Because I’m originally from a tea-drinking culture, the seed of tea love was planted early in my childhood years and has since become a giant tree. Growing up in Iran, tea was part of our everyday life. It was as common and as essential as drinking water. Fast forward to many years later (2003) when as an adult living in New York, I established Tay Tea, a company that specializes in creating artisanal tea blends. The question I’m asked most often is: “How did you become a tea blender?” To which I always mutter something like “I guess it’s in my blood” or “I think I inherited the tea-blending gene.” The truth is I really don’t know. Like all true creative ventures, this one, too, was led by the heart, not the head.
I do happen to come from a family (mother’s side) of hobby tea blenders. My great grandfather, grandmother, and great aunt were all famous for their fine “tea noses” and have left behind a legacy of delectable tea blends that our family has always enjoyed. But the question still remains – why did I stop my stable and lucrative decorating career to enter the unknown world of tea? I may have inherited the nose, but did I have the “head” to make it in the tea business? At that stage, I was only sure of three things:
- I loved tea
- I loved people
- I loved bringing tea and people together in an inviting environment
The idea of a teashop was both appealing and natural to me. My father’s wise words guided me through this time: “Find out what you really love and what you’re naturally good at and put the two together – you can’t fail.” I took his advice and in 2005 opened my teashop – Tay Home in Andes, NY.
The location was idyllic. Andes is a gem of a small town, nestled in the foothills of the Western Catskill Mountains in upstate New York, three hours north of New York City and frequented by many tourists and second homeowners. The rent for my space was reasonable, so I could ease into retail life and experiment with all kinds of creative adventures without the fear of escalating bills. I settled into blending my own signature collection of hand-crafted teas, each with a different story to tell, and they were an instant hit! Today, six years later at Tay Home, we continue to serve and sell my artisanal blends, plus a growing collection of organic, single-note teas from notable gardens, in addition to a well-edited collection of global teaware and gifts for the garden and home. We have become the popular hub of the town and the hospitality center for meeting and greeting all the new visitors in our area. Last year, we added a Tay tea bar, which serves local, organic vegetarian foods (mostly infused with tea), along with tea-infused baked goods. This spring we’re expanding the business and taking over a building in Andes to house the growing teashop, blending studio, tea bar, and home and garden accessories rooms. After eight years in the business of tea, I remain as enthusiastic and optimistic as ever. I have learned a lot from our customers, many of whom have become friends and who inspire me daily to take the next light step on the path of tea. They remind me to:
“Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” – Rumi, 13th-Century Persian Sufi poet