Shayne House lives next to a field, not far from the rolling surf of north Cornwall. He is co-founder of the Tea Appreciation Society, formed in 2007 by a small group of creative friends. When he’s not surfing or playing a variety of musical instruments, he’s peddling tea and philosophy.
What is the Tea Appreciation Society?
The Tea Appreciation Society began its life as a loose collective of creative friends, artists, writers, designers, musicians, and photographers. What we all have in common is a love of the humble brew.
The society has been steeping for a couple of years now, and thanks to the tinterweb has brewed into a worldwide collective of creative tea lovers.
Do surfing and tea go hand in hand?
Absolutely, although not at the same time for obvious reasons… The original collective are all surfers, and I’ve worked for several surf companies over the years. All of us involvedin the Society are surfers – it’s a very important part of who we are. Individually we are artists, designers, writers, musicians etc… But collectively we are all surfers and tea lovers.
Tea vs coffee – what’s the tale of the tape, and who would win?
As Kakuzo Okakura writes in his classic work on the Japanese tea ceremony and the value of beauty, ‘The Book of Tea’, “There is a subtle charm in the taste of tea which makes it irresistible and capable of idealisation, it has not the arrogance of wine, the self consciousness of coffee, nor the simpering innocence of cocoa.”
Who would win? Coffee would strut competitively around the ring, with its caffeine-fuelled self-consciousness, while tea wouldn’t even care to show up for the fight, preferring instead to sit in a beach café appreciating the beauty of the world.
Loose leaf or bag? And what’s in your caddy?
I’m not a huge teabag fan. As a nation of tea drinkers it’s interesting that loose tea only accounts for 1% of tea sales; the quality of the big-name brands leaves a lot to be desired (geddit? Pun intended).
Loose leaf has a far superior flavour; some of my favourites are Formosa Oolong and Pai Mu Tan – White Peony. I’m a big fan of Russian Caravan – its name originates from the 18th-century camel caravans that took the tea from tea-producing areas (namely India, Ceylon and China) to Europe via Russia. It took these caravans at least six months to make the 6,000-mile journey from the Chinese border to Russia. The smoky aroma of Russian Caravan tea is romantically associated with the camp fires lit at night along this trade route; I prefer this story to the more obvious – that the smoky taste is caused by the Lapsang Souchong in the blend, originally intended as a natural preservative.
Having said that, I’ve always got some good-quality Earl Gray, Darjeeling and Chai teabags in the van as emergency backup.
And the surfboard quiver?
These days I mainly ride my 9’1” Velzy. On occasion I take out my 6’2” Corduroy – a British Racing Green twin fin, it has wonderful, handmade balsa-wood fins and is such a racy little number compared with the longboard. It’s good to switch between disciplines every now and then. I love surfing on wooden bellyboards too, real old-skool – I have a quiver of four of these babies. The next project is to shape my own Alaia; I spent a couple of days with Tom Wegener and his family recently, they’re a lovely bunch and very inspiring in the sustainable surfing movement.
What should one listen to whilst drinking tea?
Music, like all art, is subjective, so listen to what makes you happy – or sad – whatever floats your board… Right now I’m enjoying Mumford and Sons’ new song ‘Little Lion Man’. I can’t get enough of Falmouth-based band All The Fires at the moment – they’ve got it all: the requisite quota of beards, attractive girls (the girls don’t have beards, that’d be wrong) balanced with beautiful tunes. Perfect. I’m always diggin’ Billy Bragg, and I’m also listening to the new Pearl Jam album too; it’s probably their most commercial album so far, but still good though.
Imagine your life is coming out on film – who would play you and what song would appear on the OST?
With an alleged passing resemblance to Ed Norton I guess it would be too much to expect Ed Norton to turn down offers from big studios in favour of playing me. The first rule of tea club is… I’ve said too much already. It’d be more likely to be Paul O’Grady, an altogether more looky likey, but not from his Lily Savage days – I only wear a dress on special occasions…
Ben Harper’s ‘Better Way’ would feature, without a doubt.
What do the tea leaves forecast for the future of the TAS?
Ah, the ancient art of tasseography. Looking into my teacup I can see a dog riding a unicycle… Hmmmm, not sure about that one…
I guess we’ll be doing our best to turn the world back on to loose-leaf tea, and the associated benefits of taking time out to brew a decent cup of tea; generally encouraging people to slow down and appreciate the beauty of art and the world around them. We’ll be doing that and having fun making music and art, writing stuff and surfing.
Final words and thanks?
I’ll leave you with a quote from Loa Tzu, writer of the ‘Tao Te Ching’, circa 500BC. He’s credited as being the founder of Taoism, a precursor for many Buddhist beliefs. The tea ceremony is an often-elaborate and beautiful form of Taoist meditation…
Begin your task before it becomes a burden
Put things in order before they get out of hand
A tree that fills a man’s embrace grows from a seedling
A tower nine stories high starts with one brick
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step
How can people find you on the tinterweb?
We have a website and online shop, we regularly post on our blog, and we’re quite popular on the book of face with about 182,000 fans and brewing stronger each day…