Pro Tea Tips From Ku Cha FoCo Manager Zachary Koski

Pro Tea Tips From Ku Cha FoCo Manager Zachary Koski

The high quality and wide selection of teas at Ku Cha House of Tea stands as a distinct advantage. Grocery stores and specialty shops up and down the Front Range carry tea, but none of them come close to Ku Cha on the quality and selection front.

But our successes over the years rely on more than leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant; we built Ku Cha on a foundation of customer service, and it remains at the heart of all that we do.

Our team members bring a wide diversity of life experiences and knowledge to Ku Cha. We of course do not expect them to have encyclopedic knowledge of tea when they start — they gain that soon enough after they begin helping customers in our stores! What we look for during interviews is personability. Does this person seem to like the company of other people? Does she broadcast hospitality? Does he seem curious and enthusiastic about what we do?

We have been extremely lucky. Most of our employees radiate warmth and generosity as they greet guests and help them find tea. These qualities most certainly describe Zachary Koski, the manager of our Fort Collins store.

Meet: Zachary Koski

Zach grew up in Fort Collins and graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in history. After college, he spent about 10 years exploring the American West, living in Santa Cruz, the Big Island of Hawaii and Oregon and working in farming and livestock management, among other things. He returned to Fort Collins because he preferred it to all of the other places where he had lived and worked.

Downtown Fort Collins

During college, Zach worked in fine dining and learned quite a bit about wine and wine service. When the Ku Cha opportunity emerged, it appealed to him, in part, because he saw parallels between wine and tea: both yield enormous varieties of flavors, aromas and textures from single botanical ingredients — grapes for wine, and tea leaves for our favorite brewed beverage.

“It’s amazing you can have this one plant and have thousands of different and unique flavors associated with it, just based on its terroir, the time of the year it was harvested and the processes that the tea leaves undergo after harvest,” he said. “I feel that a big part of customer service is all employees having their own stories about Ku Cha’s teas, and telling those stories to customers. Being a history major, I love telling stories.”

Like many Ku Cha employees, Zach wasn’t steeped in tea knowledge prior to working at the store, although he did drink tea; he never took to coffee.

“I’ve come to appreciate the nuances of everything in tea,” he said. “Once you get into the sort of superb loose-leaf tea that Ku Cha sells, instead of boxes of tea bags from supermarkets, you can really taste and experience the differences. Quality really does make a difference.”

Zach’s Tea Brewing Pro Tip

Ku Cha’s temperature-controlled tea kettle – a wise investment for tea lovers.

One thing he stresses with guests is the importance of proper brewing methods to fully understand teas’ complexities. 

“The rule of thumb is 175 degrees for many teas,” he said. Ideally, people will use a temperature controlled water kettle — and Ku Cha carries a good one — but it’s not necessary. Just pay attention to the water as it heats; when little water bubbles begin appearing on the bottom of the pot, the temperature of the water is near 175 and ready to get poured over tea.

This approach applies to most styles of Camellia sinensis. Many herbal teas, on the other hand, are not temperature sensitive, and can under much longer brewing times.

Zach’s Favorite Teas: Tie Guan Yin Superior Oolong Tea

Tie Guan Yin is famously floral.

This green oolong from Fujian Province, which translated means “Iron Goddess of Mercy,” is one of China’s most famous teas. Tie Guan Yin is a constant companion for many of us, offering pleasing aromas and bright flavors. 

Says Zach: “I love it for its refreshingly floral and slightly mineral nature. It feels very fresh to me. It’s also easy to brew, and re-steepable. I brew mine probably five times, and I love how the flavors and fragrances evolve with each brewing. 

Zach’s Favorite Teas: Black Peony

Black Peony stands apart from many black teas for its lack of astringency.

This rare and unique black tea is grown on Wuling Mountain in the same area as Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in Hunan Province. The landscape is dramatic: pillar-shaped mountain peaks blanketed in dense foliage, threaded with waterfalls and shrouded in clouds and mist year-round. 

Says Zach: It’s unique compared to most other black teas. There’s little to no astringency, and it broadcasts wonderfully floral perfume; it’s just loaded with flavors to dissect. I think it has much more depth than traditional Indian black teas, the kinds of black teas most people have experienced. I love it in the morning, sometimes with a splash of milk and honey that also help bring out the tea’s floral qualities.

Zach’s Favorite Teas: Organic Peach Rooibos

A perfect afternoon tea, peach rooibos combines bright flavors with health properties.

We love the South African shrub rooibos for its herbal flavors and health properties: it offers loads of electrolytes, which improve hydration and fight free radicals, unstable atoms that damage cells in the human body. 

Says Zach: This is my afternoon tea, after I’ve been caffeinated. With a little bit of oat milk and sugar, Peach Rooibos becomes my sweet, fruity treat in the afternoon. And thanks to the oat milk, it’s slightly filling.

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