The Tea Board of India recently announced that they would be usingĀ social media to promote tea culture around the world. My startup, Tealet, has built a strong network of independent tea growers from nine countries and an even more immense social network online on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr. These tea interactions have taught me much about tea culture, but have also introduced me to a World Tea Family. Recently, I reached out to this social network and organized a series of tea parties that can only be described as an “Underground Tea Club.”

sharing-teaNew York

The first stop on our U.S. tea tour took my brother, Mike, and I to New York City, where I pitched Tealet to investors. Our first tea party happened on Valentine’s Day with Kelsey Brow, a tea friend I originally made at the Rocky Mountain Tea Festival. As we sipped cups of tea and snacked on sweets, we discussed our love for tea. Her interest is in the history and cultural significance of objects in society, so it is no surprise that she found her way into the tea world. Her intelligence and style blew me away; she speaks multiple languages and made the couture she was wearing.

A spontaneous Sunday afternoon tea cupping organized by Darlene Meyers-Perry included Nicole Martin of Tea for Me Please and Jo Johnson of A Gift of Tea. These ladies were absolutely delightful and we had a day full of laughs that will remain in all our memories. Mike and I were happy to pour Onomea’s Oolong and Black Tea, but it was Mauna Kea’s Premium Green Tea that really stole the show. You can read more specific tasting notes by NicoleĀ here.

tea-gatheringChicago

I was very excited and, honestly, intimidated about our meeting in Chicago. A few months back, I connected with Tony Gebely of The World of Tea and mentioned I would like to connect with tea friends in his hometown. He brought together quite the crowd for an epic tea tasting in the basement of his tea shop in the city. Joining us were seasoned tea lovers Melissa McEwen, Tyler Fry, Taylor Cowan, Thomas Conner, Robert Yaple, and Tony’s fiance, Katie. We powered through teas from Japan, China, Taiwan, Hawaii, and Indonesia, and were treated to some special teas, such as Tyler’s ultra-thick matcha. Some very powerful friendships were formed that night and I am psyched to get back to Chicago so we can better connect with its rich tea culture.

Our final tea party in Chicago was with Mathias Rengert and Todd Jones. Mathias has a special connection with Taiwanese teas and I was impressed with his deep appreciation for tea and his efforts to advocate for its culture in the city’s retail scene. Todd is a founder of another startup called Every Last Morsel. He is trying to do what we are doing for independent tea growers for local urban gardens, so people can better connect with local produce. We look forward to collaborating in the future as his appreciation for tea continues to grow.

If you would like to introduce me to your local tea community, please get in touch at elyse@tealet.com. We have plenty of tea and stories to share!