From Singapore to the USA and all around Europe, Edible Innovations profiles food makers that engage in improving the global food system at every stage, from production to distribution to eating and shopping. Join us as we explore the main trends in the industry from a maker perspective. Chiara Cecchini of Future Food Institute — an ecosystem with a strong educational core that promotes food innovation as a key tool to tackle the great challenges of the future — introduces you to the faces, stories, and experiences of food makers around the globe. Check back on Tuesdays and Thursdays for new installments.
Today we sit down with an artist, a man with both a creative mind and a maker’s soul.
Christopher Coccagna was one of the food makers at both 2017’s World Maker Faire New York and Maker Faire Bay Area. He’s a certified tea specialist. He started studying tea about 11 years ago, before becoming a tea sommelier and, eventually, a tea blender. “I always wanted to use everything I know and I’ve been learning about tea to make something people can taste, something that’s able to create community and boost creativity,” Coccagna says.
Chris, what’s special about tea?
I love tea. It was always my means of creativity and inspiration. When I was younger, I wanted to become a chef before deciding to become a tea blender. I challenged myself to put the creativity I had in the kitchen into tea. The more I dug into teas, the more I realized that the industry lacked a DIY approach. People tend to buy tea without ever having an active role, and big companies approach tea making in a very standardized manner.
So, what did you do?
I started selecting high level, natural teas from all over the world, and blending them at home with different selections of ingredients. Then in 2011, I won a loan to expand this home-based tea project. I purchased inventory and equipment, and developed my website. It was a big step.
How is the project going right now?
I founded a proper company, We-Tea, with the mission to empower a community of San Francisco tea drinkers to seek beauty in the world through tea. We-Tea is now a small tea making project. We make teas without adding flavorings or extra ingredients. Everything is found in nature. We source teas from all over the world and blend them with ingredients that are a little more local, like Portland roasted coffee beans or California oranges.
What are you taking care of?
I’m still in charge of finding ingredients and blending the tea. I’m a maker. I love merging ingredients and making amazing teas.
What’s your reason for coming to Maker Faire?
I have a couple of them actually.
First of all, I consider myself a maker. I am creating teas that have never existed before by selecting, learning, mixing, blending, testing, and tasting.
Second, I love the maker movement because it is about creativity and DIY. When someone is creative, he or she drinks tea. I started with this mindset: find a way to empower the creativity of makers and artists. What better way to enable their creative spirit than through the positive effects of tea? Furthermore, tea builds community. I believe that people are more willing to share when they’re drinking tea.
So what are your next steps?
We have been building a community of tea makers in San Francisco for the last few years, so now I feel it might be time to expand into different areas and cities. Some initial ideas: Detroit or Honolulu. Tea makers seems to be numerous in both locations!