Camellia sinesis. That’s where it all begins. The East Asian shrub is the forgotten star of one of the world’s favorite drinks: tea. And while coming a long way since its medicinal origins during China’s Shang dynasty, Rêve Coffee Lab Baton Rouge general manager Elizabeth Courville starts our conversation with the shocking fact that the much-loved beverage is the product of just this one plant. Cue a gasp.
“What sets the different types apart is the oxidation level and other processing steps,” Courville reveals. “Any other plant material steeped in hot water is technically called a ‘tisane,’ which is commonly referred to as herbal tea.”
Courville herself is new to this earth-shattering knowledge. Starting out with a love for coffee, the LSU dietetic student eventually found her way to tea. “I fell in love with the diversity and culture surrounding tea, much like I did with coffee many years back,” she explains. “I realized there was no tea community here in Baton Rouge, and I wanted to change that.”
Immersing herself in all there is to know about the beverage, Courville began curating and growing Rêve’s tea offerings, as well as hosting free tea tastings at the White Star Market location last fall. Each month, she spotlights a different varietal, allowing guests to taste, talk and learn more about the intimate details of tea processing. Courville has also hosted a few educational events, including a special “Tea 101” course that aimed to teach guests everything from chemical composition to tasting notes.
“There is so much to learn and to taste,” she says. “It’s such a complex subject, and it makes all the difference to share knowledge with each other.”
Courville hopes to eventually increase the tastings to weekly, granting tea lovers greater exposure to the high-quality teas she sources from New York-based company SerendipiTea. However, beyond the educational aspect, Rêve’s tastings make room for the return of the ceremony surrounding food and drink. Bringing strangers together to reflect and connect, the tastings present tea as it was meant to be enjoyed.
“It’s our responsibility to create a community around tea,” she explains, noting the drink’s ability to draw people of different backgrounds together. “I’m glad that I can be a small part of that.”
Check out @revestick on Instagram for details on Rêve’s next tea tasting.