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John Harney — Recognizing a True Tea Master

John Harney enjoying a "cuppa"
John Harney enjoying a "cuppa" (Photo courtesy of Harney & Sons Fine Teas)

Cha Jing, the classic book of tea written by Lu Yu in the 8th century CE, is still read and revered by tea lovers the world over. It now lends its name to a tea industry award.

World Tea Media, producers of World Tea Expo, introduced the Cha Jing Lifetime Achievement Award at World Tea East in Philadelphia on September 9th. As announced by WTM, the award “recognizes and celebrates individuals who have made considerable contributions to the growth, innovation, and education of the specialty tea industry throughout their lifetime.”

The first recipient of the award is Mr. John Harney, founder of Harney & Sons Fine Teas. His story, from Cornell to Connecticut, Sarum to Harney’s, and to many points between and beyond, is familiar to most tea lovers.

John Harney and Cha Jing Lifetime Achievement Award
John Harney and Cha Jing Lifetime Achievement Award (Photo courtesy of Pearl Dexter, TEA: A Magazine, and World Tea Media/World Tea East)

Almost everyone in the tea world – in the USA and beyond – has a John Harney story or two. Here’s one of mine:

When I first became involved in “the tea world” in the mid-1990s, I sourced most of my teas from Harney’s. I loved the lush, informative catalogues, and the wide variety and high quality of the teas (I still do).

In May of 1997, my husband and I spent a weekend in the Massachusetts Berkshires, and from there made a trip – or, as I viewed it, a pilgrimage – to the Harney headquarters in Salisbury, Connecticut.

We walked into the tiny shop and found someone reading a newspaper. The paper dropped to reveal John Harney, who introduced himself and welcomed us warmly. My husband says I was stammering, and although I don’t remember, I believe him: In a world of “celebrities” of all kinds, very few people truly impress me. John Harney is one of those people. To say I was delighted to meet him is an understatement.

Cha Jing Award presented to John Harney
Cha Jing Award presented to John Harney

He cordially offered to guide us around the then-small warehouse/factory areas. In the tasting room, he passionately described the differences amongst the Darjeeling flushes – my introduction to this most exquisite of teas. We went home with a variety of teas, both purchased and samples.

Since then I have had the privilege of Mr. Harney serving as tour guide through their larger facility in Salisbury, and again most recently in their newest office, warehouse, and factory in Millerton, New York. The company has grown so large that it’s a completely separate building from their beautiful expanded tasting room, shop, and café.

Some things, however, have not changed over the years: the wonderful smells and tastes of the teas; the fascinating flavouring and packaging processes; and the courtliness and tea-missionary zeal of our host.

John Harney is truly a master of both tea and of life. I cannot think of anyone who more deserves the recognition the Cha Jing Award bestows.

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4 responses to “John Harney — Recognizing a True Tea Master”

  1. […] read reviews of Harney & Sons tea in these pages or the profile of “Harney” located here. A few years back, one of the sons – Michael – wrote The Harney & Sons Guide to […]

  2. […] This is a heavenly blend of Autumnal and First Flush teas from the absolutely best gardens. This mellow tea makes for a light afternoon refreshment that you are sure to enjoy over and over again. First flush is harvested in March or April and tends to be light in flavor. Autumnal flush is harvested in September and tends to have a stronger, more fruity flavor. The two flushes balance to a very flavorful but not overwhelming fruitiness. As for “highlands,” we often think of Scotland, but it merely means a mountainous area. Darjeeling, situated in the foothills of the Himalayas, certainly qualifies. See also: Harney & Sons Know Tea! and John Harney — Recognizing a True Tea Master. […]

  3. […] of this came to mind with the news of John Harney of Harney & Sons winning an award recently. In his case, it’s a well-deserved award to someone who has devoted his life to bringing […]

  4. Hey! Good post! Please do keep us posted when all will see a follow up!

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