There was a summer that I became serious about the idea of opening a tea room. I had just left my first corporate jobby job and was finishing my Master’s degree. In between working on my thesis and working on my thesis, I began researching local tea rooms with serious focus. I would take covert photos of how the tea / goodies were presented and take copious notes rating the tea, the food, the service, what I liked and disliked about the ambience, etc.
After a couple of months of this process, I realized that despite my numerous observations and experience as a customer, I had no experience or knowledge ‘behind the apron.’ Having the title of ‘student’ allowed me to consider taking on a part-time job and get that much needed experience. And so the job search began. After several rejections, and after having a lovely chat with the owner of a tea lounge one day as I was ‘researching,’ I (in a fit of slight desparation) wrote a heart-felt email to that tea lounge owner expressing my desire to work in a tea house, why it was important to me, what I hoped to accomplish, what I felt I could bring to the table, and more. It was a lengthy communication. Lo and behold, she took me seriously and I soon found myself on the schedule of the Lavender Lounge Tea Company in San Clemente, CA. What I loved about Desiree, the owner, and the lounge she had created was her complete and total tea nerdiness, which met and even exceeded my own. She had single-handedly created multitudes of specialty blends. They were loose leaf blends: black blends, greens, whites, rooibos, and even some herbal blends. Nearly everything was blended, packaged, shipped or served from this tiny space in the second floor of an historic building. Here was my chance to learn from a pro!
While my stint in the lounge was cut short (my pie-in-the-sky consulting biz suddenly had 3 major clients), I came to acquire a tremendous respect for the patience, multi-tasking and ultimate customer service skills necessary to be a successful tea shop owner. More on that in another post… Also, deep admiration for the creative and incredibly delicious tea blends Desiree continued to produce. Some of my favorites:
1. San Clemen Tea – The Lavendar Lounge’s signature blend. A black tea/peach/apricot blend with surprising, yet subtle, notes of caramel and cinnamon. The fruit flavor is distinct but not overly fruity, which makes the blend delightful whether hot or over ice.
2. French Blend – While ’tis true I love all things French, this blend stands on its own merit. A black tea blend, this could aptly be named ‘Earl Grey goes to Paris.’ Tones of bergamot, jasmine and vanilla are enhanced even more if cream is added.
3. Jaded Julip – I’ve tried numerous times to appreciate green tea, and this is one blend that makes it easy. Granted, the black tea base helps the process, but the surprise of Matcha (liquid jade) and peppermint could induce New York’s most cynical stock broker to take pause and serve friends this refreshing cuppa on a verandah beneath magnolia trees in a heartbeat.
Give my regards to Desiree and her fabulous tea trade at the Lavendar Lounge Tea Company!