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Steeped In Novelty, American-Made Tea From A New York Entrepreneur

Another kind of tea party
Another kind of tea party
Tejal Rao

NEW YORK On a recent Sunday afternoon, David Bromwich paces his friend's kitchen in Brooklyn barefoot, waiting for some tea to steep. As the alarm on his phone goes off, he's already pouring.

"It has a slight asparagus taste," he says, slurping the hot green tea from a spoon. "There are so many chemicals in tea," he explains, sticking a thermometer in another cup of water. "It's the processing that unlocks all the different compounds."

Bromwich, a 36-year-old product manager at Thomson Reuters, has always loved tea, tasting every one he could as a kid and later mail-ordering the leaves directly from tea makers all over the world. About 10 years ago, he got hung up on the idea of developing an American type of tea, which is more revolutionary than it sounds.

Despite the nation's history with tea, the culture of it in the United States is still new, explains Kathy Chan, a tea expert who works with fine dining restaurants such as Eleven Madison Park and the Peninsula Hotels group. So new, in fact, that a distinct, unifying style hasn't had the chance to develop among tea farmers in Hawaii, South Carolina or Washington. "When you taste a tea from Japan, or from India, you know it right away," Chan says, "but when you taste a tea from the U.S., you really don't know."

In September, Bromwich processed tea for the first time using leaves he picked in Brookhaven, Mississippi, and entered the Tea of the United States Awards, a competition for American tea growers launched by a founder of Tea Hawaii & Co. (While tea is an expanding $10 billion industry in the U.S., the majority of what Americans drink is more likely to have been grown by the world's larger producers, such as China, India or Japan.) His oolong won first place in the noncommercial category, and his green tea won second place. Next time he competes, Bromwich hopes it will be as a commercial producer.

To get his new processing operation up and running, Bromwich has invested in about $20,000 worth of equipment from England and India and hired a carpenter to build wood-framed mesh trays so he can wither the leaves as soon as they're picked. To make sure his first harvest went smoothly, he also hired Nigel Melican and Beverly Wainwright of Teacraft in the UK as consultants, and together they spent nearly a month hand-picking and rolling (during this time, Bromwich worked his day job at the information giant at night).

All in the processing

Tea, whether green, black or oolong, comes from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. The major variations are in the processing, and they are endless. Green tea is quickly heated, which preserves its color, while black tea is bashed and bruised to oxidize and blacken the leaves.

Bromwich ordered the biggest wok he could find online and set it over a gas flame to quickly roast the leaves for his green tea, tweaking and experimenting to produce more than 20 different batches. He took detailed notes on each, some mechanical and data-driven, but others simpler ("grabbing the tea with my hands, just to see how much it clumps together"). Though a few batches turned out badly, some delicious teas were in the mix, like this asparagus-y one.

"Originally, I thought I'd buy a farm and be a tea farmer," Bromwich says, "but I grew up in New Jersey, never had any land, and don't know how to farm. It just wasn't realistic." His new plan for Bromwich Tea involves less up-front investment. Eventually, he hopes, he'll roam the country full time, processing American-grown tea in collaboration with small-scale farmers.

It sounds flimsy, but it's a lot like how superstar "gypsy brewers" such as Pretty Things and Mikkeller managed to carve out space within the beer industry. The leaves he picked last month came from tea farmer Jason McDonald's 12 acres of 3-year-old tea plants, with some additional leaves from Robert "Buddy" Lee, a well-known plant breeder who happened to have an old tea bush in his yard. If all goes well in 2016, Bromwich will be working with small-scale growers in New York's Finger Lakes region and the Hudson Valley to make teas that are … well, he's not quite sure yet.

"The same way we didn't know what American wine would taste like years ago, we don't know exactly what American tea will taste like," says Bromwich, opening another unmarked canister of the goods. "It's really exciting."

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

What Are Iran's Real Intentions? Watch What The Houthis Do Next

Three commercial ships traveling through the Red Sea were attacked by missiles launched by Iran-backed Yemeni Houthi rebels, while the U.S. Navy shot down three drones. Tensions that are linked to the ongoing war in Gaza conflict and that may serve as an indication as to Iran's wider intentions.

photo of Raisi of iran speaking in parliament

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at the Iranian parliament in Tehran.

Icana News Agency via ZUMA
Pierre Haski


PARIS — It’s a parallel war that has so far claimed fewer victims and attracted less public attention than the one in Gaza. Yet it increasingly poses a serious threat of escalating at any time.

This conflict playing out in the international waters of the Red Sea, a strategic maritime route, features the U.S. Navy pitted against Yemen's Houthi rebels. But the stakes go beyond the Yemeni militants — with the latter being supported by Iran, which has a hand in virtually every hotspot in the region.

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Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, the Houthis have been making headlines, despite Yemen’s distance from the Gaza front. Starting with missiles launched directed toward southern Israel, which were intercepted by U.S. forces. Then came attacks on ships belonging, or suspected of belonging, to Israeli interests.

On Sunday, no fewer than three commercial ships were targeted by ballistic missiles in the Red Sea. The missiles caused minor damage and no casualties. Meanwhile, three drones were intercepted and destroyed by the U.S. Navy, currently deployed in full force in the region.

The Houthis claimed responsibility for these attacks, stating their intention to block Israeli ships' passage for as long as there was war in Gaza. The ships targeted on Sunday were registered in Panama, but at least one of them was Israeli. In the days before, several other ships were attacked and an Israeli cargo ship carrying cars was seized, and is still being held in the Yemeni port of Hodeida.

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