Eliot Jordan’s career in the tea industry began at Peet’s Coffee & Tea store in Berkeley, California, where he went from being a part-time employee to being a trainer and subsequently a tea purchaser, blender and buyer. During his tenure at Peet’s he introduced new teas and blends, such as Pride of the Port and Holiday Breakfast. In 2015, following Peet’s acquisition by Mighty Leaf Tea, Jordan became Mighty Leaf’s vice president and helped to enhance the company’s tea repertoire with the new Tea & Company, Wellness, and Origins lines.
- What sparked your interest in tea?
I have fond memories of having tea parties with my mother as a child. We would have a New England style afternoon tea most days, complete with real china teacups and home-baked cookies. Later on as an adult, I got a job at Peet’s Coffee & Tea.
- How/where did you learn about tea?
I learned at my job at Peet’s where first I learned from older staff and my manager. After a couple of years I was placed in the role of coffee and tea educator, so I would cup both with store staff and sometimes customers on a daily basis. After a few years of that I had the opportunity to learn tea tasting, purchasing and blending from Jim Reynolds at Peet’s. And working with suppliers who shared their love of tea plus their knowledge gave me quite a lot to chew on, not to mention traveling to Asia to see production for myself.
- What are your criteria for judging the iced tea (i.e., quality, color, aroma, taste)?
The basic attributes are clarity of liquor, balance on the palate, and aftertaste. I pay particular attention to the ‘naturalness’ and ‘believability’ of the flavor (if any), and discount samples that have an artificial aroma or taste. I also focus a lot on the mouthfeel, and personally feel that iced tea should be crisp and refreshing, neither flat nor coarse. Also, during the competition I attempt to predict the ‘durability’ of the tea – would it still be good if I drank 20 ounces of it? (This is tough because we have a lot of samples and can only sip small amounts.)
- For how many years have you been judging this competition?
I first judged possibly 10 years ago, can’t be sure exactly … I think it was the second year of the competition. I haven’t judged for the last 3-4 years.
- Do you judge any other tea competitions?
Nope, just this one. I do cup tea samples from all over the world, as well as competitors, all of which is the ‘competition in the marketplace.’
- What do you hope to see in the competition this year?
More quality, I hope! The iced tea business has such competitive pressure due to being a volume business, the nicest teas don’t always find a place. But those are what I want to see and cup!
- What kinds of teas do you usually drink, and why?
I start my day usually with a nice Assam or one of our black tea blends, usually with a splash of milk, just like Mom. After that it’s off to the races with green teas, oolong, Pu’er, whatever strikes my mood for the day; in a Beehouse teapot, or in Yixing pottery. I love variety; but I don’t usually brew myself flavored tea.
- Do you grow your own tea?
Yes I do! I have one plant in my back yard in Berkeley. I just made a second flush black tea from it. But I’m not quitting my day job …