Kōrero : My Story
My first memory with tea was when I was 5 in my parents farm shed, early 1970’s. My parents owned a hop farm and employed 20 or so people each harvest season. My job was to help mum make the cuppa tea. The loose tea arrived in Choysa branded wooden boxes, lids nailed down. The boxes were always reused, at one stage in my life I stored my tape collections but mostly they were used as toolboxes for nuts and bolts on the farm.
It was a thrill to crack the boxes open, to inhale the first whiff of Earl Grey. I would scoop the tea into the big tea pots and my mother would pour hot water from the urns and let it sit. We’d set all of the different shaped teacups on the Formica tables and pour tea for all of the workers. It was a pleasant experience and I enjoyed watching the workers choose their cup. The tea had an aromatic sweet scent, for me it had an everlasting memory attached to it.
As I grew up I’d spend much of our time hunting or fishing with whanau and friends, with this bought the real taste of nature. Ngahere Tī / Bushmans tea was the most common for me in the South Island however when I'd visit whanau in Opotiki it was always a different plant from the whenua, I didn’t know what the plants were but I’d drink it any way. Sometimes cousins or elders would say ‘don’t touch that’ and I would never ask why. Eventually I started asking questions and this is when I found out who I was, it was how I was able to heal my mind. I finally understood the importance of Papatūānuku and why we should treat her with care. I worked in Auckland city for several years each weekend I would explore the Waitakere tracks. I hiked every track in the Waitarere and would sit for hours examining the plants in this most amazing sub-tropical rain forest. I would take my identification books and my modern Jetboil for heating water to drink tea from the bush. I would take plants home and match with my various books, taking care new plants were correctly identified often amazed at what I’d found. When the Waitakere Ranges closed, I was sad but grateful I learned so much and that this beautiful forest will flourish once again.
I have spent time in various countries learning new cultures and experiencing some amazing teas especially from the Amazon, throughout South America and India. I had booked for a 4-week trip to China’s tea estates but due to Covid19 my plans have been put on hold. I cannot wait to hear their stories and to be inspired by the masters of tea making.
I have moved back to Te Waipounamu where the ngahere is bold and beautiful, plants are different, new plants to identify and new understandings of how careful we need to be as we are endangering our ngahere. I study Te Reo Māori, giving me a deeper understanding of my culture (and other cultures for that matter) I’ve finally found who I am, it was always there it just took a very long time to find me.
‘Learn about the plants and they will show you the way’.