"Why I Started Tomte"

- August 10, 2012 3 MIN READ

I stopped drinking coffee two years ago.

My life was very different back then. I was working over eighty hours a week in the corporate world. My typical schedule involved arriving at my cubicle at 9am and not finishing until midnight – Monday to Thursday, Fridays meant finishing a little earlier at 8pm, but then always being dragged in on a Sunday from about midday to the evening. And this always involved eating takeaway dinners at my desk with my headphones on.

To survive, I was drinking a lot of coffee. At first, just in the morning, but then in the afternoon as well. I also begin drinking more and more Coca-Cola – over 5 cans a day. This built up over my twenties.

At the time, I couldn’t understand why I was becoming so unhealthy – I was at the gym at least 3 times a week. I began learning more about diet. I read through every diet and exercise regime I could get many hands on, gravitating towards Crossfit and Paleo type diets. The biggest lesson for me was that fat doesn’t cause damage – simple carbs and sugars do. I was amazed to learn that milk, sugar, fructose in fruits and artificial sweeteners spike your insulin levels, causing whatever energy in your system to be converted directly into fat. I was having milk and sugar based drinks all day long.

I substitued coffee and sodas for green and english breakfast tea bags. Almost immediately, I enjoyed having tea instead of coffee and soda. I found that tea gave you a slow consistent amount of energy release without the crash. I was however, having about 4 english breakfast teas with milk and two sugars a day which amounted to about 8 teaspoons of sugar a day. I felt like I was back to square one. I tried drinking the english breakfast tea bags straight, but couldn’t stand it so I swapped to green tea. The more I learnt about green tea the more it came across as this super powered brew for health and concentration.

I wanted to find other teas like green tea that didn’t require milk and sugar. I tried a number of teas at the local tea shops, but was never really satisfied. My biggest grief was that they kept trying to sell me flavour-infused blends. I would look at the back of the packet and see “flavour” listed as the last ingredient. Why does tea need flavour added to it? I gave up and stuck to green tea bags.

I’m very lucky that I’ve had the chance to travel frequently. In the last 2 years alone I have been to Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Hawaii, and all through the United States. I explored the tea being served at each stop along my travels. The first thing I was struck by was how different tea was overseas compared to back home. I have a friend in America, a software guy who swears by pu-erh tea as his daily tea of choice. On his strong recommendation, I tried it by purchasing it from retailers here in Sydney. Each time I tried it I couldn’t stomach it! I have spent thousands of dollars purchasing different tea trying to find a good cup. It’s so hard to find what you want, when you don’t know what you don’t know.

I thought my friend was crazy. When I finally visited him, he took me to his local tea house to try some of his local pu-erh. I was blown away. It was completely smooth and complex at the same time and didn’t require artificial flavour or milk. The staff refilled my teacup sized teapot over 5 times with each infusion tasting just as fresh as the first. We sat there for over 2 hours, pausing and connecting over tea. I still remember that conversation.

But I was perplexed, I couldn’t understand why for the same price, pu-erh tea back home was undrinkable. The more I travelled, the more I had a similar experience. I was finding teas that were either nowhere to be found back home or would be a much higher grade (quality) overseas. I could walk down a street pretty much anywhere and be served a beautiful cup of tea. But in Sydney, I struggle to find a barista as passionate about their tea as they are their coffee.

I don’t want others who want to learn more about tea to have to go through what I went through. I want to make a change, and I’m not going to wait around hoping someone else is going to do it for us.

I would love for you to join me on this mission to pause and sip tea!



Paul Bennetts founded tomtelife.com in February 2012 to change the way we do tea in Australia.  His mantra is that “Our best thinking and creativity come when drinking tea”.  Tomte’s mission is to scour the globe to discover amazing teas created by small “artists of the leaf” producers to deliver to  us here in Australia the most fresh, unique, delicious, seasonal teas available, anywhere.