The World in a Teacup
A story about tea in Ventura County would not be complete without David De Candia, senior director of tea at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf facility in Camarillo. The global company started here 53 years ago, where it still maintains its coffee roasting, tea blending and distribution facilities for its more than 1,000 stores in 30 countries.
De Candia speaks as an expert at conferences, offers classes on blending around the world and has collaborated with chefs at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Pasadena on recipes using tea.
“When I pair tea with food, I personally want the tea to be the highlight, so the food must not overwhelm the tea,” says De Candia, a master tea blender and avid home cook who frequently uses tea as an ingredient in his dishes.
When making steamed rice, add some Jasmine pearls (green tea with a light floral jasmine scent and rolled into a ball), he suggests, and substitute one cup steeped tea for one cup of the water. Or marinate a white fish—any will work—in freshly steeped Ceylon Black tea for 45 minutes. “This will give the fish a caramel color and a sweet flavor.”
His knowledge of food and tea pairings stems from 18 years of single-handedly overseeing the sourcing and blending of the company’s teas, including a new line of organic teas for distribution in the U.S. and abroad.
“I believed that in order to do this right I had to buy tea from the grower. I wanted to pick what I wanted. That’s when the trips to go to the tea estates became fairly regular.” Every year, De Candia travels to tea estates in India, Sri Lanka, Japan, China, Thailand, Taiwan, South Africa and Kenya. In Asia, he watches over the plucking, fermenting, rolling and drying of the tea purchased by the company, overseeing the entire process from seed to cup.
He also spearheaded the company’s Caring Cup program, which pledges a commitment to social responsibility in each country by supporting growers who pay fair wages and care for their employees and their families.
“This is my passion. I will continue to do this as long as I can.”