Meet the Team

davidduckler_portrait

David Duckler

David came to tea not through business, but through a deep engagement with classical Chinese culture.  Schooled as a translator of Chinese fiction and poetry, David has spent much time in China on various research grants from the Freeman Foundation and the Fulbright program.  If David is not off sourcing tea, he might be found translating novels, like The Mountain Stairway by Tibetan author Alai.

Years ago, David was working with an advisor at Qingdao University on a translation project and happened to walk past a tea market every day.  In exploring Chinese tea for the first time, David immediately saw the traditions preserved from China’s classical heritage.  David couldn’t help but go back for another year to study tea in more depth, training under a tea master and working in the fields collecting folk tales about tea from the farmers.

This extremely hands-on experience gave David the chance to make lasting friendships with farmers across China, and exposed him to some of the most obscure and wonderful tea in the world.  David returned to America extremely indebted to these farmers for the knowledge they passed on and realized that the only way to pay them back was to share that knowledge and tea with the rest of the world.  Thus, Verdant Tea was born.

Verdant Tea continues to work directly with the same farmers that David met years ago, and as a result of these friendships, we are able to bring in teas that have never before left China.

In David’s extra free time, he enjoys cooking as a second passion, attending culinary school and playing with food.  He also has a real weakness for collecting yixing teapots.  David’s favorite author is Jorge Louis Borges, with Italo Calvino coming in second.

geoffreyreiff_portrait

Geoffrey Reiff

Geoffrey began to explore the world of Chinese tea after first encountering David Duckler at a Minneapolis tea shop. Recognizing the extensive knowledge with which David spoke about tea, Geoffrey decided to ask him a fortuitous question before leaving the shop.

“So how did you become a tea man?”

This became the starting point for what developed into an hours-long discussion of tea, Chinese philosophy, literature, translation, and aesthetics, among other things. A good friendship soon developed. Over the course of many tea gatherings, Geoffrey was exposed to the methods of gongfu brewing and experiences of flavor and aroma that were previously unimaginable.

The appreciation of fine tea quickly became a great passion for Geoffrey, and eventually forged an important place in his daily lifestyle. When asked about the possibility of working for Verdant Tea, there was no need to hesitate. For Geoffrey, the question was already answered. Resigning from his business as an independent web developer, Geoffrey now works in all aspects of business operations to help take Verdant Tea to the next level, and is happy to be working in the service of a product that he loves. Geoffrey is now a co-owner of Verdant Tea, directing the online experience and making sure that everything works behind the scenes.

Geoffrey is particularly fond of strip-style oolongs from Wuyi and Feng Huang. When not drinking tea, he enjoys dancing Argentine Tango, rock climbing, studying history and reading literature.

 

lilyduckler_portrait

Lily Duckler

Lily spent her childhood growing up all around the world – from Indonesia to Angola and the UK – so moving to China with David was no big change. Lily picked up all her Chinese in the tea fields, working at the same time as a teacher at Qingdao University. Lily got extensive taste training from all the farmer friends we work with today. 

After returning to America, Lily followed her second passion working as a librarian and studying video editing and illustration while working at a post production house in Minneapolis. When Verdant started to grow, Lily decided to work full time with David on sharing her love of tea and the stories of the farmers she counts as her friends.

She spends much of her time now working with customers, illustrating articles, answering all of the questions we get across the internet, and running our tasting room in Minneapolis, MN. When she isn’t brewing tea or working with tea, Lily is reading books, making videos or singing. 

weiweiren_portrait

Wei Wei Ren

Weiwei is an incredibly gifted taster and tea scout with family near Laoshan Village, and a father whose lifelong goal is to track down the best Tieguanyin in China.  Though she is young, Weiwei has the most formidable palate of anyone we know. Weiwei met David at Qingdao University and taught him most of his Chinese.

Now Weiwei is running Verdant’s Headquarters in Jimo, China near Laoshan in collaboration with Tea farmer He Qingqing. She is working hard every day to make sure that every package ships with the freshest tea possible. She checks every order to make sure they are perfect, excited to share tea across the world.

In her free time, Weiwei teaches Chinese to Korean students in Jimo, and hopes to travel to inner Mongolia to further her teaching experience.  Her favorite food is Mala Tang soup, and she will travel miles and miles to the smallest hole-in-the-wall restaurants to find the best.  She hopes to visit America soon and see the growing tea culture here.

 

kelseyhenderson_temp2_portrait

Kelsey Henderson

Kelsey met David and Lily in the Minneapolis art world, since Verdant’s first office was in the Traffic Zone Center for Visual Arts. While working as a printmaker and studying art, Kelsey joined Verdant Tea in 2013, initially packing orders. She quickly brought her creative eye to the business, becoming Verdant’s designer and illustrator, working with Lily on photography, mailers, websites and more. Now Kelsey juggles managing Verdant’s customer service and design.

Kelsey is one of those rare people who loves both good tea and good coffee, teaching the rest of the team about what makes a good cup, and even sharing her love of fine scotch.  

Outside of Verdant, Kelsey is an artist and printmaker working in Minneapolis.

laurenjohnson_temp_portrait

Lauren Johnson

Lauren started at Verdant Tea in 2013 to fulfill orders. Lauren quickly became Verdant’s fulfillment master, helping us all become more organized and far more accurate. Now, she is the logistics manager for Verdant Tea and all of our partner businesses, including Prohibition Kombucha and Tree Fort Soda. Lauren helps Verdant’s brewing businesses stay organized and on track, source better materials, and make better product while organizing day-to-day production and wholesale operations. She works directly with our team in China to make sure every order is perfect and ships quickly.

Though new to Minneapolis, Lauren spends her free time volunteering at many community events in the neighborhood and working to promote bike riding and alternative transportation. 

 

wanghuimin_portrait

Wang Huimin

Wang Huimin met David back in 2007, teaching him everything he knows about tea ceremony and about tasting Tieguanyin. She grew up near Anxi, making tea an inseparable part of her life. Wang Huimin has run several successful tea businesses in China and knows small farmers across the country from her travels.

Wang Huimin now works directly with Verdant Tea by scounting tea wares and finding the most beautiful pieces in collaboration with Mr Chen in Xiamen. She also regularly visits our partners in Yunnan, Fujian and Zhejiang as often as possible and makes sure they can plan on what to set aside for Verdant and pack up to order each day.

When Wang Huimin is not brewing tea she is learning everything she can about fine spirits, cooking, incense, Buddhism, precious stones, and basically anything she hears about. Wang Huimin’s favorite thing in the world is to learn new things and experience new cultures. She had an incredible time visiting our tasting room in Minneapolis and hopes to visit America again soon.

david_qjz_view_portrait

verdanttea_portrait

weiwei_lily