Pursuit of Tea founder Sebastian Beckwith’s fascination with the many cultural and medicinal applications of tea was sparked in his late twenties, while he was traveling in Darjeeling, India. He spent time with the region’s local growers and his interest grew.
Today, Beckwith is a New York City-based American tea authority. He teaches educational seminars at the China Institute and the Institute of Culinary Education, as well as at museums. He also leads presentations with renowned integrative health expert Dr. Andrew Weil at Columbia University and spends several months each year in Asia, sourcing teas.
Here, Beckwith describes how the ancient beverage can help us pause and take a moment to notice the beauty of now:
Live The Process: How did your fascination with tea begin, and what has kept your passion alive so long after that initial discovery?
Sebastian Beckwith: My fascination with tea began as a hobby in my late twenties. I found coffee unsatisfying and the range of tea that was available even less so. It was mostly teabags and there were very few sources for good loose tea. I started to seek it out and then spent time on tea estates in Darjeeling, when I traveled in the region. People in India taught me about how they grew and processed their tea. There are so many aspects to learn about and enjoy—it's a continual learning experience. One can never know it all.
LTP: When traveling to remote places as you do in your searches, what is the biggest obstacle to staying healthy and how do you counteract it?
SB: Getting clean water and safe food can be difficult. I eat a mainly vegetarian diet while I'm traveling, which can be a real challenge. Making sure that they don't add lots of MSG to give the food "flavor" is a full time job in China! If the water is suspect, I can usually drink tea or beer, both of which are generally safe.
LTP: What tips would you offer those who are interested in learning more about the ancient craft of tea, but have little access to dynamic instruction?
SB: The best way to learn about tea is to drink it. Buy small amounts of tea from a reputable vender, one that turns his or her stock and can answer your questions.
LTP: What inspired you to begin educating others?
SB: I saw that people are very interested in tea and they usually lack even the most basic knowledge about it. Many people hear that tea is a healthy beverage and begin to discover it that way. Others crave the time to just be still and comfortable in a day-to-day ritual or process. Tea works well for that, as there is a time for the process of preparing and a time for reflection and enjoyment while drinking it. I can fill in some of the knowledge gaps by preparing tea with them and talking about the culture and origin.
LTP: How did you meet wellness guru, Andrew Weil, and what have you learned from him?
SB: I met Dr. Weil just after the millennium, through mutual friends. From him, I have learned to keep the focus on learning new things. His curiosity and search for knowledge is never ending, and it’s always inspiring to hear what he's learning about, working on or reading.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
SB: Happiness is living your life with balance, so that you're comfortable with all aspects of it. I make sure that there's balance in my everyday life so that my body isn't stressed and I'm comfortable in my environment. I spend time in nature and try to keep my schedule manageable.
LTP: What does it mean to you to "Live The Process" and how do you do that every day?
SB: As human beings, we seem to always be looking for what we don't have. The exercise is to enjoy where we are at any point. I take time in the morning to make tea and sit before getting into emails and the busy part of the day. I think that if you're really aware of your surroundings, you can see the beauty of the moment in almost any situation. The trick is to see the beauty of the moment while you're on the subway and not just when making tea or walking in the forest. The path of life ultimately holds the most importance. We need to see the beauty and feel the enjoyment of where we are every day.