Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Asheville Tea Company

The Asheville TeaCompany, founded in 2015 by tea enthusiast Jessie Dean, locally sources almost every ingredient of its teas and tisanes (herbal teas). Camelia sinensis is the one ingredient that is not now local.  But Jessie hopes to change that in the coming years. Last fall, I was thrilled to discover this new-to-me source for fresh and tasty tea and tisane blends.  At my first opportunity, I attended one of the afternoon teas hosted by Jessie Dean and the Asheville Tea Company at the charming Ivory Road Café in Arden.  This event realized the perfect pairing of British tea ritual and cozy ambiance.  It left me wanting to learn more about the Asheville Tea Company and how it came to be.

Jessie Dean is pictured at left here at the Ivory Road Cafe.

Recently I had the opportunity to ask Jessie Dean a few questions about the Asheville Tea Company and her life with tea.

LYNN: Does tea have an importance or meaning to you beyond that of being a product with which you work? Can you elaborate on this?

JESSIE: Tea has a great deal of meaning to me personally, much of which has derived from travels around the world (and particularly time spent in the UK), where tea is a big part of daily life. I have an appreciation for that sense of everyday tea culture. I feel that tea allows us to slow down during our hectic days and enjoy the moment. It also, of course, holds so many benefits to our health. I have particularly become passionate about working with local farms and proprietors in sourcing local ingredients for the teas. 

LYNN:  Do you have any tea rituals that you practice on a regular basis?

JESSIE: A cuppa tea and a nice sit-down! My husband (being an Englishman) and I love to enjoy a morning or afternoon cuppa, with toast or a biscuit of course, whenever time allows. It's one of my favorite parts of the day.

LYNN: What is your favorite type or style of tea?

JESSIE: My all-time favorite tea is probably Earl Grey, but recently Yaupon, Rooibos and herbal tisanes have been playing a much bigger role in my daily tea menu. I have found Yaupon to be a fascinating plant, and am enjoying blending it with other local ingredients. 

LYNN: Are there tea traditions or rituals that you have not tried that you would like to explore in the future?

JESSIE: I would love to learn more about the many cultural types of tea ceremony, which is something I have never particularly experienced. I also look forward to tasting more and more types of tea and blended tisanes through this tea journey. It is so exciting to find new flavor combinations based on what we can source in our area. Also, one of these days I would love to visit tea farms around the world! There is so much to learn about tea processing and harvesting that I think would be fascinating.

LYNN: What would you say to someone who does not care for tea to convince them of its importance or appeal?

JESSIE: For me, tea is a craft beverage in its own right. For folks who have not yet tried various specialty teas or blended teas, it is a whole new flavor experience. And, it can be an exciting learning process in so many ways, no matter where you start with tea. There are a lot of new types of teas and tisanes on the market these days, so that cup of iced tea or hot black tea with milk or lemon is not the only option (though those teas do also hold a special place in my heart too ;). 

LYNN: Yes, Indeed. Strong black tea is a favorite of mine and has for years been a part of my daily morning rituals. In recent years I have also enjoyed learning about and adding healthful tisanes to my diet.  So I am glad to know that the Asheville Tea Company is now here to supply me and our community with fresh and tasty tea and tisane blends.  Thanks Jessie Dean!

For further information about the Asheville Tea Company, check out:

Monday, February 6, 2017

Table Rock Tea Company

Steve and Jennifer Lorch are the owners and founders of the Table Rock Tea Company.  They live and work near Table Rock State Park in northern Pickens County, South Carolina.

Steve and Jennifer are also the founders of Hydromissions International.  It was their work with this organization/business that took them to Kenya’s tea region for a water well drilling trip in 2002.  Upon their return home from this trip, Steve bought a tea plant online and stuck it in the ground at their suburban home in Mauldin, SC.  It grew.  After moving to the mountains (Table Rock), the Lorches decided to plant a hedge row of several hundred plants.  Instead of using strictly ornamentals, they decided to plant tea.  It grew well in the area, and Table Rock Tea Company was born.  The tea farm now sits on 17 acres at the base of Table Rock Mountain State Park.

I was recently able to communicate with Steve and ask him a few questions about his life and work in the world of tea production.

LYNN: Does tea have an importance or meaning to you beyond that of being a product with which you work? Can you elaborate on this?

STEVE: Being avid entrepreneurs, tea offers such a wide variety of areas to explore.  Everything from growing, to processing, to product development, to marketing – you name it, tea has it.  There is enough variety and interest in the tea space to keep us exploring for the rest of our lives.  We give tours of our farm and processes almost weekly, and that gives us a great opportunity to meet great people, share great ideas, and sip great tea together.  That’s the truly fun part.

LYNN: What is your favorite type or style of tea?

STEVE: We were introduced to tea via single-origin black tea from Kenya, so that is what we really like.  Although black tea is our preference, we actually grow and make an exceptionally fresh green tea (WinterLeaf®), as well as a very good, hand-crafted oolong.  As certified tea specialists, we’ve tried (and continue to try) hundreds of teas of all different styles and origins.  They all have a place at our table, depending on what mood we happen to be in at the time.  Our slogan here at Table Rock Tea Company is simple: “Drink what tastes good to you.”  With that in mind, we strive to make high-quality, Uniquely American Tea.

LYNN: It sounds like you sort of accidentally fell into the world of tea production.  Is that accurate?  And if so, has tea now become more of a passion?  

STEVE: We did kind of fall into it, but yes, it has become a passion of ours - Jen and I are process engineers/product developers by nature, so tea lends itself well to our strengths.  We always go “all in” to any endeavor we undertake.

Those of us in this area of Upstate South Carolina and Western North Carolina are lucky that you and Jennifer did decide to go “all in” in this endeavor.  You are creating a destination that is unique to this area and appealing to all of us who are enthusiastic about tea.

on Facebook (Table RockTea Company)
on YouTube (Table Rock Tea Company)

© my tea diary
Maira Gall