10 Years of Tea! (It’s our Anniversary!)

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It’s our Anniversary today!

How does one celebrate 10 years in the tea industry, peddling leaves every weekend through rain, sleet, snow, hail, hurricanes, blizzards, heat waves, humidity, wind storms, earthquakes, flying locusts, vampires and alien invasion? Well maybe not the last 3…

First: Let’s get this out of the way: I actually like selling tea at farmers markets on weekends. I love the sense of community, my fellow warriors/small business vendors, my tea obsessed customers, and the fact that I can now carry and open a 70 pound EZ UP tent all by myself and throw it in the TeaMobile with ease. Tea built muscles. Tea brought friends.

Second: The cliche is true when people say things like: “How did 10 years go by so fast?” Or “It feels just like yesterday when…” Both are true for me, especially with regard to making the decision to step into the tea industry. As Frank Sinatra says: I did it my way and chose a different path than most tea businesses. Right or wrong, July 18, 2017 marks the 10 Year Anniversary of Pearl Fine Teas!

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The famous TeaTent at markets

Third:  I’m often asked this question: “What made you want to start a tea business?” It’s taken me 10 years to truncate the story into a few sentences:

“It’s something that was always nagging at me and I decided that I didn’t want to get to the end of my life and think: I wish I’d tried to do something in tea. So I did it. I figured the worst thing that could happen was nothing, but at least I gave it a shot.”

The long version:  It was sometime in late April early May 2007. A late night Google search for “TEA” brought me to a link for a Tea Expo happening in Atlanta. I saw there were classes offered in tea education and on that particular weekend there was Tea 101 and 102.  You had to pass Day 1 in order to participate in Day 2. I booked my flight to Atlanta that night and a few weeks later there I was standing in line for Tea 101. As I stood there I actively easvesdropped on a woman I heard telling someone she had just bought an online tea company. My interest peaked, I butted in and asked her about it and then proceeded to sit next to her and grill for her 2 days about how and what she did. Those 2 days turned into over 4 years of tea training with my good friend Barb Tuscon the former own of SBS Teas. She and I took every class together from that day forward. I’m honored to call her my first official tea friend. Barb has since retired and travels the world with her husband Chuck, but I know shes still drinking really good tea!

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Cupping green teas at STI

I left that 2 day Expo, got home, fired up my computer and started Googling Online Tea Businesses for sale. There were two I had active interest in, with the first being well out of my price range with no financials to support the fee. The second one popped up out of nowhere one day. I had to do a double take, reload the page and make sure what I was seeing was correct: Pearl Fine Teas was for sale and it had the cutest logo ever. I contacted the owner and found it out it was located in Canada and the price happened to be just right. A few weeks later, I was the proud owner of Pearl Fine Teas, USA. Boxes of tea were held up at the border control and I remember getting a call from an agent who asked me if what was coming across was illegal. I told him he was welcome to open the boxes and try to smoke anything in there but that the better option was to just steep it. He laughed and the boxes were on there way. Of course they showed up on a weekend when I was out of town and my next door neighbor Bill dragged everyone of them into his own house until I got back. There were many, many, many boxes.

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Making Oolong in Taiwan

Time frame: From initial thought to actually owning an online tea business took exactly: 2 months. I made sure to sign papers and transfer funds on July 18, 2007 which according to all my calculations was a very good birthday for Pearl Fine Teas.

What came next:  Nothing. I had no idea what the heck to do. Friends and family supported me by going to the site and making purchases at Christmas time. I was thrilled! I had made my first $600! The site just sat there, the boxes of tea were piled up in my house and I was still continuing my tea training. By Spring of 2008, my bookkeeper had said that I should consider selling tea at the farmers market where he volunteered in Del Ray, VA. I didn’t think that would be my cup of tea, but he insisted I should try. I brought a small table, a regular umbrella, about 8 teas and started going to market on Saturdays. This was the early days before the DC Metro Farmers Market boom and I believe I was one of the only people selling tea at markets aside from another girl who sold at Eastern Market. (Del Ray Market will always hold a special place in my heart since that was the official kick off of selling teas at markets.) From that point on I just kept moving forward.

Here are some highlights over the past years:

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Cover of TEA. A Magazine and our Obama Blend

• Speaker on Tea at the Metro Cooking year for 3 years.

• Traveled to Taiwan twice, Japan, and Sri Lanka to make and purchase tea.

• First certified Tea Professional in Washington DC through STI

• First to tweet about the Obama/McCain election, asking on Twitter if either candidate was a tea what would they be. A photo of the winning blend made the cover of TEA. A Magazine.

• Survived a fire and lost all inventory; rebuilt, and opened a pop-up tea shop in Union Market (DC) that turned into 18 months.

Pearl Fine Teas has gotten Runner-Up for Best Tea Shop 3 times! (We only have a tent and online shopping)

• Got to meet Venerable Geshe Tenzin Dhargye at the 2011 Kalachakra in DC who took my gift of tea (Hawaiian Zen)  to the  Dalai Lama. It was a great honor.

 

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Tea garden in Japan

Tea changed my life. In ways I could have never expected. It helped me be a better Creative Director to my existing clients, it helped me understand products, product marketing, consumers, buying trends, and what people see/don’t see while shopping. It expanded my circle and brought people into my life I would have otherwise never met. It has helped me connect with humanity, increased my compassion and it’s brought me fulfillment knowing that I have helped change peoples lives. That’s a legacy I can live with.

So, here I am – 10 years in. Still. Selling. Tea. And still loving tea.

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District Blend 01: Georgetown Grey

Whats next? We’re celebrating making it 10 years in the tea industry, (in Washington DC) by introducing a new line of teas called: DISTRICT BLENDS! 6 tea blends that focus on 6 diverse neighborhoods in the Nations Capital. A new blend will release each month leading up to Christmas. Here is the first:

Georgetown Grey
Who doesn’t love Georgetown? Old historic buildings, small shops, waterfront, jazz clubs, cobblestone streets, the canal and always so many flowers. When I need to feel like I’m in a Europe-like setting, I find my way to Georgetown. To honor its classic charm and loveliness our first blend combines a gorgeous Indian Darjeeling black tea with Italian Oil of Bergamot and is blended together with delicate flowers of pink rose petals, blue cornflowers and yellow calendula. If this neighborhood were a cup of tea it would be Georgetown Grey. You can purchase here.

You’ll have to check back next month to find out what neighborhood blend debuts for August!

A big thank you to everyone who was supportive, helpful, kind, encouraging, and loyal these last 10 years – especially my customers. I’ve gotten to live out one of my dreams: To travel the world for tea. Without all of you, I’d just be drinking tea at home and annoying my friends and family with talk of one day owning a tea company.

I’m excited to see what unfolds over the years to come as Pearl Fine Teas continues to spread TeaLove around the world.

Happy Sipping!
~ The Chief Leaf

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10 Years of Tea! (It’s our Anniversary!)

Iced… Iced… Baby

 

 

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World’s Fair Poster

• Did you know that iced tea was first “officially discovered” in 1904 at the World’s Fair, St. Louis?
• Or that prohibition and home refrigeration in the 1920s and 1930s helped increase the popularity of tea?
• And that approximately 84% of the tea consumed in America is iced?

 

Welcome to National Iced Tea Month!

The most popular story goes something like this: In 1904 at the World’s Fair, Richard Blechynden, a tea plantation owner was planning to give away free samples of hot tea to visitors. It was so hot in St. Louis that year and no one was interested in hot tea – so he dumped cubes of ice into the drink. The rest is tea history. That said, there is also some information and a story about a Mrs. Tyree and her recipe for iced tea that was published in 1877 (well before the World’s Fair) in Housekeeping in Old Virginia – which is pretty darn cool. (Pun intended.)

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Mrs. Tyree’s recipe for iced tea

In fact, many Americans were already familiar with and drinking iced tea in alcohol based punches as far back as the Colonial days. There is reference to the Philadelphia Fish House Punch from the early 1700s which was diluted with tea. David Wondrich, a liquor historian wrote that the recipe for Regent’s Punch (1815) “…also packed quite the potent wallop: Not only did it call for green tea and arrack, a rum-like liquor from South Asia, it also threw in citrus juice, sugar, champagne, brandy and rum.” That’s a significant difference from how we drink iced tea today.

 

When Prohibition rolled around and took effect in 1920, nonalcoholic iced teas took off. In 1921, The Spice Mill (a book on coffee and tea industry) wrote: “Since Prohibition has gone into effect, tea has been drunk in places not heretofore thought of.” In order for social clubs, hotels and bars to survive, they looked for substitutes for (hard) liquor sales. Enter the birth of virgin fruit punches and strongly brewed iced teas – both packed with flavor and perfectly legal.  The real tipping point arrived with the availability of home refrigeration and freezers which meant that people didn’t have to leave their homes to attend a social club for an iced cold drink.

 

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Classic Iced Tea

This brings us to America and its 84%. We stand almost entirely alone (American, Canada, Thailand) in terms of tea culture worldwide in that we are prefer our tea over ice – while the rest of the tea drinking world drinks its tea hot.  In countries like China, India, Sri Lanka and Japan, tea is almost always served hot regardless of the season.

Is it because of our early access to ice? Or that Americans were “forced” to drink a strong nonalcoholic beverages during Prohibition? Perhaps! Regardless of the answer, iced tea isn’t going anywhere.

One of the best ways to enjoy real iced tea is to brew it yourself using loose-leaf tea. The quality and taste are far superior than anything you will make from packaged teabags.  What I find most interesting and also surprising is how many people ask me HOW to make iced tea. I get this question almost weekly at markets. It’s really quite easy and takes little effort.

There are 2 ways to make iced tea: traditional hot brew method and cold brew. I’ve made both. My personal preference is to hot brew black teas and cold brew green teas.

For Hot Brew: The proportion I use is roughly 1 oz of loose-leaf tea to 1 gallon of water. I use boiling water for black teas, herbal and rooibos. With any herbal infusion or rooibos you can brew the leaves as long as you like without risking bitterness because there is no Camellia Sinensis (tea) in herbal infusions. You could walk away from rooibos (or herbals) for hours and return to perfectly brewed tea. It’s not the same for black teas. Time matters or you end up with a very strong, sometimes bitter brew. Most iced teas in restaurants are often brewed too long, and I believe it’s why so many people resort to sugar in their tea. Quality tea made correctly requires no sugar!

 

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Ice cubes changed everything

For Cold Brew: As mentioned I like greens (and oolongs) brewed cold. The ratio is slightly different in that you need more leaf to water. My preference is 1.5 oz of tea leaves to 1 gallon of ice/water placed in the fridge over night. When you wake up: Iced Tea!  Depending on the tea, I might even use 2 oz of tea leaves to 1 gallon of water. What’s great about this method particularly for green tea, is that there is little to no astringency or bitterness. Some research even suggests that the caffeine level is lower and the anti-oxidants are higher with this method.

Our summer iced tea menu at our local farmer’s markets rotates between these 6 flavors:

Black Currant
Calypso (summer only)
Lovely Lauren – Apricot
Pirate’s Nest
Ginger Peach (Summer only)
Moroccan Mint Green

For those of you that follow Pearl Fine Teas around the DC Metro area, or are one of our online customers, I’m offering 15% OFF these 6 teas for the rest of June during National Iced Tea Month. Enter code: ICE15 at checkout to receive your discount!

Only blog readers will have access to this code which expires at midnight on June 30th! Grab some leaves and brew over ice!

Happy Sipping!
~ The Chief Leaf

Iced… Iced… Baby