(You may want to duck. There will be a fair bit of name dropping here.)
I have never been one to take life for granted. I sometimes think it was growing up in a small mill town in central Maine, surrounded by hardworking people who rarely sought attention or thanks for the hundreds of kind gestures that made up a given day. Maybe it was living with parents who had chosen education as their life’s work. My dad was the son of a minister and the most devout of minister’s wives and my mother was the daughter of people who spent countless hours serving others at their diner and later at their bowling alley. We didn’t take big vacations or have the latest clothes and toys, but we also had all that we needed to be healthy and happy. I have been fortunate and I have been grateful.
I sometimes bristle when I’m told not to take my kids or my husband or my life for granted, because I don’t. I am thankful for them every day and I cherish my time with them. I don’t need to be reminded….Or do I?
I have spent the last three days in Long Beach, California at the 2015 World Tea Expo. This trade show and educational forum draws tea experts, educators, enthusiasts and businesses owners from all over the world. It’s been a couple years since I could attend, but my family and I made some hard decisions and adjusted schedules and, with some critical help from my parents, I boarded a plane on Wednesday.
It’s funny that even after 8 years in the tea industry I still get very nervous arriving at these types of events. I feel unsure of my place, wonder if anyone will remember me, and stand in awe of the tea leaders who I’ve come to admire and strive to emulate. And then I remember…
With Darlene Meyers-Perry
I remember that the tea community is among the warmest, most generous and kind collection of people I have ever had the good fortune to be part of. I crossed to the Convention Center from my hotel and before I even reached the door I saw Darlene Meyers-Perry (The Tea Lover’s Archives.) Her smile and hug were the perfect welcome. Within minutes I saw Jo (A Gift of Tea / Scandalous Tea) and collected my second huge smile and welcome. And it didn’t stop.
With Bruce and Shelley Richarson, with Jane Pettigrew in background
For three days I was greeted with kindness that overwhelmed me. The tea blogging community reminded me that I will always be part of their “people.” Even as my blog has lain fallow, they have been the biggest cheerleaders for my writing and editing career. When Tea Pages launched in 2007, I never could have predicted that it would create some of my most valued friendships in this industry. There were friends I’ve been lucky enough to visit with before, like Rachel Carter (I Heart Teas), Naomi Rosen (Joy’s Teaspoon), Nicole Schwartz (@amazonv), Chris Giddings (Teaity) and Nicole Martin (Tea for Me Please). There were others, like Geoff Norman (Steep Stories), Tony Gebely (World of Tea), and Jen Piccotti (International Tea Moment) with whom I’ve never been in the same room with but have shared countless moments with online over the years and I feel I know better than people I see daily.
With Lisa Boalt Richardson
And then there are the mentors. I was teary as people who I bow down to for their accomplishments and achievements in tea, our industry’s celebrities like James Norwood Pratt, Jane Pettigrew, Kevin Gascoyne, Lisa Bolt Richardson, Beth Johnston, and Bruce Richardson, greeted me by name, with hugs and tea (and occasionally a cocktail – thanks Kevin.) I shed a few tears as it really sunk in that there would be no hug and laughs with John Harney, another industry hero who showed me tremendous respect and warmth and welcome and who left us far too soon. I spent time with my colleague and friend, Dan Bolton, with whom I edited Tea Magazine for a year and a half and with whom I now get to produce World Tea News with every week. We’ve now collaborated for five years and have only been in the same room together about that same number of times.
With Norwood Pratt
I thanked my stars for the chance to congratulate Norwood in person for his receipt of the John Harney Lifetime Achievement Award and blushed at the kind words he offered in return. He is a gentleman and I am so proud to call him my friend.
We shared tea, laughter, and I absorbed more knowledge in the past three days than I will be able to process in three weeks. And I rediscovered my passion for this blog. I realized that THIS is what I’ve taken for granted. Blogging about tea is what gave me my start in tea and it has opened doors and friendships. It has earned me press credentials and given me introductions to people I never would have met otherwise.
I don’t know where this blog is going next, but it is going somewhere. It is time to come back to my tea roots, to reconnect with my community more regularly, to remind myself of how fortunate I am to have tea people in my life.
So welcome to all of you, dear readers. Those of you who have stuck by me for eight years, whether I posted or not. Those of you who bought my book and read my magazine articles. Those of you who are bloggers and writers who show support for all in your community. Those shop owners and tea merchants who have shared their tea with me and taught me so much and inspire me to continue to learn every day. To all of you, I say thank you. I look forward to getting to know you all again.
Some of my very favorite tea bloggers