Coffee Express

Providing great service to coffee houses and other specialty retailers in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana

Posts Tagged / tea

A Life and a Legacy in Tea

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By all accounts, John Harney’s last day was a good one… featuring strawberries.

John was an early and energetic riser, frequently preparing a hearty breakfast for the latest in the endless stream of visitors to his 200 year old house near the center of Sharon, CT at the edge of the Berkshires. He would then walk briskly through the town, greeting neighbors, and patronizing merchants. John always walked briskly, attacking flights of stairs as if there was a prize at the top.

On this day, John encountered a crop of exceptional strawberries at a roadside stand and bought the lot. The afternoon was spent distributing those strawberries to the 160 plus employees at the Harney and Sons Tea factory in Millerton, NY. This was a personal task, from the office staff in the front, to the shipping line in the back. He would look at the labels on the boxes and share stories about the customers.

Mr. Harney died that night, Tuesday, June 17. He did not linger. That would not have been his style. He was 83 years old.

John’s young life was not one of privilege, but he distinguished himself in The Marines, in Cornell University’s School of Hospitality, as an innkeeper, in his community, his church, and ultimately as a champion of the American tea industry.

John loved family and friends above all things. His beloved wife, Elyse, five children, and many grandchildren will carry on John’s legacy of generosity, charity, good humor, hospitality, and fine tea.

His wake was attended by thousands from the local community, every corner of the country, and beyond. After the burial there was a Bar-BQ with a Jazz band in the Harney’s beautiful back yard. Strawberry shortcake was served.



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Tea is hot . . . or cold. Your choice. Either way, this first cousin to coffee is one of the fastest growing and most important categories in the beverage industry. Coffee house operators, restaurateurs, and food retailers better pay attention. Update your selection, educate your staff, and inform your customers to establish your position and boost your sales.

Until recently, tea sales in the U.S. were incidental, lagging behind the specialty coffee boom. But it’s been a couple of centuries since we threw tea into the Boston Harbor, and tea is back with a vengeance.

To some degree, this surge of interest is driven by significant – and attendant publicity of – health benefits, which include cancer prevention, weight loss, and more. Lower caffeine content per ounce is said to be another contributing factor, given the aging population. Additionally, of course, the growing interest in all things culinary, sensory, and gustatory is the perfect driver for the fabulous array of flavors and aromas in the tea world.

As with coffee, there is a lot of information to absorb from thousands of years of Eastern tradition, and hundreds in the West. Categories include a stunning number of varieties: true leaf teas include greens, oolongs, blacks, and more; straight teas from China, Japan, India, Africa, and Indonesia as well as blends, flavors, and decafs. Dozens of herbal infusion, also known as tisanes, have their own history, lore, traditional uses, and methods of brewing.

In the future, I’ll talk about understanding and classifying different tea types & styles within this framework, as well as topics on brewing, marketing and merchandising in your establishment.