You must be the change you want to see in the world. - Mahatma Gandhi
It's a pretty normal morning. Aaro sits at the dining table and stares at the cup of black tea with a furrowed brow. He takes a deep breath and closes his eyes before taking a sip. The silence becomes oppressive as the hot drink slowly drains down the throat.
After placing the cup on the table, his eyes still remain closed. When a person disappears into the depths of the mind, a few seconds can seem like an eternity. At least that's how Maija-Leena, sitting opposite, felt when she studied her husband from behind the newspaper. He was looking forward to what would happen this time.
After opening his eyes, Aaro looks directly into his wife's eyes and says:
"I can't take this anymore."
And this is how Forsma tea was born.
Let's bring tea. Wonderful. I never knew how to like tea before, now I'm learning to love it. Thirst is gone, you will feel warm and refreshed. - Mika Waltari
Forsman tea started out of a desire to promote Finnish tea culture by offering good quality loose tea. After falling in love with the local tea supply during their travels abroad, Aaro and Maija-Leena Forsman's dissatisfaction with the tea situation in Finland in the 1970s grew.
They started making different tea mixes, for which they themselves brought the raw materials directly from the producing countries. As a healthcare equipment mechanic, Aaro built a tea mixing drum and Maija-Leena, as a food industry laboratory technician, conjured up precise tea recipes.
Many consider Turku Tea and Spice, established in Turku Kauppahalli, to be Finland's first tea heaven. The word about the enjoyable tea quickly spread to people's consciousness, which led the Forsmans to open a new shop in Kaivopiha, Helsinki.
Photo: Forsman tea recipes - a combination of precision and innovation.
Blood makes kin, loyalty makes family. - Unknown
There are two kinds of families. The first is the one you were born into. The other is the one you choose for yourself. Forsma tea has both.
As the retail network grew, so did Forsman's tea production. Aaro and Maija-Leena took good care that the products sent from the basement premises on Helsinki's Töölönkatu, for example to Stockmann, were in accordance with Forsman's standards.
While taking steps forward with the dream of nationwide development of tea culture, reality hit the merchant person - they longed to be face-to-face with customers more. However, the wheels couldn't be stopped, and that's how the enthusiastic tea enthusiast Ari Santamäki appeared.
At that time, for Ari, tea was not only a taste experience, but also a tool that brought relaxation and concentration to his studies at the University of Economics. While replenishing his tea stock, Ari, who was thirsty for information by nature, liked to spend a lot of time internalizing everything the Forsmans had to tell about the world of tea. Everything from the development of Finnish taste preferences in the 80s to the molecules of tea leaves.
Photo: "Aaro is like the grandfather of Finnish tea culture. He liked to tell stories about tea, and he was so easy to approach," recalled Mirja, one of Forsman's first and longest-serving employees. In the photo, from left to right, Maija-Leena, Aaro and Ari at the opening of Helsinki's Ruskeasuo premises in 1992.
But hardly anyone could have predicted then that a young loyal customer would make Forsma tea famous in the world over the next 30 years.
Forsman tea was transferred to Ari's name in 1988. Aaro and Maija-Leena supported this transition by being actively involved in the company's development in the early years. Aaro traveled with Ari to tea plantations and introduced him to long-term partners.
Top photo: "Assam Mokalbari is my favorite tea. I miss the robust taste of a typical Indian black tea," says Ari when asked about his favorite tea. In the photo, Ari visiting the black tea halls under the guidance of Mr. Bhansali in Calcutta, India in 1988. The photo was taken by Aaro.
Bottom image: "Tea is not only a drink, but it is the core around which there are many great things," Ari understands. Sri Lankan partner Cedric was also present at the opening of the Ruskeasuo facilities.
The stages of the entire tea production process and the enablers of each stage became familiar – from tea factory owners to farmers and from pickers to tasters. Still, the principle of Forsma tea is to know as well as possible the regions of the raw materials, and above all the makers and the community behind them.
Top photo: "South Africa is one of the most beautiful countries I've been to. On this trip, I completely fell in love with the lesser-known green rooibos. Wonderfully aromatic taste! It has also helped alleviate allergic symptoms and eczema," says Sanna. A tea family on a rooibos plantation in South Africa in winter 2020.
Bottom image: "The Chinese countryside really surprised me! Even though China is often imagined as dirty with smog, the countryside is something completely different. The countryside, where the tea plantations are located, is green and beautiful and the air is clean," describes Aarne in 2017.
During this time, a new kind of father-son relationship developed between Aaron and Ari. Let's see what the future brings, when three boys born with a teaspoon in their mouth take the reins. From a young age, they have been involved in selling at fairs and packing during school holidays on the production side.
Photo: "The world of tea is fascinating, and we get to follow in father's footsteps to learn how big a deal tea is in the world," says Lauri. The new generation of Forsman tea learning about green tea production in China in 2017. From left to right Antti, Lauri & Aarne.
The responsibility has increased with age. The handprints of the younger generation are visible as they develop Forsma tea together with the entire organization to better meet the needs of the modern consumer.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. - CC Colton
But let's go back in time for a moment.
In order to continue making Forsma's tea mixes in his own hands, Ari accumulated his knowledge of seasoning all over Central Europe.
Image: "I wanted to learn which flavors specifically don't mix well together," recalls Ari from the early days of his career as a tea master. The production side of the Ruskeasuo premises in 1992.
With his good friend Esa, Ari headed to Russia, a neighboring country with a strong tea culture.
"Or that the boys want to come and make tea. Then come," commented the manager of a large shopping center to her employees.
That tea moment changed everything.
Samovar Blend, which has become an international all-time favorite, tickled the taste buds in a way that opened the gates of the East. And before you knew it, Forsman T šai was the number one tea of every quality-appreciating Russian. It's so good that even fakes are sold!
Maintaining international partnerships, a humble attitude to learning new things and an incendiary passion sometimes open surprising doors. For example, our dealer from Central Europe. He traveled to India to find good tea. In response, he received:
"There is something like Forsma tea in Finland. Contact them."
A mind once enlarged by new experience never returns to its old dimensions. - Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
Everyone remembers the moment when they have received good brewed loose tea for the first time. It has been a great honor for us to be promoting the Finnish tea culture by offering enjoyable moments for everyday life and celebrations, and tea knowledge for everyone interested in tea - both restaurant industry professionals and ordinary consumers.
Photo: Ari visiting MTV3's Heidi Leipoo program in 2018. Matcha cookies were baked then.
A lot has developed here over the decades, but one thing has remained the same since the company was founded - the raw materials still come directly from the producing countries here in Finland. Mixes are prepared using our own recipes and packaged by ourselves. Everything that can be done in Vantaa will be done. The fewer intermediaries, the better for quality, nature, and customers' wallets.
Top photo: Freshly "cooked" tea at the Ruskeasuo premises in 1992. Today, we use the same 30 kilo mixing barrels for the production of small special batches.
Bottom image: Forsma's tea recipes and know-how are already moving into the third generation. 21-year-old Lauri "cooking" in Vantaa's Viinikkala premises in 2020.
There is still a lot of work to be done for Finnish tea culture, but a big thank you to you customers for being a part of this journey. You make it possible for the story to continue.
Forsman tea - Better tea for Finns since 1979
Photo: "The air is so clean and fresh here!", surprised the children on their first trip to China in 2017. The tea family visiting the Anxi organic farm. On the left is the owner of the farm and on the right is Steve, a long-time partner of the second generation.