Julius Meinl tea moments: Interview with Mr. Thomas Meinl senior

Tea has always been an integral part of Julius Meinl’s business. Already back in 1862, Julius Meinl I. offered a variety of teas on the shelves of his grocery stores in Vienna. 
We asked Mr. Meinl senior, what does the tea we offer in our portfolio mean to him. 

What does the Julius Meinl tea portfolio mean to you personally?


I remember very well my time in the Julius Meinl tea department and how we spent a lot of time tasting the many different kinds of tea samples. The intensive smell of the samples is still very present for me.


You even completed a special tea training, correct?


Yes, absolutely! I spent several months in Hamburg and was trained in tea at a traditional tea trading house. I learned a lot about all the different kinds of teas during this time. 


Was there something that had a lasting impression on you?


For sure! How there is such a vast range of different kinds of teas around the world amazes me.


I also remember a trip to East Frisia, a region in the outer North-West of Germany. The people there drink incredible amounts of black tea. Two hundred years ago, this was a way to make the brackish water there bearable to drink. From this point onwards, East Frisia has established a strong tea drinking culture.


You have spent a lot of time in the UK where tea consumption is also very high. What do you associate with the British way of drinking tea?


I have always been fascinated by the ‘builder’s tea.’ I vividly remember when I came across my first ‘builder’s tea’ at Paddington station in London, where a group of craftsmen were enjoying a tea during their work break. It’s remarkably strong, made to energise and invigorate during, and after, a period of hard work.


It’s intended that enjoying a Julius Meinl product creates a memorable moment. Which kind of ‘Meinl moment’ do you associate with a good cup of tea?


I don’t find coffee and tea to be too different in this regard. Enjoying a good cup of tea (or coffee) with friends makes for a precious moment. Such a moment will often end up in hilarious, or deep, conversations. In addition, I find it exciting how much of a role tea plays in many cultures around the globe.  

If you have a look at China or Japan, for example, tea is deeply rooted in these cultures and plays a pivotal role. Most significant moments are marked with tea being poured and consumed. Observing their tea ceremonies, its role in social situations, and the preparation of tea that is guided by strict rules, fascinates me.


How has the world of tea and Julius Meinl’s tea range changed throughout your time at the company?


The biggest change I think I’ve observed is the change of mindset in regard to how we produce and get our lovely teas to our customers. Sustainability is a focus that has energised the business in this regard, leading to the company pushing for new innovative ways to make tea more eco-friendly and rethinking how we approach the tea value chain. It’s exciting to watch the industry go through this transformation in recent years, and it’s great to see the Meinl company continue the same pioneering spirit that it all began with. I look forward to seeing how we lead the way in making tea not only better for our current customers, but also for future generations. 


Last but not least, a very important question –do you have a favourite tea, Mr. Meinl?


I very much enjoy our Darjeeling ‘Happy Valley.’ The name of this tea garden alone is brilliant. Generally, I enjoy black teas a lot. Also, a good Ceylon tea from the Nuwara Eliya region hits the spot, or a strong Assam.

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