I began drinking loose leaf tea at university. Initially it was classical black tea blends however from this I began to discover oolong, green and silver needle white tea. I then began learning and tasting as much as I could.
At university I ran a business that supplied bands to venues. When I graduated, instead of getting a job, I was fortunate to be able to send myself to catering school.
While studying at Le Cordon Bleu I attended a lecture by Thomas Badcock, a cheese supplier, known around London’s finest restaurants as Tom The Cheese Man.
Tom’s enthusiasm and knowledge were infectious; I know I was not the only person he inspired that day. Tom not only introduced me to the world of artisan cheeses - which I now eat far too much of - but also engendered a desire to become as knowledgable and as passionate about loose leaf tea as he was cheese.
Leaving catering school I became the Dutch Ambassador’s Personal Chef. I was fortunate that the Ambassador and his wife had a passion for tea and contemporary cuisine. They were very happy for me to try and source the rarest teas I could, as well as incorporate these into the cuisine I prepared at their official residence.
Over the past 10 or so years I have travelled, tasted and learned as much as I could about loose leaf tea. During this time I would often buy larger quantities of rare speciality teas and sell any extra to my friends or other chefs. (I knew someone who did something similar at university - not quite with tea - but perhaps not surprisingly he’s now in jail!)
Last summer I required a major operation on my knee to repair a 15 year old rugby injury. Knowing I would be housebound for several months I decided to finally set up my own online tea shop. driftwood, or similar, had been something I’d wanted to establish for well over 5 years but there were always reasons as to why it wasn’t the right time.
As cliched as it sounds, the hardest part was simply the decision to start. Saying that, I rarely find myself believing this when: shipments go missing; our website crashes; I’m negotiating Chinese shipping rates etc! However, now driftwood is running, while I’ve only had 1 full day off in the last year, I love what I do and I love that others are enjoying this too.
The simplest answer as to why I decided this was the business for me is, I love tea. There is a moment when you serve a tea, perhaps to someone who’s only experienced black bagged or bitter green teas before and they say ‘I never knew tea could taste like this!’
This is why I now do what I do.