Danielle Hochstetter learned about tea in China at Zhejiang University and ran a tea tourism business. After returning to the United States, she worked at Mighty Leaf Tea and Teforia where she was the Director of Tea.
- What sparked your interest in tea?
I don’t know if there was any one thing, it was more of a snowballing interest. It started as something that was better to drink than coffee or soda and then something that made me feel a connection to other cultures, and finally, something that makes me feel closer to nature.
- How/where did you learn about tea?
At first, I mostly read books about tea. Then I worked at a few tea houses, then got a job at International Tea Importers and learned from Devan Shah. Finally, I learned that I will never know much about tea after graduating from the Master’s degree program in Tea Science at Zhejiang University.
- What are your criteria for judging the hot tea (i.e., quality, color, aroma, taste)?
I try to focus mostly on cup quality and aroma. The Chinese place a lot of emphasis on leaf appearance and, while I think it is a good data point, I try not to let it bias me a against a tea.
- For how many years have you been judging this competition?
This is my first time!
- What do you hope to see in the competition this year?
I think there are some delicious teas coming out of China that are being innovative with new cultivars in new places and playing with blurring the lines between black and oolong tea.
- What kinds of teas do you usually drink, and why?
I am usually reaching for teas that are fresh (less than one year old, younger for green teas) and complex enough to be drunk over and over again. I also find myself drinking teas that change in character, but are still delicious, when you change the steeping parameters a bit. For example, a tea that becomes two great, but quite different cups when steeped at 190F and 212F. Those are the ones I want to keep drinking over and over again.