Kenneth Rimdahl – TRANSCRIPT
Well, this is fermented tea leaves that people in Northern Thailand use for eating. Yes, this is the same leaf, and it’s from the same plant as the tea we normally use for drinking.
This, you know what it is, no? The drinking tea, I guess. So, please remember this because this is an ancient heritage from Northern Thailand that can provide to save the forest here in this region. I’ve been working with tea since 1994, when a good friend of mine, and my tea mentor, convinced me to open up a tea shop in Madrid, in Spain. And about 15 years ago, I came to Thailand to source ceramic teapots. At that time, I didn’t have a clue that Thailand was growing tea.
Not until a friend of mine – who today is also my business partner, Mr Vorakan Wongfu – he told me so. But I was not sure, because I’d never heard about tea from Thailand. I’d heard about tea from India, from Sri Lanka, from China, even from Russia, but never about tea from Thailand. So he wanted to show me, so he took me to the local market here in Chiang Mai, Worarot Market, and he shows me this.
Doesn’t look like tea, does it? So, still I was not very sure. So he told me, “Okay, I’ll take you up to the mountain; I’ll show you the plant.” So he took me up to the mountain, and it was the tea plant, but this was growing in the forest. I was amazed because it was so different from all the other tea plantations I’ve seen around the world. You know, these kind of small, green, beautiful bushes, grows nice fields.
But this tea was growing in its natural habitat, together with all the other trees. Well, we continue our journey in Northern Thailand, traveling around, and I saw these kind of bare mountains without so many trees, some completely without any trees. And I started thinking about this deforestation and also about this tea that my friend just had shown me inside the forest. So, I thought, this was my profession, so I thought, wow, it’d be cool to make tea for drinking from this tea plantation and forest. But I went back to Spain, and it took many years.