Job Description: As the founder
and co-owner of In Pursuit of Tea, a three-person tea-importing
business, Beckwith travels the globe, finding, buying, and selling the
world's rare and exotic teas.
Why This Work Rules: In a word:
variety. "I can be sitting with farmers in some dusty back-roads part
of Darjeeling one day and tasting tea at a five-star restaurant a few
days later," says Beckwith. He also educates people about
tea—customers, doctors at Columbia University's annual botanical
medicine conference (where he guest-lectures), or Bhutanese government
officials trying to help farmers develop cash crops.
Turning Point: Since Beckwith
dropped out of UC Boulder in 1984, he's been an art handler in NYC and
a freelance location scout for photographers such as Peter Lindbergh
and Annie Leibovitz. In 1995, he started guiding monthlong treks to
India, Nepal, and Bhutan for San Francisco–based outfitter Geographic
Expeditions. That, and traveling in Asia on his own, ignited a
connoisseur's passion for tea—a staple of Asian culture. Beckwith saw a
market for high-quality rare teas in the U.S. and launched the company
with his friend Alexander Scott in 1999.
The Balanced Life: Beckwith
visits Asia about three months a year, touring plantations and helping
ensure his suppliers are using good environmental practices. In
Brooklyn, he's either working at the company office, dining out with
friends like climber and filmmaker David Breashears, or networking with
chefs who might serve his tea in their restaurants. Weekends find him
sequestered at his off-the-grid cabin in northwestern Connecticut.
Reality Check: Importing
agricultural products has been stressful since 9/11, which brought
about tougher FDA regulations. Beckwith often spends up to 70 hours a
week working (and sometimes sleeping) at the company office. "Sometimes
I'm up at 7 a.m. and still working at midnight because that's when a
chef has some time," he says.