Flavours Of Kindness
issue 2, june 2023

Behind The
Tea Cups

With Patson Chigondo

PEOPLE, Issue 2

Nigiro O'ways issue 2: people portrait, Patson.

Words and Photography by Billy Wong.

When we drink tea together, we become tea friends. We are friends forever.

Have you ever experienced a deep passion for something, like a hobby, perhaps tennis, where you found yourself consistently showing up at the tennis court? Initially, you may have practised alone, but as time went on, others joined in, friendships formed, and a team dynamic emerged. The reasons for going to the tennis court shifted; it wasn’t just about the game anymore—it became something more. Amidst this journey, there was always that one person who consistently showed up, greeting you with unwavering optimism and positive energy. For me, that person is our tea-keeper, Patson.

O'way's People portrait, Patson-sunshine.

While I personally didn’t play tennis, I was involved in basketball during my youth and later found a love for surfing. Through these experiences, I’ve come to realize that it’s not solely about individual greatness in any hobby; it’s equally essential to be a great team player. So, whether your leisure time involves savouring a cup of tea, make sure to engage with our M.V.P. (the Most Valuable Player) and cherish the joy of camaraderie.


O’: What are some of your favourite teas or tea experiences, and why?

Patson: Right now, I’m enjoying a cup of Blood Orange Rooibos. It’s a South African tea with a refreshing orange flavour. In the mornings, when I need a caffeine boost, I usually have a blend of Malawi, Kenya, and English breakfast black teas mixed in equal proportions.


O’: When did you start blending teas?

Patson: I observed my colleagues at Nigiro blending teas, and I decided to create my own signature blend. I’m currently working on a herbal tea using ingredients like lemongrass, fennel, and mint. It’s an exciting process, and I look forward to sharing it with our customers soon.

O’: Congratulations on creating your own tea! Will it have your name?

Patson: Yes, I plan to introduce my blend to our customers and let them experience it. I want to involve the entire Nigiro family and anyone who enjoys it in the testing and enjoyment process. It’s a unique opportunity for me to create a tea that carries my name, separate from the blends created by other members of our team. 

O’: How long have you been working at Nigiro?

Patson: I’ve been working at Nigiro for nine years now. It feels like home, and I enjoy the welcoming atmosphere, laughter, and camaraderie we share as a team.


O’: So, after nine years, you feel it’s the right time to introduce your own blend?

Patson: Yes, it’s a bit late, as I should have done it sooner. However, I’m excited to create a blend that represents my own taste and style. I want to share it with our customers and get their feedback. It’s a project I’m currently working on. 

Tea can be used in various ways beyond brewing it for drinking. Some people use tea for its health benefits, while others use it as a substitute for coffee. Additionally, tea can be used in cooking and creating different dishes. For instance, at Nigiro, we have a delicious dish called “poached egg with honeybush infusion” that pairs well with our honeybush tea. Tea can add interesting flavours to many recipes and enhance the dining experience.


O’: Are there any tea-infused dishes that you recommend?

Patson: If you join us for breakfast, I highly recommend trying our poached egg dish infused with honeybush tea. It’s a delightful combination, especially when enjoyed with a cup of honeybush tea. Another interesting option is to try our Woo Combo, which goes well with our Japanese Cherry Blossom Green Tea, also known as Sakura. This signature tea blend is exclusive to Nigiro and offers a unique flavour experience.

O'way's People portrait, Patson-sunshine.

Working at Nigiro feels like being at home for me. 

The Subtle Art of Tea Keeping

Nigiro O'ways issue 2: People portrait, Patson-teakeeping-1.

Step #1:
Dry your washed cups keep them squeaky clean.

Nigiro O'ways issue 2: People portrait, Patson-teakeeping-2.

Step #2:
Love your tools, clean your tools.

Nigiro O'ways issue 2: People portrait, Patson-teakeeping-3.

Step #3
Keep the clutter off your counter, keep the clutter off your chest.

O’: What temperature is best for brewing tea?

Patson: The ideal brewing temperature depends on the type of tea. For green tea, it’s best to use water between 60 to 75 degrees Celsius. Black tea requires water around 90 to 95 degrees Celsius. Oolong tea can be brewed between 70 to 85 degrees Celsius. Adjusting the water temperature allows you to achieve the best flavour and aroma from each tea variety.

O’: What do you enjoy most about working at Nigiro?

Patson: Working at Nigiro feels like being at home.

O’: Can you tell us about your background and why you came to South Africa?

Patson: I came to South Africa to join my brothers, who were already living here. After the passing of our parents, I wanted to be closer to my siblings. Although it was a little bit tough journey to leave the Motherland to come and stay in another country and get involved in different things, you have to meet different people and different personalities. I eventually started my own ventures. Initially, I worked with my brother in construction, then I met Mingwei and Lisa in the month, then I became interested in tea, and I started working with them for tea. It took me several years to explore and understand different teas, as I was previously more focused on coffee. I experimented with various teas, tasting them one by one to learn their flavours, brewing methods, and origins.

Eventually, I discovered my preference for Oolong tea over green tea. My favourite oolong tea is Snow Mountain Oolong, which is from Taiwan. It is very smooth, easy to drink, and it is not rough when you drink it. And it doesn’t have the aftertaste when you drink.

So that was my journey began with the tea, and I started to enjoy working with the Nigiro family because they were so friendly to me. Mingwei welcomed me to the house as if I were their son. I take this job seriously, and we can communicate together. When we have a busy time together, we always communicate and will always work together as a team.

We wish to encourage more people and more customers to know more about us, and they must know how good it is with tea. During the time of COVID, doctors were recommending people get the tea to get the medication for immune boosters. We are also fully vegetarian, which is no meat, no alcohol, no garlic, and no onion; that also helps if you become a vegetarian. Most of the diseases that we get are from animals, from my point of view. So we encourage people to get connected with tea and our nature, and when you’re making tea, you must always make the happiness with a smile so that you can get the connection of what you’re doing.

O’: What’s your final message for our reader?

Patson: To truly connect with tea, it’s essential to develop a love for it. Learn about different varieties, appreciate their unique qualities, and find joy in the tea-making process. It’s a wonderful experience to explore the world of tea and discover the flavours and benefits it offers.

If you really enjoy tea but have never tasted the teas that we have, we have something called Tea Club every month, every first Saturday of the month. The tea club is free. You can just come to drink tea. We discuss tea and learn about the tea that you tasting. So on that day, we usually put five, or we can put in as much as we can if we have a lot of guests that come in for that. You’re welcome to join us. We encourage people to come and visit us. And if you want to know more about tea, we can sit and talk and discuss the teas, or we can have tea together because when we drink tea together, we become tea friends. We are friends forever.

Related Stories

O’ways #4 – TEA, Honeybush Tea

O’ways #4 – TEA, Honeybush Tea

Honeybush tea, also known as “Heuningtee” in Afrikaans, hails from the beautiful landscapes of South Africa. It’s derived from the Cyclopia plant, which belongs to the legume family and has been used for centuries as an herbal infusion.

read more
O’ways #4 – PEOPLE, Mingwei

O’ways #4 – PEOPLE, Mingwei

Nigiro, a beloved name in the world of premium tea in South Africa, has always been synonymous with knowledge, wisdom, and the art of tea-making. For those of you who have had the pleasure of visiting our cherished tea cafe, you’ll understand the warmth and magic that the Nigiro family infuses into their brand. It’s a place where delectable cuisine, exquisite tea-tasting, and an ambience of pure tranquillity come together seamlessly. Today, I’m delighted to introduce you to someone who is not only an integral part of the Nigiro legacy but also the heart and soul of our tea training – Mingwei Tsai.

read more