An Interview with Mr. Peter F. Goggi (Part II)
Peter Goggi became President of The Tea Association of the USA, Inc., and its educational arm, The Specialty Tea Institute (STI) in 2014. He brings a lifetime of worldwide tea experience to the position. Over the next few months, we’ll be posting interviews with STI’s staff, Advisory Board and Tea Mentors and we are initiating this series with a conversation with Peter.
STI: How would you describe America’s tea culture in 2016?
Peter: To the extent that America had a tea culture in the 20th century, it was based on a love of Iced Tea. That’s definitely changing in this century. More and more people are drinking and enjoying tea for other reasons and on other occasions.
STI: You work with lots of people who are just starting to become interested in specialty tea, many of who are thinking about it as a career or entrepreneurial choice. What advice do you give them?
Peter: That’s simple. Learn everything you can about the product and its supply chain. Otherwise, you’ll fail. Take our courses! They’re not only the best available, they’re designed by leaders in the tea industry specifically for professionals who are interested in using tea in their professions – whether they’re in the health and wellness fields, in restaurants, coffee shop owners or from anther field, we know what they need to know.
STI: Who do you think is the most interesting person in the world of tea today – beside yourself, of course!
Peter: There are so many interesting people in the industry! But if I had to pick just one, it would be the Chairman Emeritus of the Tata Group, in Mumbai, India, Ratan Tata. There’s a company that started out building busses and trucks, added some tea estates, and today is a $134 Billion company with over 30 publicly listed enterprises, including Tata Global Beverages, the world’s second-largest producer of tea, with brands like Tetley and Good Earth Teas. And they’re also very philanthropic: they’ve helped establish and finance numerous research, educational and cultural institutes in India. In fact, they received the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy for their work.
STI: And if you could talk to any individual who made a difference in the world history of tea, who would it be?
Peter: Hand’s down, Thomas Lipton! And not just because I worked for Lipton! He was a fascinating person on many levels. He set up whole new distribution channels for tea, sold it at unheard of prices and thus made it available to the ‘working poor’ as well as to elites. And obviously, he founded the Lipton brand. But it wasn’t just that – he was also a friend of Edison, Carnegie and Ford. He made the first ship-to-shore call, which makes sense because he was an ardent yachtsman, and competed and lost five times for the America’s Cup.
But the story I love most about him is how he’d travel from the British Isles to his New York office.. He went by boat, of course. But he drove his car onto the boat and when he got to the US, he drove it off the boat, to the offices, to a special elevator that accommodated his car and took him - and the car - direct to his office!
STI: Okay. Last Question: what’s your most memorable experience with tea?
Peter: I’m lucky; I’ve had lots of them. But one that stands out is sharing tea with a colleague at the Tea House at World’s End, in Sri Lanka. World’s End is a plateau, about 7000 feet above sea level. But you can actually see the Indian Ocean from the plateau – even though it’s over 100 miles away. It’s stunning. I was with Kumar Gunesakara, who was the manager of the Diyagama West Estate and we spent about an hour at the Tea House. There we were, two people from opposite ends of the world and totally different cultures, just talking and drinking and taking in the beauty. How much more people have in common than we typically realize!
STI: That’s a great ending to our conversation. Many thanks!