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Living Life One Cup at a Time

Saying Goodbye to John Harney

Written By: Katrina - Jun• 19•14

Harney2Within any industry there are the superstars, those people who you admire, endeavor to learn from and who you dream you will one day meet. When I began my tea blog seven years ago I had already developed a short list of people who fell into that category for me. Some were authors whose books I had devoured. Others were tea educators and tea company owners. Not only have I been fortunate enough to meet some of those amazing people like Jane Pettigrew, Bruce Richardson, Norwood Pratt and Cynthia Gold, but some have also become friends. Now one of those very special tea mentors, John Harney, has left us and today I say goodbye.

I will not tell the story of John Harney and his early years with Harney & Sons. Many have done that today and I will save that for another day. Instead I will tell the story of what he did for someone new to the industry with a passion for tea.

The first time I met John Harney was in September of 2011. My book had just been released and I was attending World Tea East in Philadelphia in the hopes of promoting the book and meeting some of the people who were only email addresses to me so far. I was walking up one of the aisles, admiring Rishi’s striking display of bowls of loose tea and watching the Teas Etc. folk pouring cup after cup of samples. I came to the Harney & Sons booth and took a quick look to see if Michael Harney was there, someone I’d met a few times previously and had recently spoken to about stocking my book at their Millerton shop. To my delight (and, I must admit, utter panic), there sat John Harney on a stool greeting passersby. The first time I walked quickly by, nervous to approach, wondering what I could possibly say. He made it easy. He was being honored that evening at a reception and started yelling out to people that they should be sure to come to the event because he was afraid no one would be there to clap. I took a deep breath and said hello. We ended up spending 15 minutes talking, discussing our kids and his business and my book. On the spot he tripled the number of books the shop was going to order and told my publisher to reach out so they could stock them at Millerton, in SoHo and on their website.

I am honored to say that that was the first of many conversations. It was also the first time he teased me about how much of a mouthful he found my name to be. Any time he called my house he never left a message for “Katrina.” He always used all three of my names and then laughed and laughed.

He was always ready to jump on the phone to be a source for an article. He talked frankly with me about the whims of the industry and the challenges of the business. When I began doing some research for a book project I asked if he’d spend some time talking with me about the history of Harney & Sons. He spent more than an hour talking with me, sharing those early moments, and answering questions. We, as usual, completely lost track of time and I realized that we would have to continue the conversation later. I said, “I’ve just realized how much of your time we’ve taken. It’s been an hour!” He answered, “But I’ve only gotten up to 1980!”

He was always kind and warm, generously sharing his knowledge and his passion for tea. He has had a tremendous impact on the acceptance of and awareness of tea in this country. He has taken risks and been successful in no small part due to his ability to form respectful relationships and to make tea feel accessible and inviting.

The tea industry suffered an enormous loss on June 16 with John Harney’s passing. His legacy will continue through Harney & Sons and all of us who had the great pleasure of meeting him. My deepest sympathies are with his wife, his children and his grandchildren.

John – Thank you for welcoming me into the industry, for being accessible and for the many, many laughs you provided. I must confess that I still have a phone message on my voicemail that you left months ago simply because your voice made me smile. I am grateful for the memories.

Soccer Fans – It’s Time to Play World Cup 2014: Tea Style

Written By: Katrina - Jun• 12•14

I try not to cross-post very often because I don’t want readers to feel like they are just reading reprints from other blogs. Today I had to bend the rules.

My husband is a HUGE soccer fan. He played for a long time and he coaches our kids’ teams. On many nights you’d find our television tuned to Telemundo to watch whatever game is on the air that night. He streams games online and basically is as excited about soccer as I am about tea.

I have definitely gained a big appreciation for the sport and have been looking forward to the start of the World Cup today.

Everyone in our family has been filling out our World Cup bracket picks but I must confess, except for a few of the more obvious favorites, I hadn’t followed the stats enough to make very well informed choices. Anyone who has seen me fill out a basketball bracket knows how I work — cities I like, mascots that amuse me, complete guesses. I love watching sports; I just don’t tend to retain the details that come in very useful in making picks.

I decided to offer a public service by creating a World Cup 2014 Tea Style bracket for Tea Biz. For each country in the tournament you’ll find a tea type/tea cuisine that might help you make your choice. Let me know what you think!

Click here to read the post and print out the bracket.

A Birthday Wish for the Lady Devotea

Written By: Katrina - May• 31•14

My long time readers know that one of the things I’ve loved about becoming involved in the world of tea is the relationships that I have formed. I have met others who are also passionate about tea but more unexpectedly, I have become part of a writing community. In my day-to-day life I don’t have a network of writers to lean on and I am utterly grateful to the one I have found online.

It started informally as the few of us writing back in 2007 found each other and began reading and commenting on each other’s blogs. I was still unsure of myself, trying to figure out what I had to offer a tea community that I perceived to be more experienced and knowledgeable than I thought I would ever be. Then I found Tea Chat on Adagio’s site and I found out just how broad the tea community is and I learned from so many people there. Then there was the Association of Tea Bloggers and Tea Trade where I really got to know passionate tea bloggers who I respected not only for their work, but for who they were as people. I learned about spouses and partners, their kids, their communities, and their “day jobs.” We shared frustrations and successes and instead of competing, we encouraged each other’s successes.

It was during this time that I had a revelation. I read a blog post that was utterly unlike any I’d read before. It was from a collective called the Beasts of Brewdom, a tongue-in-cheek homage to the manliest of tea drinking men. It was completely irreverent and hilarious. It made me realize that a “tea blog” could take any number of forms. It didn’t have to be serious or have reviews or ponder the intricacies of tea making. It could, but it could be more. It could be fiction and poetry and art and music. It could be personal or technical. And sometimes it could be all of these things at once.

I sent some kind of fangirl note via Twitter or Tea Trade to one of the writers, Robert of The Devotea. I thought for sure he’d think I was ridiculous. Don’t ever let him know, but I felt a little starstruck. He had run a very successful tea shop with his wife, had a successful blog and had published a book in his “other” life, and exuded that self-confidence that you always admire in people and wonder if you’ll end up being met with someone totally comfortable in his skin or, shall we say, someone a little TOO confident. I am relieved to say that I not only met someone who was the perfect level of confident, but someone who is smart and generous and kind. Someone I now consider a friend.

IMG_7008Last year due to illnesses of kids and lots of other factors, I missed most of the big tea events like World Tea Expo and New York Coffee & Tea Fest. It was very upsetting to me, losing those few moments of feeling physically part of a tea community. Then an email arrived that made me pause. I received an invitation to A Gift of Tea’s annual White Tea event. I live in the Boston area and the event was in NYC. It was such a lovely invite and Jo at A Gift of Tea is one of my very favorite tea people. Talk about a presence that inspires you to want to do great things! She is absolutely a force and a breath of fresh air in my tea community. (I’m not including a picture because I’m sure she’d have my head for it!) But the event was four hours away and I knew that I had things scheduled for the following day. Then I saw the magic words – The Devotea himself, Robert, would be coming all the way from Australia with his wife Anne as the guest of honor. My decision was made.

With the daunting prospect of seeing plane tickets with the same departure and arrival date I headed off at the crack of dawn to the airport. The tea was lovely (one I definitely need to talk about later), but meeting Robert and Anne in person was unforgettable. Robert was exactly as I’d expected and had us laughing and smiling throughout. What I hadn’t predicted is just how lovely it was to spend time with Anne. She was warm and immediately made you feel welcomed. It felt as if you had known her forever and there was never a moment of awkwardness.

IMG_7044The picture here is one of my favorites because it felt like the perfect summation of my experience with Robert and Anne. He was reading from his book, catching us all off-guard with particular turns of phrase or hilarious anecdotes. And there is Anne, beaming, a true partner in Robert’s work as he is in hers. In reading his blog and sharing emails and spending just a brief time with them it was so clear that they are partners through and through — equals who revel in each other’s successes. It is what I have found with my husband and I am always gratified to see in other couples.

And with that, I send this post in honor of a very special occasion. Thursday was the birthday of this lovely Lady Devotea. Thank you for supporting Robert in a way that has allowed all of us to benefit from his presence in tea. Thank you for being a quiet force that enriches our community all on your own. I look forward to sharing a cuppa with you again. The happiest of birthday wishes to you.

 

Mother’s Day at the White House – Part 2

Written By: Katrina - May• 01•14

Click here to read Part 1.

We now return to our story.

I must confess to being utterly starstruck when Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden entered the room. The crowd was excited and phones and cameras were busy capturing picture after picture.

Dr. Jill Biden, the Vice President’s wife, spoke eloquently about being a military mom. She talked of the challenges faced by families and how important the help her daughter-in-law’s family received from neighbors and community members was to all of them. “While our sons and daughters serve so selflessly having a community share the burden makes all the difference in the world.”

Joining Forces tea hostesses Michelle Obama and Jill Biden greet the attendees. Dr. Biden spoke of being a military mom.

Joining Forces tea hostesses Michelle Obama and Jill Biden greet the attendees. Dr. Biden spoke of being a military mom.

Mrs. Obama followed, honoring the Military Spouses of the Year who were in attendance, representing each branch of the armed services: Verenice Castillo from the Air Force, Tara Crooks from the Army, Karen Guenther from the Marine Corps, Shelley Kimball from the Coast Guard and Alisha Youch from the Navy. Alicia Hinds Ward was named the National Guard Military Spouse of the Year. Obama paid tribute not only to the sacrifices these women make, but the ways in which they support their fellow mothers/wives/service members. “You all help people soar.  You help our country soar. When somebody needs you, whether it’s your family, or your community, or your country — you lift them up.  You answer the call every single time. ” Mrs. Obama also took the time to honor another very special guest — her own mother, Marian Robinson.

During the speeches the attendees enjoyed a very special tea services. They began with a delicious array of tea sandwiches. The plates included stacked radish and cream cheese tea sandwiches; vegetable spring rolls; smoked chicken salad in cheese puffs;
madeleines of corn, cheese, and jalapeño; and smoked salmon sandwiches on pumpernickel. Cups were filled with chamomile “tea,” made of chamomile grown in the White House garden. The desserts looked mouthwatering — mini chocolate cupcakes, bonbons, and jam-filled cookie sandwiches. The centerpiece of the platter was an amazing white chocolate high heeled shoe dusted with sugar glitter.

IMG_9522As the moms continued to enjoy their food, the 50 children were ushered from the East Room to the Dining Room where they were greeted by the White House florist, chef, and pastry chef. The florist helped the children make bouquets of roses and tulips to present to their moms. The executive chef’s table was full of baked chips that the children could put in packages for their mothers as well. The final table was hosted by the White House pastry chef who helped the children make cookie dough necklaces. The kids were excited, bouncing table to table, some so full of joy that they almost seemed to forget that they were in the White House. Then they would pause, awestruck and shy, as Mrs. Obama or Dr. Biden knelt down to talk to them or help them.

And then a flurry of excitement. When I arrived I found myself in a group that mostly consisted of British press who had been buzzing about the impending arrival of a “special guest.” I could tell that this guest was someone very noteworthy and I found myself wondering who it might be. As we did the walk-through with the press office before the event began I learned the name, but still felt my heart jump when Prince Harry entered the room. Some of the children clearly didn’t know who he was, only reacting when the word “prince” was uttered. Some of the older girls were clearly well-acquainted with the royal. Harry spent the next few minutes talking with children and helping with their crafts.

IMG_9586We all then returned to the East Room where the mothers were let in on the secret. The crowd reaction was certainly much bigger than when he greeted the kids as people craned their necks and stood for a better look. Prince Harry was on a U.S. tour and had spent the morning visiting the wounded at Walter Reed Medical Center. As a service member he wanted to take some time to thank the military moms and service members at the tea.

It was an amazing day and the perfect honor for women who have made so many sacrifices for this country. Whether service members themselves or the moms and wives who support them, they have certainly earned this moment of thanks.

See more of the visit in the slideshow below.

 

Announcement: World Tea Expo 1st Annual World Tea Awards

Written By: Katrina - Apr• 02•14

I wanted to share this info provided to me by George Jage and the folks at World Tea Expo. If you have enjoyed my writing over the years I’d be honored to see Tea Pages nominated for best tea blog or “A Tea Reader” nominated for best book. In any event, make some nominations. Honor those tea leaders, retailers, educators and others that we all have learned from and enjoyed over the years.

From a press release:

World Tea Expo will be moving from Las Vegas to Long Beach, California this year and along with the move will be the introduction of a black-tie Awards Dinner on the historic Queen Mary on Friday, May 30 at 7 p.m. The event will be hosted by George Jage, founder/director of World Tea Media, and Gail Gastelu, publisher of The Tea House Times.

New Products winners at this year’s WTE will be recognized along with winners from categories selected by the public. The categories are:

Best Tea Publication
Best Tea Book
Best Social Media Reach
Best Tea Room Website
Best Tea Retail Website
Best Tea Blog
Best Tea Educator
Best Tea Room Menu
Best Tea Short / Commercial
Best Tea Spirit
To submit your nominations, go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/WorldTeaAwardsNominations
The nomination period will end April 24th.  Finalists for each category will be announced, and voting by the community will follow.  The Awards dinner will culminate with the recognition of Devan Shah with the Cha Jing Lifetime Achievement Award.

This is a ticketed event and you do not need to be a delegate of the World Tea Expo to participate.  Delegates of the Expo can add the event to their registration online or individual or table reservations can be made by sending in this form.
For more information, contact World Tea Media at 702.253.1893.