About James Henderson Robe
I first became aware that tea didn’t always come in small perforated sacs as a child. Watching my great aunt meticulously blending Lapsang Souchong and Earl Grey in her kitchen I quickly became fascinated with Janie’s tea alchemy. Despite at the time not drinking tea I implored my parents to move away from the bagged stuff; to this day they still haven’t.
It was to be over a decade later, while at university in Edinburgh, that I began my own adventure into the world of loose leaf tea. Completing university - by then an aspiring tea connoisseur - I moved to London to begin studying at Le Cordon Bleu.
At Cordon Bleu you’re taught more than just how to cook - you learn to develop a palette - and by the time I graduated I knew enough to recognise and appreciate the subtle nuances of various loose leaf tea. I also discovered that listing obscure adjectives every time I served some was rarely seen as anything more than pretension; this was a point my friends were quick to raise.
Following catering school I became the Dutch Ambassador's Personal Chef. By chance the Ambassador had two passions: wine and tea. With the residence’s cellar already fully stocked with wine, it was left to me to seek out the finest, rarest and most exciting loose leaf teas available.
I have now spent the last ten years searching for and sampling some of the world’s finest teas. During this time I have learned many things about loose leaf tea, yet there really is only one point which I have found to be crucial: do I like it? If you like what you’re drinking nothing else should really matter.
Frequently I have encountered tea aficionados - pompous and aloof - seemingly preoccupied by the grade of a loose leaf, or a wonderfully exotic name, when in reality the resulting liquor that was being produced was, well, blah. For me that's not what tea should be about.
Give me a tea from a small farm, or a big farm, where perhaps they don’t separate every leaf into graded sizes, yet their teas are still picked by hand and they taste fantastic. These are the teas I actually want to drink.
As a young chef I was inspired by Eric Cheviot, Michelin starred chef, when he said ‘more important than being a pretty chef is being a tasty chef.’
Given the choice I’ll go for taste over beauty every time. I hope that this simple ideology and passion can be seen in each and every tea that I have personally selected for driftwood's online tea shop and, moreover, as a team we simply hope that you'll enjoy drinking and discovering our fresher loose leaf teas as much as we do.
James Henderson Robe