Tea Purveyor

Sebastian Beckwith 40,
Brooklyn, NY

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.