It’s midnight on a dreary Sunday evening. The responsibilities of the upcoming Monday have settled into your thoughts, shoving weekend memories to the corners of your mind once again. It is melancholic, the contrast between the peace of a quiet Sunday and the rush of a forthcoming Monday morning. Stressful, isn’t it? But with all the intensity the week can bring, life still has a way of balancing the scale, even if it is through a cup of tea.
For as long as I can remember, my mother would comfort me with tea and cookies. Having been raised by her Spanish-Filipina grandmother and Filipino-Chinese grandfather, she imbibed their love of tea and has been trying to pass it on to me.
In the right hands, or cup, tea’s subtle perfume can lift any mood.
Sheryl Martinez, founder and owner of Teavolution, knows this better than anyone. She has mastered the art of tranquility, not with your usual yoga class or occasional hit of nicotine, but with the art of tea.
Teavolution, like many, was born out of the desire to find a new passion. Martinez had the urge to find something new to sink her teeth into after she resigned from her job after having enough of the long commute in traffic. “My mental health was deteriorating,” she says. “It was the year they started construction on the Skyway. The traffic was really, really bad. One day I just said no, I can’t take this anymore, and wanted to resign. So I did!”
Naturally, the highs of starting anew were foremost on her mind. She quit her job without hesitation, not knowing what the next step would be. The firm, unshaken tone in her voice told me it did not scare her whatsoever.
‘He was talking about this ball of tea that was in a glass teapot containing a flower. When the waiter poured water, the flower somehow bloomed even more’
In the months leading up to her official resignation, her husband was casually sharing about his day and happened to mention his experience in a tea room. “He was at lunch. He was talking about this ball of tea that was in a glass teapot containing a flower. When the waiter poured water, the flower somehow bloomed even more.
“That image somehow got stuck in my mind.”
After that, Martinez found herself Googling and watching videos on elaborate tea ceremonies, and was particularly obsessed with tightly wound blooms budding in the water. The artistry and elegance of the simple act of pouring a beverage undoubtedly sparked her interest. She described herself as “consumed” with the art. “It is such a beautiful thing, but at the same time you can drink it, and it’s medicinal. That is where the journey truly started.”
As multifaceted as tea itself, Martinez is both a businesswoman and an artist. From this new passion, she decided to turn her thoughts into reality by founding Teavolution, a company that specializes in high-quality loose leaf teas.
“Why do you think coffee is so much more popular than tea in this country?” I asked out of pure curiosity. I myself am a tea drinker, but occasionally get bullied by my peers into ordering an iced latte. The answer has its roots in our colonial era. “The influence of coffee came from the Americans. They brought coffee here, so that was the drink of choice that we still see today. After they left, we started planting coffee trees and whatnot; there was nobody who championed tea for us.”
Stressed and want to relax? Perhaps a cup of green tea will help. Tummy ache? Some fennel tea will surely ease the pain
And so blossomed the desire to point her business in the direction of pioneering and educating. She hopes to revolutionize the way Filipinos perceive tea. Contrary to popular belief, tea is not just a mythical beverage from Asian folklore that will magically heal our broken souls. It does, in fact, have a plethora of uses. Stressed and want to relax? Perhaps a cup of green tea will help. Tummy ache? Some fennel tea will surely ease the pain. On top of it all, this liquid magic also has sprigs of caffeine for those who need to pull an all-nighter—everything you need in a mug.
Legend has it that a Chinese Emperor was out inspecting his lands. With the intense heat and exhaustion creeping in, he found refuge under a tree. He asked one of his pages to boil some water for him. As they waited for the water to boil, a slight breeze ruffled the bushes nearby, and a few of its leaves floated into the boiling water. The emperor tasted it and loved its subtle flavors. Thus tea as we know it today was born.
“Camelia sinensis is the scientific name of the tea plant,” explains Martinez. “Here in the Philippines, there’s salabat or ginger tea, sambong tea, but strictly speaking they aren’t tsaa. Tsaa is a specific type of plant that the Chinese have been propagating for thousands of years. The tea leaf itself has a lot of polyphenols, antioxidant properties, and caffeine. The leaves are then processed into the different types we know today, like green tea, white tea, black, yellow. The medicinal properties vary according to the type of tea you have.”
To enhance the experience of drinking tea, Martinez also offers a variety of teaware such as teacups and pots, all made in the Philippines. And to take it a step further, Martinez herself teaches specialty tea workshops that take you through the step-by-step process of brewing tea, a tea tasting degustacion, and my favorite, Meryenda at Tsaa. More than a class, it is a gathering of fellow tea lovers over kwento and pica-pica.
“I do three- to four-hour workshops. I get to tell people the origins and stories of the tea, the basic types and how it’s processed. At the same time, I teach them how to brew properly. Some people say they don’t like green tea because it is too bitter. But I always ask, how did you prepare it, because green tea can take only about 70 degrees of water temperature. Boiling water will flush out the caffeine and other things that release the bitter flavor. So the workshop will teach you how to brew tea the proper way.”
Teavolution hopes to promote the tea lifestyle—one of Zen and sense of balance amid the intensity of life in the Philippines. It is a relief to know that we may not have to wait for the sense of comfort and relaxation the weekend brings. We can find it in our own home, in a quiet moment, with a cup of tea.