episode 2

How do you order
a tea online?

with Kelly Miller

Kelly Miller

steeping together
podcast - episode #02

How do you order a tea online?

with Kelly Miller

november 2021
Length: 37:38 see all
Listen on:

episode transcript

Marika de Vienne 0:26

Welcome everyone to another episode of Steeping Together, the podcast where we explore the vast world of tea over a cup of tea with a tea enthusiast. I'm your tea-obsessed host Marika, and today I've invited a very special guest to answer a highly specific question. How do you buy tea online? Now, there's no doubt that all of our lives have been turned absolutely upside down over the last 18 months, and it's hard to find a single individual whose routine has not been affected by world events. One of my favourite activities to do before the pandemic hit was to go to a tea shop and smell new arrivals, taste good old standby teas, and specially curate my purchases based on what I smelled and tasted. Even though tea shops are open across the country at the time of this recording, public health safety measures means that smelling teas is now something that we have to do through a mask. Therefore, like most of our shopping habits, we have turned to online shopping to keep our tea cupboards well stocked. And this begs the question, how do you buy a tea you will like using only a picture and a description on a website? How do you know what to buy? So without further ado, I would like to introduce my guest for today, Kelly Miller, in the hopes that her vast experience in the world of tea will help us to best determine how to make these choices online from the hundreds of tea companies out there. Welcome, Kelly!

Kelly Miller 1:52

Hi, thanks for having me.

Marika de Vienne 1:53

It's such a delight to have you with us here today. Kelly, would you care to introduce yourself in the way that you would like to be introduced?

Kelly Miller 2:01

Sure. So I thought about this a little bit and I'm going to give you like three facts about myself in the style that you do like, first day of classes in high school. But all tea related.

Marika de Vienne 2:14

Right, right. Ooh I cannot wait. Let's hear it.

Kelly Miller 2:15

So fact number one: My all time favourite tea from DAVIDsTEA that we have ever carried is Cranberry Pear.

Marika de Vienne 2:23

Oh, yes. I actually knew that and I agree with you.

Kelly Miller 2:27

Fact number two, I own over 1500 different kinds of tea.

Marika de Vienne 2:35

That's so much to unpack. That's so much – I'm gonna let you keep introducing yourself. I apologize for interrupting.

Kelly Miller 2:43

No worries. It's a shocking number. And I think this one's gonna be even more shocking. Fact number three, I spent more money on tea and teaware last month than I did on rent.

Marika de Vienne 2:58

I absolutely love that because you know, this podcast is about interviewing tea enthusiasts and you absolutely fall into that category. So Kelly, you work here at DAVIDsTEA in the Research and Development department, which I've always found to be a very cold name for such a warm department because you get to think about teas that we want to create, taste a bunch of teas, really kind of determine what teas we're going to release to the public at large. What do you do exactly in our research and development?

Kelly Miller 3:34

If I had to sum in one word, and then I'll give you a longer description after, it would just be: curious. I think the drive for everything we do in R&D comes from personal curiosity. Everyone in our department is excited by flavour, by innovation, by trying new things and it makes us better at what we do. We actively seek out you know, here in the office and outside, all different types of flavours and foods and beverages and drinks. So sometimes that's tea, it can be cocktails, or baked goods or fancy curries. Really anything under the umbrella of things you put in your mouth.

Marika de Vienne 4:18

I love that you guys are really flavour hunters. You're really looking for specific flavours like sometimes I'll go into the lab and I'll say like, what do you what are you tasting today and the descriptions that you give to these teas. It's never just oh, I'm tasting a strawberry tea. It's, “I'm tasting a baked strawberry tea with a hint of vanilla and some undertone of fig.” It's incredibly well-thought-out and these flavours are layered one upon the other to create these really deep and interesting teas. How did you first start working at DAVIDsTEA, how long have you been here?

Kelly Miller 4:57

I've been with DAVIDsTEA for about five years now, but I actually started my journey with DAVIDsTEA as a customer. And when I started working for the company, it was as a Seasonal Tea Guide. So I've travelled quite a long way, very literally, to be here in the office.

Marika de Vienne 05:18

Which, we're in Montreal, and you're originally from Saskatchewan. So you did travel halfway across the country to join us here in Montreal and we're very grateful for that. But how did – Did tea first come into your life then through DAVIDsTEA, or through another experience?

Kelly Miller 05:31

It was through DAVIDsTEA, so unless you count like bottled or like instant iced tea mix, the first time I ever came in contact with loose leaf tea in any way, shape, or form was in a DAVIDsTEA and it was Birthday Cake actually, was my intro tea. And I wasn't even coming in for myself. I was coming in to shop for someone else. And I just, it was that curiosity, it really all comes back to that. There were so many different things on the wall and it massively blew my mind in terms of the variety and types of tea out there. And I just had to keep coming back to see what else there was. Yeah.

Marika de Vienne 6:11

Over the years, though, you didn't limit yourself to only DAVIDsTEA.

Kelly Miller 6:17

No, no I did not. I mean, DAVIDsTEA is integral to my story and my journey as a tea drinker. But I lived in Saskatchewan, there was like, not a lot of options around. And I did hit a point pretty quickly, where I tried basically everything within the store. And I'm a flavour junkie, I needed more, I needed to see what else was out there. And there wasn't anything else physical where I was living. So I had to turn to online sources.

Marika de Vienne 6:50

And that is the exact reason I asked you to join me today, because your tea journey, yes, did start with DAVIDsTEA, but your passion for tea compelled you to continue discovering tea through other companies. 90% of them online, I would say.

Kelly Miller 7:08

Probably higher than that, honestly.

Marika de Vienne 7:11

Interesting. So just to give a background on your credentials, we know your journey. We know you love tea. But how many teas, Kelly, do you taste in a single year? Could you estimate?

Kelly Miller 7:22

Within R&D we probably taste around 2000 different tea samples in a year. And I mean like different profiles. Sometimes a tea will have multiple samples associated with it as we try and tweak and get that perfectly right. So it's really a ton professionally, but personally, it's much much higher.

Marika de Vienne 7:46

You really, you took the job home, you took the job to heart! You're tasting a lot more at home. I mean, do you drink anything other than tea?

Kelly Miller 7:56

Not usually unless it's like mixed with tea.

Marika de Vienne 8:00

Okay, like cocktails?

Kelly Miller 8:02

Or like lemonade, you know? TeaPop is great, lattes are awesome. But no, like mostly it's just tea.

Marika de Vienne 8:10

So we're in the thousands of teas you're tasting in a year. And most of them you're ordering online, just blind. So what are the top three things for buying a tea online? Because I go to a tea website, and because of my background I understand the different types of tea, be it oolong or white, and I have an understanding of what I enjoy personally. I love pineapple so I love pineapple flavour teas, I love like a rich cocoa. I enjoy Taiwan oolongs really a lot and so I have a tendency to gravitate towards those. But for someone who is new to the world of tea, wants to learn more, doesn't have necessary access to a physical store – Where do you, how do you even start? Like it's daunting, there are thousands of tea companies and hundreds of thousands of teas. Like what, where do you start?

Kelly Miller 9:13

I definitely have a process and like three main steps to that, that took honestly years of trial and error to find what I personally believe is the perfect way to tackle looking at a tea site for the first time. And that's: Sample, which I know sounds obvious, but we'll talk about it in depth.

Marika de Vienne 9:33

What do you mean by a sample?

Kelly Miller 9:36

It can mean a couple different things. So most companies will offer some type of sampler or variety pack option, it's their top sellers. Sometimes it's a seasonal assortment, a collection of teas they recommend steeped a particular way, and generally those kinds of kits or samplers come in smaller sizes. Also companies though will offer their teas individually as smaller sizes as well. So when I say sample I mean buy a lot of things in a lot of small sizes.

Marika de Vienne 10:08

So think big, but drink small.

Kelly Miller 10:12

Yeah, exactly. Personally, I feel like 25 grams is the perfect amount when you're trying a tea for the first time, because if you like it instantly, you get a couple more cups of it to enjoy. If you don't like it right away, you get to play around with your steeping because we don't always steep tea perfectly the first time we drink it. So it's definitely worthwhile to try things a couple different ways. And 25 grams allows you to do that. And then if you still don't like it after that, you're not stuck with a bunch of extra and you don't hold that resentment for buying something that you're not going to enjoy or finish.

Marika de Vienne 10:46

Yeah, I always try to tell people that you know, to your point, you're not going to steep a new tea perfect the first time. Sometimes you get lucky and you just steep it and it's your cup of tea, for lack of a better term. But you have to allow yourself to play with water temperatures, steeping time, steeping method, maybe you're using a different teapot, maybe you drank it at the wrong time of day and you weren't really in the mood for that. So 25 grams allows you to really determine whether you like it or not. And would you say that after 25 grams, if you don't like it, that's pretty much it?

Kelly Miller 11:22

I mean, there's the general shifts in palate that come like over large expansions of time. But yeah, I personally feel like 25 grams, if you've tried it like three or four times and it's just not your jam. It's not your jam.

Marika de Vienne 11:36

Yeah. And there's nothing wrong with you, even if it's a high quality, rare tea that, you know, only comes to North America once a year. Look, if you don't like it, you don't like it, don't try to convince yourself that you should like it. And I hate when tea experts are like, “Oh, well, you should enjoy this cup of tea.” Well, I don't. And there's 5000 natural varieties on the planet and hundreds of thousands of flavoured teas on the planet. Don't worry, this is not your last cup of tea, you'll get there!

Kelly Miller 12:08

There's more things out there. And that's why sampling is great. Because if you buy a sampler of 10 teas, and you only like three of them, guess what, if you had bought 100 grams of all of those 10 teas right off the bat, you'd be stuck with over a kilo of tea that you're going to feel miserable drinking.

Marika de Vienne 12:28

And that is not what we're going for. Tea is a happy, happy thing! Perfect. Okay, what's your second tip for buying a tea online?

Kelly Miller 12:38

Tip number two is look for similar flavours and descriptions. And that actually works perfectly in tandem with sampling. So same idea: Sampler of 10 teas, you like three out of 10 of them, look for the commonalities and the dissimilarities. So if all of the teas in the sampler were, I don't know, rooibos-based teas and you hated all of them, maybe you can start identifying that rooibos is just something you don't enjoy, or that is just not something that you naturally gravitate towards. Conversely, if all three of the teas you enjoyed were the three black teas in the sampler. Guess what, maybe black tea is something you want to actually more actively sample and try more of in the future. So it's things like that, but also the way people talk to their teas on their websites, or when it comes to flavoured teas, the ingredients. So if, for example, you're a big fan of Nepal Black and we describe that tea as sweet and honey-like, and that's your favourite straight black tea, look for other teas on our site or on other companies sites that use the same flavour notes when they describe that tea. If it's the honey note or the natural sweetness, you can find other straight black teas that share those qualities and it will give you a natural branch of exploration.

Marika de Vienne 14:02

How do you go from liking the descriptors of a black tea and searching for that same descriptor in a pu’erh, for example? Like how do you – you know you like black teas. Done and done, fantastic. But you want to try a pu’erh tea for the first time and you don't know where to start. How do you transfer the knowledge of your personal tastes and the descriptors involved to choosing a pu’erh, for example?

Kelly Miller 14:30

Personally, I think it's very linear. If the quality and black tea that you like is a natural cocoa note, honestly just look for different kinds of pu’erh that use the same descriptor. It might not be an instant translation, and of course, because all tea types have slightly different tastes due to their processing and their different terroirs. It might be a little bit different but it'll at least give you a starting point. And from there if you try, as an example an oolong, a Tie Kwan Yin with a lot of nutty notes, and you want to branch from oolong into green tea, you might look for green teas that also have nutty descriptions. So things like chestnut notes, or notes of like toasted hazelnuts. And it will be different, but it at least gives you that first connection point. And then when you try that tea, so maybe you stumble from a Tie Kwan Yin onto a Dragon Well, you can then assess what qualities of this Dragon Well do you like, what do you not like? And if instantly you're like, “Oh, this is not at all what I wanted to drink,” that's okay. Don't force yourself into it. Maybe try a green tea with a drastically different profile, or a different descriptor. Because, you know, if Dragon Well, just 100% was not up your alley, it's okay to completely go off that branch and jump to a new tree.

Marika de Vienne 16:05

Yeah, I love it. That's a really, really great way to find new tea groups that you would enjoy. What's your last tip?

Kelly Miller 16:15

My last tip is look for people with similar flavour interests. It could be friends. For me, I didn't know a single other tea drinker when I started buying online. And I didn't have anyone that I could go and see in person, like at stores, to kind of talk about this with. So I had to look for people online, and I found like some online communities, Instagram, among others. But also what was really helpful was reading reviews on different tea websites. So that could be a person, right, it's not necessarily something you would think right off the bat. But if you look at a site, and there's like seven different reviews under a tea that you enjoy, maybe one of them will mention another tea you like, right? You can kind of look for those different pathways. And it's not always instant, sometimes you have to actively hunt, but it could be a friend, it could be a family member, maybe your grandmother really loves southern iced tea and sweet teas. Find the one tea that you have in common or maybe more than one tea that you both enjoy, and then see what teas that person likes that are similar.

Marika de Vienne 17:34

I love that because community in tea is so important because yes, tea is an individual personalized drink but it's also something that you can share with people over a zoom call. It doesn't necessarily have to be in person. In person is always nice, but just sharing a cup of tea with someone, and you invariably, yes will discuss what you're tasting, but the conversation always goes somewhere else. And so that experience is something we should all chase because it's incredibly gratifying. Really gratifying. Okay, so just to recap: buy small samples, look for shared flavour descriptions, and find people with similar tastes. You think people with those three tips are going to be able to launch into the daunting universe that is online tea?

Kelly Miller 18:19

I do. I think it's a really great way to kind of narrow down what can feel like a very overwhelming selection.

Marika de Vienne 18:28

Yeah, absolutely. So you actually chose the tea that we're drinking together today. Do you want to tell me a little bit about it?

Kelly Miller 18:35

Sure. This is Banana Bread Chai, it is an oolong tea that, as the name would imply, tastes a bit like banana bread with you know, spice.

Marika de Vienne 18:45

It's one of those instances that if you're shopping online, sometimes the name tells you everything you need to know. It's Banana Bread Chai, so banana, there's going to be a fruity element. Bread, there's probably going to be like a baked element. It won't be a zesty fruit. It won't be a fresh fruit, there'll be a kind of baked element. And chai, we all know just means tea, but in North America we associate it with spiced tea. I was very hesitant about this tea because it hits everything that I like. I love banana flavoured teas. I love banana bread just as, you know, a cake. And I love chais, and I love oolongs, and oolongs are my favourite tea base. But I was still afraid of being disappointed because it's kind of an incongruous name. It's not something that you associate with a tea necessarily. So this I think if I'd bought it online would have been riskier for me. I would have felt almost like baited. Like they know what I like, you know, they know what I want to drink. But yeah, the name is a huge, huge help in describing the tea and yeah, I really do enjoy this tea. I drink it more often than I actually thought I would.

Kelly Miller 20:01

See I consider that a success. The name is important. I think there's more weight that goes on a name when buying online than there is in store. Having worked in stores, I can tell you many, many times people will ask what a name means for a tea and you have that opportunity to tell them. Online, you don't really get that. Sometimes it's there in the description of the tea, but you don't usually see the description of the tea until you click on the page.

Marika de Vienne 20:31

Right, yeah so the name is the first thing that's gonna grab you, be it a fanciful name like Banana Bread Chai, or if it's a tea name that relates back to the origin, like Japanese Sencha, the name already orients you to what the tea is probably going to taste like.

Kelly Miller 20:51

I’ve had a lot of success where names will pull me in, and I will get really excited about something and then when it arrives, doesn't really taste like what I imagined. So good and bad. Yeah, it really goes both ways. And that's why I never ever, anymore anyway, order purely based on a name. I will always read a description and an ingredient list in tandem to that. But it took me a while to learn to do that.

Marika de Vienne 21:20

That's great. I essentially never want to buy a tea online without you by my side, now. I'm going to be calling you! But I think you've given our listeners a great, you know, set of rules and tips to buy their tea online. Now, I'm always fascinated, not by only the best experiences in someone's life, but also the worst experiences because they can be just defining moments. So I want to hear about the worst online tea purchase you ever made.

Kelly Miller 21:54

I'm really lucky in that I haven't had a lot of very, truly bad orders. I've certainly had misses in terms of ordering a tea and it just really not working for me, especially when I started ordering online. But one of the orders that always sticks out in my head as like a “Oh, I could have done that better,” is very, very early on. When I started exploring tea, I placed a massive order for a lot of straight white tea and Chinese green tea samples. This was at a point where I didn't know anything about tea needing different water temperatures and steeping time.

Marika de Vienne 22:36

Oh my lord. Okay, sorry, I can already kind of see where this is going!

Kelly Miller 22:40

So I absolutely got my order and very excitedly made cups of tea with way too much tea leaf and boiling water steeped for like 5-10 minutes. And they were some of the most undrinkably bitter teas that I've ever tried. Which I know now, largely, I mean, almost entirely, is just user error in terms of not understanding what I was ordering. But at the time, I just kind of wrote it off as like, this is bad tea. And I actually wrote a very negative review for one of the teas that I ordered under the review section. And I think about that a lot, how me now would never do anything like that. Not out of a place of like, you shouldn't say when you don't enjoy a tea.

Marika: You should absolutely speak the truth.

Kelly: I believe pretty strongly that there's still value in expressing when you don't like a tea and you can learn from that. And you can also express when you don't like a tea very constructively. But I think often about how many people out there have written really negative reviews for teas or really hated teas, but didn't necessarily make them the way that they were intended to be made. And that's not to say you can experiment with your steeping, you should absolutely experiment with your steeping.

Marika de Vienne 24:09

Absolutely. And like you know, you ordered a bunch of white tea and green tea from China. I love green tea from China. I don't drink it regularly but whenever I have a cup I really enjoy it. I to this day cannot wrap my brain around white tea like traditional white tea, I understand that it's good. I can taste it and understand that it's well balanced, that it has beautiful notes when steeped properly. But at the end of the day, I probably never give a glowing review to a white tea if I'm being honest. I wouldn't give it a negative review and I certainly wouldn't blame anyone but myself in terms of having prepared it or just not liking the tea itself. But okay, that's a pretty good – especially the quantity that you bought, made it the worst experience.

Kelly Miller 24:55

Yeah, I had a lot of resentment for a probably longer time than I should have, about feeling like duped into trying this tea that I really didn't like. And it was just so many factors that added up in a really unpleasant way. I was buying large amounts of things I hadn't tried before, I wasn't paying attention to steeping recommendations. I mean, you know this about me, I just don't like green tea. I didn't know that about me at the time, it took a lot of experimentation and learning. And, you know, trying many, many, many different steeping methods for straight green teas, and it's just not a thing I enjoy. So, you know, in hindsight, even if I had done all of the things, read the descriptions for the teas, steeped them according to the recommended steeping instructions, bought small amounts, I still wouldn't have liked it.

Marika de Vienne 25:52

Yeah, that's understandable. Okay, one last question. Do you think you can ever have the same experience buying a tea online, as you would in a brick and mortar store?

Kelly Miller 26:05

Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. Think about it. We're very, very privileged here in Montreal to not only have a DAVIDsTEA near us, but many other different tea companies, and get to have the opportunity to go and shop in person. Whether it's me living in a more remote area of the prairies, or people in drastically different countries who just don't live places where physical locations exists, right? They have to buy online, there is a strategy to it, for sure. But they're getting just as much enjoyment out of those teas as what you're buying in person. And if you kind of write off the online shopping experience as just “less than,” what does that say about the people who that's just never an option for them because of where they live or their financial situation or like their socio-economic background, and all of those things. They're not “less than” in terms of tea drinkers. They're not “less than” in terms of the pleasure they're getting out of what they're receiving.

Marika de Vienne 27:10

That's so beautifully said. I have no follow up question! I think that you're so on point with that. It doesn't take away from the enjoyment of the tea and it certainly doesn't take away from your ability to learn more, taste more, grow more.

Kelly Miller 27:30

Just because you smell something in person and you like how it smells doesn't mean you're gonna like how it tastes also.

Marika de Vienne 27:37

100% Kelly, I'm gonna put a pin in it because I do have other questions, but it's time to take a break. We'll be right back.

AD BREAK - 27:48

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Marika de Vienne 28:36

All right, welcome back. It's time to play “What Are You Drinking?” the quiz where we ask our guests three situational questions, some realistic, some completely out there. And they have to use all their experience and expertise to tell us what they would drink in any one of these given situations. Kelly, are you ready to play “What Are You Drinking?”

Kelly Miller 28:58

For sure. I did not do three years of high school improv to not be ready.

Marika de Vienne 29:04

Fantastic! Alright, question one: The new season of that show you've been waiting for like all year has finally been released on Netflix. Your day is totally clear. You have your favourite snacks. What tea are you making for the incoming binge watch?

Kelly Miller 29:23

Oh boy. So I do think it would depend on what the show is and I am a massive consumer of all things fandom and geekery. So there are many shows that I wait very long periods of time for. But in general, it's probably a flavoured tea, probably something blended that I can make in a large amount. If it’s a full day binge watch I'm going like full iced tea pitcher, full tea pot. Something I can have many, many, many cups of because I'm going to be there until that season is done!

Marika de Vienne 30:00

Okay, no breaks for you. Just a large refreshing – Are you pairing your tea choice with your snacks, how much of that is important?

Kelly Miller 30:12

So my movie snack of choice is generally chips. I am a big fan of like a giant bag of chips and I like ketchup chips, which are –

Marika de Vienne 30:21

Because they’re the best, I'm gonna just say that, they're the best.

Kelly Miller 30:25

They are both sweet and savoury. So I would probably want something that is the same level of flavour intensity because when you're pairing foods, whether that's, you know, potato chips or otherwise, a really good tip is to match the level of flavour. And ketchup chips are just strong, especially if you're eating a bag of them.

Marika de Vienne 30:49

A whole bag is a pretty intense, wonderfully intense experience!

Kelly Miller 30:53

A big punch of ketchup. So it would be a strongly flavoured tea and probably something fruity to break up some of the like, savoury elements. And I mean, ketchup comes from tomatoes. Tomatoes are a fruit, and they do have more of a like fruity sweetness, and I think people like to acknowledge about them.

Marika de Vienne 31:18

I love that, that's well chosen. I agree. I would join you on your binge watch. Are you ready for question two?

Kelly Miller 31:24

For sure.

Marika de Vienne 31:26

Your train has been delayed. You didn't even know that trains could get delayed by this much, planes maybe, but this train isn't coming for like the next four hours. Why?! The frustration abounds, you are going to be very, very late. What are you drinking?

Kelly Miller 31:47

So if I was going on a train or a train ride, I probably would have already had tea with me realistically, I would have had a travel mug of something. And as you know, I always travel with tea. So my backpack always has an assortment of tea samples in it. So I would probably finish whatever I was currently drinking. If I had access to like hot water or a cafe or if there was like a nearby coffee shop, something like that, I would go in, I would likely order a tea from them. If they didn't have tea, I’d just order hot water and I’d make whatever sample I had already in my backpack.

Marika de Vienne 32:31

Okay, whatever you have on hand in this moment of absolute frustration and crisis, you're just going to grab the first tea you can get your hands on?

Kelly Miller 32:40

Well, it's an unplanned situation, it's not like I could prepare in advance for a four hour delay. So it would have to be whatever is in the nearby vicinity, or what I have on my person. And the most important thing for me in that situation is that I'm not going four hours without tea. So yes, whatever is available!

Marika de Vienne 33:03

I like how you're like, “Well, I didn't plan for this, Marika. Think of your situational question. It's an unexpected delay.” But yes, absolutely. Okay, you're gonna grab the first thing you can, I accept your answer. Well done. Are you ready for question three? You're not sure if you're dreaming or if what's happening is actually real. But you come to the sudden realisation that you are in a Disney princess movie. You're wearing a big poofy ballgown and outside your kitchen window you can see small woodland creatures and fairies. You have the sneaking suspicion that whether you want to or not, you're about to burst into song. And as the background music starts to build up, Kelly, what are you drinking?

Kelly Miller 33:47

First off, I would be mortified. One, I don't sing. It's just not a thing. But it's happening. I can't I can't control it.

Marika de Vienne 34:00

That is the situation that we're in.

Kelly Miller 34:03

And two, I don't think I've worn a dress and like the last two years. So I would like be looking down and that would also be concerning. So my immediate thought would be I need something comforting. I need something that is going to take the edge off whatever is happening here.

Marika de Vienne 34:22

I think a lot of people would feel like you but some people will be like, “Oh, I finally made it to a Disney movie.” And you're just like, “No, I need something. I need a hug. I need a hug in a mug. And I need it now.” So yeah, what are you drinking?

Kelly Miller 34:38

So knowing that, I think I would want – weirdly I think I would want something spiced, and I'm not a big chai drinker. But the first thing that came to mind was like Baked Apple Chai, which is like very fruity, but also deeply, deeply, like almost like a mulling spice, has anise and a lot of cinnamon. So it's got that comforting, cozy quality. And yet the apple feels, you know, perfectly in place with the scene that you've laid out for me.

Marika de Vienne 35:14

That’s what I was gonna say, sorry, because you were talking about the spice element. And I kept thinking about, well, if you're this princess in this idyllic or what our society has determined to be an idyllic situation, there's probably a freshly baked apple pie cooling on a windowsill somewhere. So it actually like, I can smell it in that moment, if that makes any sense?

Kelly Miller 35:35

Right. So it's the coziness of that chai element with the very Disney-esque apple. You know, if like there's magical fairies and woodland creatures outside my mind instantly goes to Snow White.

Marika de Vienne 35:47

Yeah, yeah, like it's gonna go down. It's going to go down soon and it's not going to be good for you, so you should probably get comfortable.

Kelly Miller 35:54

So it’s like a strong, harshly steeped, you know, hot Baked Apple Chai that I can like, sling back way too fast to prepare for whatever it is that's about to happen.

Marika de Vienne 36:08

Are you taking shots of this Baked Apple Chai? You’re just pouring it in little shot glasses in your big puffy dress like, “Alright, here we go!”

Kelly Miller 36:17

I mean, if my enchanted cottage house happens to have some whiskey, I'm not opposed to spiking the chai.

Marika de Vienne 36:31

It would be good! I mean, I would love Baked Apple Chai with a shot of whiskey. It'd be perfect, that's great. Well, Kelly, thank you so much for helping to guide me and listeners and other tea enthusiasts through the world of online tea drinking. I'm sure that if I have other questions, I'm going to come to you because at the rate that you are drinking these teas and how much experience you have, you're definitely going to join us one more time on Steeping Together. But I thank you for your time and for your information that you've given us today so so much.

Kelly Miller 37:09

Of course, thank you for having me.

Marika de Vienne 37:11

Aw, any time. Thank you for listening to today's episode and thank you to our guest. If you would like to reach us with comments, questions, or suggestions for the “What Are You Drinking?” game, you can do so at steeping.together@davidstea.com or through our website davidstea.com. Have a great week and happy steeping everyone!

Kelly Miller

Kelly Miller

about the guest

Kelly Miller has been tea obsessed for nearly a decade. What is the source of her obsession, you ask? It all started when Kelly visited a DAVIDsTEA store for the first time to buy a gift for a friend. Intrigued by our Birthday Cake tea, she gave it a quick sip. And just like that Kelly, the tea sommelier, was born. TAC Certified, Kelly currently works as the Research & Development Lead at the DAVIDsTEA headquarters. Her generous and exploratory nature makes her an indispensable member of the team as she continuously pushes for new flavour innovations. Since her first introduction to the world of tea, she has tried over 10,000 teas AND her personal collection exceeds 1,500 unique teas and blends! Please give it up for Kelly, everyone!

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Who is


about the host

Marika De Vienne studied and worked with tea growers and garden owners in China before becoming a spice and tea blending apprentice. Travelling to places like Thailand, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka turned her into a ravenous seeker and lover of all things tea.

Like many at DAVIDsTEA, Marika has a tea drinking problem. Trust us, we don’t think too much tea is a problem but she’s basically a human science experiment on tea consumption…

So, in an effort to channel this obsession into something a little more constructive, Marika now hosts Steeping Together, where she hopes to spark meaningful conversations over a fresh cup of tea with people from around the world.

Marika De Vienne
Project Lead