season 2 | ep. 22
with Sanaya El Sayad
steeping together podcast
- season 2 | Ep. 22
mini episode: answering your questions
with Sanaya El Sayad
august 2022 Length: 25:41 see all
Marika de Vienne 0:18
Welcome, everyone to a special mini episode of Steeping Together where we explore a specific topic within the vast world of tea with a tea enthusiast. I'm your tea-obsessed host Marika, and I cannot wait to dive right into today's topic. So today, for our season finale, we are delving into all the questions we have received from our fans, either via email or social media. We get hundreds of questions each and every day and although we do our best to get answers to everyone, we don't always have the time to give longer answers to interesting queries. So with the help of our guests, Sanaya, the Senior Director of Tea and Product Development here at DAVIDsTEA, we're going to pick the questions that come up the most often, and try to see if she can spill all the tea regarding some of the things that we do here. Welcome, Sanaya!
Sanaya El Sayad 1:13
Thank you. I'm back!
Marika de Vienne 1:15
You’re back! It's such a delight to have you back. And I don't say that for every guest, so you should definitely feel very special.
Sanaya El Sayad 1:21
Thank you. I know you don't, because I listen to your podcast.
Marika de Vienne 1:27
For anyone who would have missed your previous appearance on the podcast, who are you?
Sanaya El Sayad 1:32
So I've been with DAVIDsTEA for about 11 years now, starting off in our stores, and now I'm the Senior Director of Tea and Product Development, where we do everything from taste teas to build the assortments, to build the kits and work on all the hard goods that all of you enjoy.
Marika de Vienne 1:49
You really have a hand in kind of everything that we do at DAVIDsTEA now, really when it comes from the product ideation phase. And a lot of the questions that I found on social media, I've been able either to ask other experts in the office or outside of the office, you know, caffeine level, water quality, all those kinds of things. But some people want to just know about us and what makes DAVIDsTEA unique. And I couldn't think of anybody who could like answer all of those questions. I would have needed like six different people. And I was like okay, Sanaya is going to help us answer our most frequently asked questions. I feel like you may be nervous, I’m putting you in a position of asking you some really tough questions. Where are you at?
Sanaya El Sayad 2:35
Very nervous. But I can do it. I'm ready, I'm here for you.
Marika de Vienne 2:40
Okay, perfect. So the first question actually comes from our Tea Tasting Club from a member called Perry Papadopoulos. Thank you so much for your question. And it's a tough one. It's a tough one. What's the most unique tea that you think we've ever released? Now, we've released close to 1000 teas.
Sanaya El Sayad 3:02
I'm sure there's more.
Marika de Vienne 3:03
I feel like there's no more, I just feel like when I go in the system, I'm like wow, it definitely feels like over 1000. You've been here for a really big chunk of it. I know this is a tough question for you. What say you, Sanaya?
Sanaya El Sayad 3:15
it's like choosing your favourite child.
Marika de Vienne 3:21
That’s true, very much so.
Sanaya El Sayad 3:22
But there are definitely some teas that are a bit more unique than others. Like I would say, a relatively newer one to the collection would be Maui Madness. That's the first time we've ever used an ingredient called purple potato that gives it a really, really beautiful colour. And we included that ingredient because we definitely identified a trend in terms of the coloured Instagram TikTok beverage space. So that one would be my number one. I think. I do have others though.
Marika de Vienne 3:53
Okay, well, I just have a question about Maui Madness, because it's interesting that you say that you were looking at a trend. You know, we talked about this last time, you know, you're very much focused in on, you know, what's trending, what ingredients are available, what newness we can bring to a collection, but you've been here 11 years, so you've been at DAVIDsTEA longer than there has been Instagram.
Sanaya El Sayad 4:16
Marika de Vienne 4:17
So I guess you've kind of seen the shift change from like, we don't really care what the colour of the tea is, and not that that's the primary focus of Maui Madness. It's a really refreshing tea. It's really fruity, it's really fun. But that purple potato is an ingredient that I mean, I steep it and the colour makes me happy before I've even sipped anything. So it is an important part of the tea. Do you think that in the past 11 years that's become like a bigger focus, is like the colour of the tea because of social media?
Sanaya El Sayad 4:46
Yeah, I do think so. I think that in the tasting room, we were really focused obviously on the flavour and on the visual appearance of the tea leaf, and colour was important enough, but I think that especially with the kind of Instagrammable nature of certain colours and flavour profiles and beverage types, and the addition of lemonade, and what will that do and all that kind of thing, I definitely think there's been a shift and we are a little bit more focused on colour and trying to be a little bit more mindful of, oh, we don't need all of these red teas, let's try and introduce a blue or purple where we can, or matcha. So I do think it is important.
Marika de Vienne 5:20
I agree. And I think if you'd asked me this question, maybe even like five years ago, I would have said, What are you talking about, who cares? You know, I just want it to taste good. But there's something really interesting about giving an ingredient like purple potato the forefront. Because it is, from a blending perspective, also really good. It balances out the tea really nicely. It gives the flavour profile a chance to breathe. And then, like I said, like you see the colour and you want to drink it. So it is becoming more important. And you're giving, you know, light to an ingredient that previously was almost never used in tea. I've never seen it being used.
Sanaya El Sayad 5:57
I’ve never seen it. Nope, I agree.
Marika de Vienne 5:59
Well excellent answer. But you did say you had more. Because I said what's the most unique tea and you're like no no no, I’ve got more…
Sanaya El Sayad 6:04
What are the three most unique teas? That’s what I heard.
The floor is yours!
All right, so going back a little bit to a collection from the past. If anyone had seen Soup Teas, that was a pretty special moment for us. I think that was the first foray into salty DAVIDsTEA profiles. So those, for anyone who doesn't know, were kind of these powdery teas that were Tomato Turmeric, I think we had a Spicy Rasam, Matcha Miso. They're very savoury as opposed to our more sweeter kind of like fruity profiles, I guess you could say. They're meant to be just stirred in water and just kind of think of them as instant soup packets, but they all had a base of some type of tea, green tea or I think there was rooibos–matcha, obviously. And yeah, so those are pretty unique. Those had a really nice moment.
Marika de Vienne 7:01
So I will always remember Soup Teas because they launched when I started working at DAVIDsTEA. And I remember thinking, wow, this is really innovative. This is really fun. Because having lived in China, I'd seen a lot of like soups with tea in it? And they were always really complicated to make. And I always appreciated them and I was like, I'm not going to make this, I'm not going to do this. And so to have that kind of instant tea powder, kind of like matcha, basically you guys took the principle of matcha, extended it to Soup Teas. And like I remember there was like a Rosemary Black Pepper, I think?
Yes, that was a good one.
That one was so good. It was so hot and warming and comforting. And as a tea enthusiast, I like having tea in every single aspect of my life. And those Soup Teas fit the bill. Let me tell you!
Sanaya El Sayad 7:54
I know, they were so great. And it was just, I really appreciated them, running from meeting to meeting and just being able to have like a little like savoury snack in between. They were just, I don't know, it just was super comforting. Tea is meant to be comforting, so it felt like the right product.
Marika de Vienne 8:09
It was the right product, and it came with those giant mugs.
Sanaya El Sayad 8:12
It did, yeah I think we did have a little kit.
Marika de Vienne 8:15
I loved the giant mug! I used it for the Soup Teas but I also used it for like, everything else!
Sanaya El Sayad 8:18
Yeah, it just made sense. Then it became a little bit more diverse. I was seasoning vegetables and chicken with them. So that's always fun when a product can be used in different ways.
Marika de Vienne 8:30
That’s really nice, nice callout to Soup Teas. Maybe we'll see them make a return in the future? Who knows! See, I promised the listeners that you'd be spilling the tea. Here we are. Soup Tea is coming back?!
Sanaya El Sayad 8:43
Tell the people. Write in if you want Soup Teas to come back.
Marika de Vienne 8:46
Let us know if you want the Soup Teas to make a return. Well those–
Sanaya El Sayad 8:53
I have one more tea!
Marika de Vienne 8:57
MOh really? Okay, cause I thought Soup Teas–I'm so sorry to have stepped on your toes. Please tell me.
Sanaya El Sayad 9:00
Okay, the last one, I think would be Silver Bell Oolong. And the reason why I say that I mean this tea was previously named Monks’ Blend, for people that don't know, it was rebranded for the holiday purposes. This is a blend of white tea, jasmine green tea pearls and a milk oolong base, and I think if you think of those teas on their own, they can be a little bit more complex and can bring us some astringency and I think that just in the blending process they marry really well and make for a really nice creamy, well-balanced cup.
Marika de Vienne 9:31
I have to agree with you mainly because monks’ tea is something that you find on the market. We were not the only people to market monks’ tea, but to find it with the types of teas that we use in the base, like you said the white tea in combination with the jasmine pearls, with the milk oolong base. It reminded me of other monks’ teas that I've had in the past but it was way more elevated and a lot less astringent and bitter, which is what I appreciated about it because that was one of the reasons I didn't really drink a lot of monks’ teas. They mostly have green tea bases. And this one was just smooth, like Luther Vandross smooth. I'm dating myself by saying Luther Vandross, but just like you know, the TikTok generation’s like, what are you talking about? But yeah, just really velvety and smooth and nice.
Sanaya El Sayad 10:24
It's not the most out there profile, but really when you taste it and you've tasted other teas in that category before, green, jasmine, all that. I think there's a yeah, there's something that makes it special.
Marika de Vienne 10:34
So most unique that you have to taste. Interesting, interesting. No, because you went for the innovative ingredient. You went for the innovative preparation savoriness. And then you went for, look you just got to try it.
Sanaya El Sayad 10:50
Don't trust me. Try it for yourself.
Marika de Vienne 10:54
Well played Sanaya, I think you're you're well on your way to being prepared for the next question. Are you ready?
Sanaya El Sayad 11:01
Marika de Vienne 11:03
So this is also someone in the Tea Tasting Club, and I really hope I'm pronouncing their name correctly. Apologies if I'm not–Konya Kayet said “I would like to hear more about the creation process, like how do you decide on which ingredients to use to create a blend? So Sanaya, tell us.
Sanaya El Sayad 11:24
This is one of my favourite things. So I think a lot of people that know me know that I love taste tests. So, and that could just be as simple as eating something new, or it could be a matter of eating something or drinking something that fits into the same wheelhouse. So a new soda line, all the flavours under that umbrella. But I think that you'd be surprised to know that we take a lot of inspiration, not really from the tea world necessarily, but we take a lot of inspiration from food and beverage and we like to make variations on the beverages or foods that we experience. So for example, a tea like raspberry Mojito. Raspberry Mojito is not the typical profile of a mojito beverage. But I but I think what's playful in our realm is like okay, you know, mojito is something approachable, mojito is something commercial, let's add an ingredient that'll jazz it up a little bit and make it a bit more unique, and we'll create a curiosity for people to try it. Same way, Sparkling Sangria is an example. That one is a little bit more effervescent in the cup, because of the floral notes, and because the sweetness that comes out, we pull on that, from the sparkling TeaPop nature of that of that beverage type. So it really comes from inspiration outside. I dunno if that answers your question.
Marika de Vienne 12:44
It answers the question. Yeah so I just, I want to kind of understand, I do know you and you are taste tester supreme, you'll try anything once. And sometimes I've come to you with new things to taste and you're like, Oh, I've already tasted that. Like, really, it's hard to catch you off your game when it comes to that. But it does make sense just, I'm trying to look at it from an outside perspective of, a lot of our teas are not necessarily coming from the traditional tea world, the Eastern tea world. We obviously have a number of single origin Garden to Cup teas. Obviously, we honour and respect, you know, that history, but we are making North American teas. And through that fact, we kind of look at North American foods and try to do what I've always affectionately termed molecular gastronomy for everyone. I know it annoys you, I say that all the time! But you know, S’mores Chai is the example you know, or, as you said, like Raspberry Mojito, I mean that's a drink. But trying to take a staple or a more common ingredient, dish, beverage that we'll find in North America and recreate that in a blend, in an infusible thing that you can have ready in less than five minutes. That's really extraordinary is whether you're making it hot or iced, most of our teas can be prepared in under five minutes.
Sanaya El Sayad 14:11
Yeah, for sure. And I think that once you start finding inspiration in things that you're consuming, you'll be eating a meal and you'll just think okay right, yep, this tiramisu, this is a tea, this tiramisu will become a tea. Just kind of like everything that you eat or drink kind of enters this realm of this like background list that you keep in your mind like, oh, well, I did have this Sicilian lemon tart, maybe that could be a tea in the future. You know, it just kind of like enters a bank of ideas. And that's where we get our inspiration from, and also just ingredients that we see emerging, you start seeing it in different industries, like tamarind is one that we're seeing right now, for example. Okay, let's see how can we apply that to a blend and make that a little bit more commercial and fun for consumers?
Marika de Vienne 14:57
So I'm going to ask you a question. I'm not a listener of the podcast, but I'm in the room and I have to ask you, and feel free to decline. What is the one dish that you've been trying to get recreated into a tea that you just cannot make happen?
Sanaya El Sayad 15:13
I think that we've been trying for a really long time to have a type of like Rice Krispies style profile.
Marika de Vienne 15:18
Like the Rice Krispies square, like with the marshmallow?
Sanaya El Sayad 15:20
Yes, but it is a little bit more complex. Like how do you marry the rice with the marshmallow and not have it too cloying or overpowering in sweetness? What type of tea base is it on?
Marika de Vienne 15:31
That's an interesting–
Do you have a solution for us?
I think I do. But I'm not a blending expert by any means. My instinct is to say, take a Genmaicha tea and just put marshmallows and vanilla flavouring on it!
Sanaya El Sayad 15:47
That’s a good instinct I think.
Marika de Vienne 15:48
But I think the green tea would make it too bitter, I don't know. We'll have to get Billy in here and discuss why this Rice Krispie treat has not happened yet.
Sanaya El Sayad 15:58
We’ll have a mini episode on Rice Krispie treats tea.
Marika de Vienne 16:03
We'll get him in here and ask him all the really hard, tough questions.
I love it. Okay, next question. And this is one that we've seen a lot in social media particularly, how do you store your tea at home? Because people are like, I have too much tea. I'm inundated. I don't want to get rid of any of them, but how do I organise it? How do I store it? What do I do? I'm drowning.
Sanaya El Sayad 16:27
Yeah, I feel like, so I moved in September. And I had this situation at my house, my parents house, I had kilo bags everywhere. There were tins, there were web pre-packs, it was just kind of everywhere. And I genuinely did not have a solution at that time. So I really do feel for people! Now I've downsized, I had to let go of some of the teas, I know that they’re safe at home with my parents.
Marika de Vienne 16:51
You haven't downsized, you just stored it somewhere else!
Sanaya El Sayad 16:55
Essentially, I’ve stored them. And I have quite a narrow cupboard and I do kind of just leave my more breakfast-y teas at the front and have another row for my ginger, Headache Halo, Cold 911 type wellness benefit teas, but it is pretty narrow. And there definitely are some tins that are kind of just like stacked on one another. And they’re just kind of rolling around in there. But that's pretty much it. I think it's more like my routine teas that I keep at the forefront, like the breakfast and the cold and sleep.
Marika de Vienne 17:28
I could not agree with you more because I think a lot of people think there's some kind of magic solution. And look, you can do it alphabetically. You can do it by tea type, you know, all your green teas together, all your black teas together. Obviously for storage, just make sure whatever you do, it's airtight. Just make sure it's airtight. So that your tea is protected from light and humidity and everything. But routine, think about what your own routine is. I could not agree with that more. I have my day-to-day teas on one shelf, my ice tea is on another shelf, and my sleep teas on another shelf. And that's how I've divided it.
Because those are the three things that I need the most.
Sanaya El Sayad 18:07
Yeah, I should be making more iced tea at home. I should have an iced tea shelf. That's a good idea.
Marika de Vienne 18:11
I just feel like every time I put my iced tea with my regular teas, I forget like, is this better iced or hot? And so I just started, like putting them in a special shelf. Perfect. All right, so that's how we store our teas. I'd love to hear from listeners their organizational process, because how many teas do you think you have at home?
Sanaya El Sayad 18:28
I honestly don’t–I think I have about 15 Right now, like it’s not–
It's not a lot. Also, because coming to the office, we can drink as much tea as you want. So I'm being a little bit more selective of which ones enter my house.
Marika de Vienne 18:40
Well, I can't say my number now. Because that will make me sound like I have a problem!
I did the tally of when I moved last year, and when I moved I had about 450.
Sanaya El Sayad 18:54
Oh my goodness. That’s a lot of tea.
Marika de Vienne 18:57
Yes, it’s a lot of tea. I do drink all of them and some I keep for like very special occasions, special guests.
Where do you put them?
There are several units in my kitchen, I have a mobile shelf–much to my husband's dismay, there's a large mobile shelf with all of my teas and my special like pu’erh teas are kept in a box somewhere else in the house because I will only go to those maybe once or twice a year so I don't need them to be really accessible.
Sanaya El Sayad 19:28
Are you the only one that drinks tea in your house? Or do you, are you able to, because I am one of the few–my boyfriend doesn’t really drink as much tea as me. So I find myself having to make all the tea or like drinking all of it. So it's kind of burdensome.
Marika de Vienne 19:42
I'm definitely drinking 90% of the tea in the house. Because my husband does drink tea everyday but he only drinks like 10 teas. Like there's only like, it's very select.
Oh, not 10 throughout the day?
No no, no, no! No, that's me. That's how many cups of tea I drink in a day. No he has a special love for black strong black teas, like Kenyan Tinder, and he really likes oolongs and so that's all he drinks. I've tried, Sanaya. I've tried to get him to drink other things.
Tell him about Silver Bell Oolong, while you're at it.
He would never okay, I can say that right now, that he would smell it and he would be like, no. Okay, so last question. This is a question we get a lot from customers who have visited us in stores, had a sample of our teas or gotten tea to go. Why does my tea never taste the same at home versus in store when the Tea Guides make it? Is it the filtered water? What is going on? That is literally the question!
Sanaya El Sayad 20:49
I have also gotten this comment from family members, and I'll elaborate more on that in a second. But I think that in terms of the water, I do think that Ravi’s episode on the water quality actually made some a lot of sense and kind of decodes a lot of situations that you have in terms of regional differences with water, and it can affect the flavour and it was something that I never really thought of. And I did start noticing the differences when I would work in store and then when I’d come home and taste those flavour differences. I do think though, another part of it is that like when your mom makes you a sandwich, it always tastes better than when you make it. So when I talk about the family part, that my whole family will say, Oh, can you make us a tea please? It tastes so much better when you make it. So I think that there's definitely something there.
Marika de Vienne 21:39
I did not expect that answer and completely agree with you. A tea is so much more delicious when somebody else makes it for you, for some reason. And we are not denying the water differences. Like I find even just in Montreal in different neighbourhoods, I can taste the difference of the water based on how old the pipes are. But honestly, yeah, if you make me a cup of tea, it's way better than if I made it for myself. And it's not just psychological. I think there's just, maybe you put just a few more leaves, maybe let it steep just 30 seconds longer. It's so individual. Oh, I'm so happy. I'm so happy you said that. Because I've always felt that but you can't say that without sounding really pretentious, like it tastes so much better when someone else makes it for you!
Sanaya El Sayad 22:27
And then once you start making, at least in my case, once you start making tea for those people, like they're just selectively learning as you go. So I would always tell my mom, you have to you have, to use a less hot water when you're making white, green, sometimes oolong teas, just make sure you add some cool water to the leaves. 11 years later, we still don't know which teas we need to put cool water on. It’s just selective. Which is just adorable. I really appreciate, I'm happy to make tea for anyone who asks or wants one, but it's just very funny.
Marika de Vienne 23:00
Completely agree. The other thing I think is important in this question, because it was specifically “why does my tea taste different at home versus when Tea Guides make it?” First thing I'll say is Tea Guides have been trained to make the perfect cup of tea. And then they've literally made thousands of cups of tea. There is a certain amount of specialisation and knowledge that goes into it. You know they're not robots, they're not–this is still someone steeping a tea. You know, we're not making tea from like syrups or, not to call out any large chain coffee places that do that. There is a kind of art to making the tea. And once you've made over a thousand in a, you know, a few years working in a store, yeah, you're probably going to make a pretty darn good cup of tea. But I mean, not to put too fine a point on it.
Sanaya El Sayad 23:53
Like, I think then you just get into feeling a little bit more comfortable making your tea, once you find out how you like to customise it and what just makes you happy. And just don't be scared. It's all good. I'm sure your tea is delicious.
Marika de Vienne 24:07
Trust yourself to make a good cup of tea. That's an excellent answer. Well, you know, Sanaya, thank you so much for taking the time because I know that you are a busy lady. But this has been really, really helpful because these are not questions that we can just answer in social media. This is not something you can say well, our Tea Guides are experts and you’re not. You know like, you can’t.
No, definitely not. the response you want on social media takes a longer explanation. So thank you for coming and doing this. I really hope that you'll do it again, because I picked these questions literally out of about 100 different questions. So we have more. It's not like we don't have more, but it figured let's finish the season by thanking our listeners with Sanaya, who's able to give us these really precise and interesting answers.
Sanaya El Sayad 25:01
This is so lovely! Thank you for having me. Thank you so much everyone. That's listen we all love you very much.
Marika de Vienne 25:06
So that's it for now we will be back for season three. Stay tuned to find out when, where, how and who's coming back. If you'd like to reach us with comments, questions or topics for another mini episode in the meantime, you can do so at @steeping.together or through our website davidsrea.com Have a great week and happy steeping everyone.
Sanaya El Sayad 25:30