We didn’t throw our concept together and we take our time making decisions. We still make mistakes, but hopefully not as many. Today, the template for success is to get a branding company to give you the “look,” get a concept store up and running, and, then, as quickly as possible, get venture funding and attempt to expand. It works – sometimes – if you have the money and/or the connections to do all of the above. However, the template certainly doesn’t guarantee success. In the last two years, I have seen one store closed by a small but growing tea chain, many by a large established coffee chain, and about half by a smaller coffee chain that I used to read about on the SCAA forum years ago as the next big success story. Of course, many new concepts didn’t make it past the last two years even with the first store. No, it’s not easy, especially not now.
We are moving slowly by current standards and we also choose our teas very slowly and carefully, after cupping, recupping, and then cupping some more. We don’t use just one vendor and tell them to send us five oolongs, ten blacks, seven greens, and so on. Every one of the approximately 50 teas we now carry went through our arduous process and each was either amazing or right on the edge of amazing to earn its space. That’s why we only had one oolong – a Wuyi – for two years. However, we just added two new babies to the oolong family at our store and that’s because they were, well…just amazing.
The first is a Milk Oolong, trendy a few years back, but trendy means nothing to us in and of itself. Delicious, on the other hand, knows no time or trend restraints. There was never a Milk Oolong like this – it smells buttery, it tastes buttery, and it is so smooth you would think you are mistaken. When you open the package, it releases a most amazing aroma that makes most people literally take on a look of surprise. Tea? The plaza dentist’s wife said it smelled like buttered popcorn. The infusion even looks buttery. Reminds me of the old SNL sketch…”Like buttah…just like buttah.” Okay, that’s baby #1.
The second is a Jasmine Pearls Oolong. Again, this is the first jasmine pearls that we could not NOT bring in. On opening the package, you are immediately transported to a jasmine garden of delights, which only improves upon infusion. This is a tea that should be sipped, slowly, preferably in quiet, contemplative moments, preferably in an actual garden. However, it will take you to that garden in the midst of a busy office if you put on some earphones with quiet music and close your eyes during a 10-minute break, returning to work refreshed and relaxed.
These oolongs both give three perfectly beautiful infusions, so the higher price tag is meaningless when all is said and done. These are, to us, teas that deserve respect and a place in our repertoire. And our proprietary one-minute brewing process – as always – brings out the very best of each infusion.
These are not the easiest times, but, honestly, tea has made the last few very difficult years a little better, not only health-wise, but also in terms of the mental relaxation certain teas bring about. If you, like most others, are facing some challenges currently, I can’t think of a better tea than either of these to take a break with. Thank God for the leaf, especially the leaf that slowly and beautifully unfurls into three perfect infusions.