“What is that something that makes tea into this force that lets us slow down and grants serene moments to our lives?”
London-based artist Johanna Tagada has long had a soft spot for tea. So much so, in fact, that she has founded an entire magazine dedicated to the stuff. There is of course a slight twist. Tagada is not so much interested in the tea itself – “a liquid inside a cup” – but instead the space that surrounds the act of drinking it.
“While I [had] heard of the leaves, the processes and the traditions,” she writes reflecting on a moment in time several years previous, “what I remained deeply fascinated about was the palette of cultures and feelings contained within tea practices, as well as its inherent peacefulness and the transnational possibilities tea gatherings of all kind offered.”
Journal du Thé is one strand of Poetic Pastel Press, a collaborative cultural project – founded by Tagada – which produces art, publishing and textiles to the tune of deep ecology. Having decided to found a magazine, Tagada swiftly appointed Tilmann S. Wendelstein, founder of multidisciplinary design practice The Simple Society, to oversee its graphic identity.
“I could only imagine one person to give life to Journal du Thé,” coos Tagada in the magazine’s intro. The result has all the trappings of an indie magazine with one or two surprises. Bursts of colour – whole spreads in forest green and blush pink – are balanced with sparse white pages. Playful text alignments are another welcome detail.
Journal du Thé has been a slow burner. The idea for the publication was conceived in 2014. In the four years since, Tagada and Wendelstein have travelled the world exploring the subject matter and meeting enthusiasts in cities including Tokyo, London, Berlin and San Francisco.
I have to be honest, Journal du Thé is not a magazine that would instantly appeal to me. That said, its very existence captures exactly what I love about independent publishing – by being afforded such creative freedom, makers are able to unapologetically delve into the most niche of subject matters. Journal du Thé probably won’t appeal to a huge audience, it is unlikely to change the world or be an financially triumph. Typically, however, it has been created as a result of a genuine passion and curiosity for its subject matter, and this is truly evident.
A paragraph in the magazine’s welcome note hits the nail on the head. Addressing “fine tea connoisseurs,” Tagada makes no bones about her lack of expertise when it comes to the finer technicalities of tea: “we actually prefer to say we do not know and remain curious, honest and eager to learn,” she writes. “We can make mistakes, just as one carried away by a conversation might let tea infuse for too long, this does not stop us from creating. We hope we will not offend you, by our at times, lack of conservatism and our inclination for humour.”