Advocate Educates Argentina’s Next Tea Generation

ROSARIO, Argentina

Diego Morlachetti appreciates the contemplative aspects of tea culture. Chalk it up to his two-decade long meditation practice that draws him to the quieter side of life. Quiet does not mean still, however, as Morlachetti has logged many a mile traveling the world as a Spanish interpreter for lifestyle guru and Ayurvedic physician Deepak Chopra.

Under Chopra’s tutelage from 1996-2000, Morlachetti absorbed rich lessons in health, wellness and business enterprise. In particular, Morlachetti studied the principles of Ayurveda, the 5,000-year-old Indian healing system that seeks to align peoples’ lifestyles with the natural rhythms of nature. It was Chopra who encouraged Morlachetti to travel to India to deepen his study.

In 2000, Morlachetti set off for India with business partner and mother, Liliana Venerucci and his sister, Flavia. The trip was a full immersion into Ayurveda. Raised in a family that easily embraced a healthy lifestyle, Ayurveda made sense to Morlachetti. A key goal of Ayurveda is to identify a person’s ideal state of balance, determine where they are out of balance and offer interventions — diet, herbs, aromatherapy, massage, music and meditation to achieve that balance. Morlachetti was particularly drawn to the healing powers of herbs and teas and how to best blend them for health. In the ensuing years, Diego and his family traveled extensively throughout Asia and Europe, studying tea along the way, soaking up its rich history and delving further into its capacity to foster health.

“What really enchanted me was how tea’s history paralleled that of human life,” Morlachetti says. “When you study the history of tea, you find the answers to questions about human life.”

Lilian Venerucci
Liliana Venerucci

Back home in Rosario, Argentina, he and his family took their accumulated knowledge and experience with tea and embarked on a path to bring tea to the Argentinean people. The first step was the creation of Agni teashop in 2005. A second shop followed, and today, Agni includes a tearoom and online site with 100 specialty teas on the menu. Agni, a Sanskrit word meaning fire, was a nod to Morlachetti’s reverence for Ayurvedic medicine that refers to digestive fires as agni.

“As I deepen and broaden my study of tea, I see how intimately entwined it is with the history of the human race. I don’t see tea solely as a commodity,” Morlachetti says. “Whether it’s tea in China, Japan or Nepal, it’s part of a people’s spiritual heritage.”

Tea’s heritage captured Morlachetti’s interest but equally compelling was the beverage’s impressive health résumé. Not content to simply serve and sell tea, Morlachetti and Liliana Vernucci set upon the idea of opening a school to train people about tea.

He reached out to the American Tea Masters Association and began to study for his tea master certification, which he earned in 2010. He and Venerucci hold the distinction of being the first certified tea masters in South America. Before the ink was dry on their certificates, he and Venerucci opened up the Escuela Argentina de Té in Rosario, Argentina’s second largest metropolitan area. It’s a family affair with mother and son at the helm, and sister, Flavia directing the marketing efforts.

From within the walls of the escuela, the first of its kind dedicated to tea training in the Spanish-speaking community, Morlachetti and Liliana Venerucci have been spreading the gospel of tea to their countrymen and others throughout South America with all of their programs translated into Spanish. Morlachetti sees his students as ‘connectors.’ “We want to train connectors to go out in the world, meet local consumers and introduce them to tea,” he states.

To take on the mantle of connector, students take part in an 18-month program at the Escuela Argentina de Te, where they study to become tea sommeliers (8 months) and then extend their training through a yearlong tea master program.

The school attracts retail tea entrepreneurs − both future and present; tea sommeliers employed at hotels and restaurants or other venues requiring a tea connoisseur; and those who simply love tea. “We are training the most knowledgeable people in tea in order to help consumers choose better teas,” Morlachetti says.

Diego MorlachettiCoffee, Tea or Maté?

Argentina is the world’s 10th biggest tea producer at 85 million kilos, and is the second largest importer of tea to the United States. The country’s tea drinkers share a similar profile to European tea consumers due to an immigrant population of Irish, Italian, and Scottish peoples who historically lean toward black tea.

Although there is a growing local interest in green, white, and oolongs – tea in Argentina competes with yerba maté, the national drink. Made from the leaves of the rainforest holly tree grown exclusively in Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil, yerba maté is consumed daily by much of the population. Coffee is also crowding tea in the beverage sector. Tea, however, is gently elbowing its way on to the beverage scene positioning itself as the healthier, less caffeinated option. “That resonates with a population growing increasingly interested in health,” Morlachetti explains.

Back to the Books

Morlachetti watched the tea tides shift when chefs starting using tea in their kitchens. “It was the food industry that exposed Argentineans to the health and taste benefits of tea,” he says. The culinary world’s affection for tea changed the conversation to a more sophisticated one. People began talking about tea like they talk about wine and its varietals, Morlachetti notes.

Morlachetti indulges in some of the world’s best teas, knowing others will come around to share his passion. Happiest when sipping a Chinese green tea, in particular greens from Zhegiang, an Imperial Dragon or Hunan. He also favors Sri Lankan low-ground black tea, Darjeelings from India, and traditional pu-erhs from Southwest China. Like any connoisseur, he is a lover of single origin teas, yet is working to become more familiar with blends, knowing it’s a vital avenue to introducing consumers to tea.

Morlachetti strives to be inclusive and hear all voices in the increasingly populated tea world he has helped to create. Like his mentor Deepak Chopra, he wants to share his health philosophy with a larger audience. His preferred method is over a pot of tea.

Escuela Argentina de TeEscuela Argentina de Té” offers career training related to tea (Tea Master, Tea Designer, Tea Sommelier). Students from several Latin-American countries currently attend the 18-month program. The institution also offers Tea Sommelier classes in Buenos Aires. Learn more at: www.escueladete.org