Thursday, May 3, 2007

About Me and VeeTea

Here's a little rambling on how I got into tea and why I started VeeTea.

Tea is something I've loved for a long time. I grew up in the South, where no meal after 11 AM is complete without sweet tea. The first time I tasted hot tea, I was 7 years old. To my parents' horror, I went vegetarian for about a year at that age, flatly refusing to eat anything that contained meat on ethical grounds. After a while, they got used to it, and my dad took me out for some tofu at a nice Chinese restaurant near our house. I don't remember the tofu. What I DO remember is this-- at the end of the meal, I got to try green tea. My dad said the tea tasted like the essence of the earth after a heavy rain and for the first time in my life, I noticed the complexity and subtlety a taste can carry.

When I was in college I became a vegetarian again (though this time it stuck!) and started working at Whole Foods. With my hefty employee discount, I could, despite my college-student status, afford to buy foods other than ramen. The thing that made me happiest, though, was being able to purchase high-quality loose-leaf tea. I started to explore the wondrous tastes and aromas of a world of tea I hadn't even known existed a year prior. I began my obsession with tea.

After I graduated, I took my accumulated tea knowledge and a good deal of bartending experience to Urbana Cityspa & Teabar. In its developmental stages I was a consultant and once it opened I became the teabar manager. My passion for tea deepened as I saw how I could use my expertise of it to educate and entertain others. I gave seminars, held tastings, trained employees, and learned as much as I could about tea. Later, my art (I'm also an artist, which makes me different from all the other New Yorkers, who are actors) brought me to New York. I spent my time working at Takshimaya in their tea department and hunting down the city's best tea resources.

At work, I helped those who were lost in the sea of tea. I proved to be a terrible salesperson, but an exceptional educator. Customers raved about my expertise and explanations; one went so far as to write the manager of the U.S. division of the company about how much she had enjoyed learning about tea from me! It was obvious to everyone that I adored entertaining people with tea facts and anecdotes and that they learned a lot from talking with me, but I couldn't very well become "Professor of Tea" at NYU, so I stayed in retail.

In my spare time I delved into New York's incredible array of tea houses and shops. Some of them were beyond compare, while others were unbelievably banal or just plain bad. I began to wonder how the average New York tea drinker had the time and energy to find the gems amidst "the rest" while living a normal life (which is to say, one that is partially rather than entirely tea-centered). And if it's hard for New Yorkers, it must be nearly impossible for the tourists. With a chain coffee store on practically every block, I could see how the travel-weary might give up on finding the local tea haven hidden away on the second floor and settle for one of the worms in The Big Apple instead. I knew there had to be some way to illuminate natives and tourists alike to the joys of tea in NYC, but how?

Gradually, I came to realize that New York was ready for a unique blend of learning and leisure. What it needed was someone offering an entertaining and amusing romp through the city with a carefully selected sampling of the wide spectrum it has to offer, from the fun of a fruity Taiwanese bubble tea to-go, to the serenity of a Japanese matcha ceremony, to the "so right it has to be wrong" hedonism of perfect tea and chocolate pairings . . . with all the trial-and-error testing of places (and tasting teas and foods!) done in advance. With my zeal for tea, love of teaching, disdain for the "trite and true," and love of all that makes tea hot, who better to do the job?

And so Vee Tea came to be. It's company that brings you the best of the best in areas as diverse as chocolate decadence and vegan eats all the while with tea in the spotlight. My goal is to spread joy for and knowledge about tea, one small group at a time. In addition to customized and preset tours, I offer business consultation, employee training, tea tastings/seminars, one-on-one tea classes, and online tea lessons. Experience a tea tour. Learn how to build your tea business. Hold a tea tasting. Pick an expert's brain over a cuppa. Read up while sipping your favorite brew. Most of all, enjoy your tea!

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