I was on a quest to learn as much as I could about tea, so I started going to local tea shops, shopping online, etc just so I could taste as much as I could and build a frame of reference in my head for what different types and styles of tea can actually taste like.  I tried my first Pu-Erh (a loose leaf ripe Pu-Erh with dried tea flowers mixed in that wasn't very good at all in hindsight) at some point in my tea exploration, was intrigued with it, and decided to try to learn as much as I could about Pu-Erh tea.  There was virtually nothing written about Pu-Erh in English, so I had to dig pretty hard to find any good information at all.   Eventually, I ended up traveling to Yunnan for a vacation.  I spent a few days in the Kunming tea market, and fell completely in love with all the teas I drank there.  When I got home from that trip, I looked around in Asian grocery stores and online, but couldn't find any of the teas I loved so much.  That's when the idea for Norbu Tea was born...I basically wanted these awesome teas to be available, saw an opportunity in the marketplace, cashed in my savings, and started the company.”

 Question:  where do you see yourself and chinese tea in 5 years time?  Answer : “In 5 years time, I hope to be focusing all of my professional efforts on promoting great tea.  Chinese tea has won my heart completely, and I can't imagine not working in this field in some capacity or another.  At this point Norbu Tea has only been online for about one year, so I don't really have a way of predicting whether the company will be a success or not. I just plan to continue to focus on a very high standard of quality and/or freshness of the products I work with while keeping prices as fair as possible.  I think that if I keep these two aspects of the business firmly in my focus that Norbu Tea has a good chance of being successful.  (I'm not happy with the next part of this answer at all, but I can't seem to come up with a better way to communicate my thoughts on the future of tea in China yet...this part is a work in progress)  Over the next few years, I hope that small scale Chinese tea farmers and producers are able to make a good living.  As it is now, a lot of the big commercial farms produce some pretty good quality teas but keep the prices low with a huge supply of inexpensive products for domestic consumption.  The problem is that the small producers of more artisan type products aren't able to offer their products for a price as low as the big factories can, so the world is in danger of losing some of the lesser known but great Chinese teas and tea styles.  If overseas demand for higher quality tea continues to grow over the next few years, my guess is that traditional producers will be able to support themselves by producing traditional artisanal teas.  We'll have to wait and see if the market trends in China will continue to allow more and more domestic consumers to pay a premium for high quality tea as opposed to high quantity tea.”

 Question:  any tea promotions to our readers? Answer : “Sure!  Enter this code without the quotation marks: "E144F86C" in the coupon code box to get 15% off your next order.  New customers will have to register for an account before they can apply the coupon, but we don't EVER share/sell email addresses or any personal customer data with ANYONE.  One coupon use per registered user account.  (Coupon not applicable to shipping charges unfortunately).  Coupon code expires 2009-10-31.” (31 oct ’09)

 Norbu tea’s website provides good information on tea and the brewing aspects of  different teas.  You can also sign up for a e-news letter.  Payment for your orders is done through paypal.

 I would like to thank Gregory Glancy for sharing his information, pictures and thoughts with us and I wish him the very best in his tea endeavors. Check out the website:  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Gregory and I have a lot in common. Seems he fell in love with Pu-erh when he devoted himself to tea, and that's similar to what's happened for me too. Then also he was into religious studies, and my focus is like that too, though I'm more Western in my approach. --Spirituality of Tea