John Cullicott brings more than 16 years of tea industry experience to judging. As President and COO of Walters Bay, he has helped develop the grower-direct business model, which prioritizes sustainability, traceability and transparency. Cullicott’s experience encompasses every step of the supply chain, from tea nurseries and gardens to factories and packaging. He was also instrumental in creating category winners for the North American Tea Championship for 12 years. Additionally, he contributed to developing some of STI’s courses.
- What sparked your interest in tea?
Initially, I was attracted to the industry by being an avid tea drinker. From then on, my interest has grown every day by continuing to learn about the tea supply chain primarily related to tea estate workers, farmers, and the human factor involved in making a cup of tea.
- How/where did you learn about tea?
I am extremely fortunate to have learned about tea at origin, standing in the tea gardens and tea factories. The planters, pluckers, factory workers, and garden workers are the best people to teach others about what they do. Learning first-hand from those who create this incredible experience we call tea is so powerful. I always encourage anyone who can to take a trip to origin to learn this way. After 18 years in this industry, I am still learning!
- What do you hope competitors and those who follow the competition will take away from it?
I hope this competition offers an insight into quality teas, how those teas are made, and the origins and people behind every cup of tea.
- Do you grow your own tea?
Yes we are a tea grower. Walters Bay operates tea gardens and tea processing factories in the highlands of Sri Lanka.
- What is the best time to drink tea?
For me, any time of the day is tea time! There is such a wide variety of styles and flavors, there is always a great fit.