Friday, April 15, 2016

A Moment Where it All Began

"It all began when my Aunt Jane took me to Lisa’s Tea Treasures somewhere near San Jose, CA when I was entering my senior year of high school..."

For those of you who have read the "My Tea Journey" section of my blog may recognize that sentence. I had never been to an actual Tea Room until my Aunt Jane took me to this one. It was one of those experiences that shaped my aspirations and future endeavors. Yes, it was a cup of tea and a presentation of tea sandwiches and scones. But it was more. It was a moment of infinite possibilities.

Since that time, I've visited countless venues for tea around the world, but I have never returned to that very first one. Until last week. I was in Santa Clara, California to speak at a conference, and before my flight home, I decided to look up Lisa's Tea Treasures to see if it was nearby. There is now more than one location, so I decided to visit their newly opened tea room in the up and coming Santana Row.

It was a Monday afternoon and the tea room was bustling. I was ushered to a table and handed the menu, and that was where the memories came flooding back. Since my first visit, I've drafted out what my own tea house would be like. There would be a few small dining rooms, each themed in a different country. The Russian Room. The Fleur de Lis. The English Fireside Room. And here was why. Lisa's menu was deliciously themed with options of afternoon teas that reflect a variety of international tea traditions.

Unlike my afternoon tea experience with Aunt Jane, I started this tea service with a celebratory glass of sparkling wine. And then a pot of their English Breakfast tea. I noticed right away their bowl of sugar cubes and little tongs, which made me laugh as I realized that must be why I am so adamant about the necessity of cubes at afternoon tea rather than granules! I saw it there first!

Megan, my server, was a multi-tasking genius. Despite a full house, she was warm and hospitable, going out of her way to make sure each table had the best experience possible. I was able to sit back, relax and enjoy each delicious morsel of food in a cozy, beautiful tea room.

How I miss my Aunt Jane. As I sat at my table, I reminisced about the family trips we took when I was young. My parents, two brothers and I would drive from Idaho to California and run wild with my cousins, laughing and singing and eating like crazy. Aunt Jane would play her beautiful grand piano, singing a few favorite hymns or some silly children's songs. And of course, my mom and her sister would perform the German beer-drinking songs they had learned in their high school German class, which always cracked all of us up.  Those vacations always felt too short. When I got my first job in California, I would have to fly up to the Bay Area every few months, and would often drive to her house for dinner with my aunt, uncle and whatever cousins happened to be home. Then I would stay an extra hour or two and talk and talk with Aunt Jane in the wood paneled living room, the familiar grand piano in one corner, shelves of books in every direction. She was so much like my mom, it was almost as good as being home. Those visits with her kept my homesickness at bay. And when we lost her too soon, I treasured those moments even more.

In the 20-some years since my first afternoon tea experience at Lisa's Tea Treasures, I am amazed at where so many tea moments have led me. New people, new places, new flavors and fragrances. It was so fun to visit where it all began. Let's see where the next 20 years lead.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A Moment with The Queen's Teapothecary

The utter gall of the email to the team left me speechless. I had not approved this next step. I had not even seen it. After letting it gnaw at me for a good part of the afternoon on the last day of my vacation, I crafted my response. It was succinct, pointed and specific. I would not be bulldozed. My authority in this arena would not be usurped!

Damage control was swift and complete. There were apologies and declarations that no harm was intended. An immediate update of all upcoming communications was sent to me and a promise of weekly such updates.

And then discovery. There, in my inbox, untouched, unnoticed from the previous week, was the email that documented from top to bottom the communication that would be going out to the team. The communication that had set off my (what could now only be called) temper tantrum.


In such moments as these, there can only be one course of action. As my colleague, Lia, always says, "When you mess up, 'fess up." So I crafted another email. This one took more time, more measure, much more responsibility, and even more courage to hit 'send.'

What tea pairs best whilst eating crow and a slice of humble pie?

This newly deflated princess turned to a recent gift of The Queen's Teapothecary to soothe a bruised and battered ego.

Isn't it interesting how viewing a thing of beauty can instantly make the world seem a little brighter? As I opened the beautiful box, I was presented with an herbal blend for every occasion. Did I need a touch of The King's Charm (a refreshing citrus mint blend) or to be wrapped up with the warm and soothing Queen Mother's Blend (with lemongrass, ginger, cinnamon and clove)? The escapist in me considered The Sleepy Princess Blend with thoughts of a nap, but in the end, I retreated with the The Queen's Favorite, a lavender and lemon verbena blend. Calming, with a bright ending, just what today's saga needed.

There has been a lot of change in the past few months in my workplace. The founder, president (and my long-time friend) said farewell to the company at the end of the year to begin a new adventure. At the same time, our parent company ramped up dedicated resources, and suddenly things on my wish list that used to take months or years to become reality are now taking weeks. There is suddenly more staff, which means I'm wearing fewer hats, which also means less involvement/knowledge in certain activities. I'm now able to focus on things that are the 'best use of my time,' and these are exciting and important changes. But even good change is change, and I'm realizing I'm not as flexible or resilient or ready to evolve as I thought I was.

What doesn't change is the comfort and consistency of a nice cup of tea. And what could be better than my own Teapothecary?

The Queen's Teapothecary is the creation of Mandalyn King, who has developed a beautiful line of  herbal infusions and floral tisanes.