Susan Lamont has never been able to pass a tea shop without venturing in. And when her own tea cupboard at home began to overflow with the leafy stuff that she loves, she decided to turn it into a business.
“I have always gone into tea shops,” said Lamont, who launched ‘Tea Buds and Blossoms,’ last summer. “Sometimes things just fire you up. I started looking into it on the Internet, and I found the World Tea Exposition in Las Vegas.”
Lamont attended the event in March, 2009 mixing with the top players of the tea world, and by June she was filing her first tea order. She hasn’t had a minute to pause since she started, designing a logo, picking out packaging, selecting teas from countries such as Sri Lanka, India, China, Japan and Kenya. But luckily she has had to brew up a cup of everything she imported, because that is what a devoted tea drinker does. One of her showstoppers is the “blooming teas,” a ball of tea made by artisans who tie tea leaves together to create a flower form, which when brewed opens up like a rose, and delivers a delicate and delicious cup of tea. She makes it in a glass teapot, to show off its beauty to customers who stop by.
“Tea is very comforting,” she said. “We don’t rush in and have a cup of tea. We might rush in, but then we should relax and enjoy the cup of tea. And during the flu season, people should be drinking a lot of tea. It has antioxidant properties and polyphenols.”
Lamont says that the idea of using loose leaf tea is new to many people on the Prairies, who mostly grew up with commercial tea bag tea. There is a big difference between the two, and endless different varieties to try, she said. One of her biggest sellers is a sample pack of teas, which allows the customer to brew up four or five different tea blends, and learn about what they like.
“I am introducing them to a new beverage,” said Lamont. “We all grew up with our grandparents drinking tea from tea bags, but this is something different. It is new ground. But it is fun, and you can learn something new every day about tea. If you don’t know about tea, the sample pack is a wonderful idea, and makes a nice gift.”
Lamont, who served for many years in municipal administration, and eventually took up the reins as chief administrative officer for the R. M. of Riverside before retiring a few years ago, says tea appreciation is a little like wine.
“Tea is being compared to wine today,” she said. “All my teas come with a tea story, a pamphlet which tells the customer where the tea was grown, the grade of the tea, what the flavour is like and how to make the tea.”
A website is currently under construction, which will showcase the tea selections, that include black, green and fruit teas, as well as herbal, Rooibos and white teas, and accessories such as teapots, trivets, strainers and caddies. Until then, a list of products can be emailed to interested tea drinkers from Lamont, who is set up to ship tea through mail order for customers. She also runs a small kiosk in the Killarney Shoppers Mall on Thursdays, from 10 a. m. to 4 p. m., to meet and greet her friends and customers. For Lamont, it is more than just a business.
“The one health benefit I feel is enjoyed by all tea drinkers is the calming effect tea has over us as we sit back and enjoy it,” said Lamont. “Everyone can relate to tea with a story, and the stories build with experience of all that tea drinking over the years. I have been in the mall since mid-July, and people are feeling more comfortable with stopping by, sampling the tea and sharing their tea story. I enjoy meeting people, the stories and loving my tea. I hope my little entrepreneur business is a compliment to Killarney, and to rural Manitoba.”
Susan Lamont can be emailed at: [email protected],or by phoning toll free at: 1-877-213-6579, and on her cell at: 204-534-8031. She also does tea consultations by appointment, and sells and ships both smaller and bulk orders of tea.
– Kim Langen writes from Holmfield, Manitoba