Monika Gorzna is from Poland. The country conjures images of winter and cold, of medieval castles and lakes, of gruff men and difficult to pronounce names. Monika on the other hand is warm and outgoing, soft spoken and articulate and shares our passion for tea. And the name – well, RD Burman and Asha Bhosle have ensured that Indians have no problem with this name.
Monika grew up in a small town near Poznan in Poland. Poznan itself is a town with a population of about 550,000 people – situated on the banks of the river Warta, right between Berlin on its west and the Polish capital, Warsaw to its east. It is a town that is famous for its St. Martin’s croissants – locally called Rogales, its high quality of life – often rated the best in Poland, and for its ever growing café culture. Teas – both the fruity iced ones and the flavorful black ones – find a pride of place at these cafes. An interesting statistic is that an average Pole consumes two cups of tea every three days, a per capita rate that puts it ahead of presumably heavy tea drinking nations like China, India and Saudi Arabia.
Monika’s initial foray into tea was for a prosaic reason. She had heard that green tea could increase metabolism and being a true foodie, any drink that could make that extra slice of cake a little less guilt inducing, was definitely something to be sipped. Green tea led to pu-erh tea but the high school habit remained just that. It was only after she joined Gulf Air in Bahrain and did not find the teas that she was used to, did she realize that tea had a bigger place in her life than something she merely drank twice a day.
Her serious immersion into tea began – as it usually does – with a chance encounter. In a Dubai tea fair, she met Mr. Anselm Perera, a grand tea master from Sri Lanka. The coming years saw Monika journeying to Sri Lanka, enrolling herself in multiple courses, joining the ladies on plucking duties and developing an abiding affection for the organically grown Lankan tea. This passion led to Passion, her restaurant in Manama, Bahrain – a restaurant now recognized not just for its cuisine but also for the range of teas on offer and the keen attention paid to their preparation.
She has been a diligent learner – even going to street stalls in Mumbai to make masala tea the local way; just as enthusiastic a teacher – spending time with the staff at the various hotels she has stayed in to teach them just the right way to brew; and nothing if not tenacious – or should we say – tea-nacious. When her initial set of customers only wanted Lipton tea, Monika worked both on educating customers and on improving the way her teas were presented. These efforts are slowly paying off as more and more customers now order her freshly brewed teas.
So if you ever find yourself in Manama, Bahrain, do route yourself to Block 338 and make your way to the Passion restaurant. You might just find Monika back there from one of her trips to Darjeeling or Kandy or Hangzhou. You might want to order a cup of their best selling Natural Beauty or if you are feeling truly extravagant, go for Monika’s personal favorite – Dragon Well Tea. And do let her know if the tea was “smaczny” enough.