Part of a growing movement (globally as well as Aqui en Taos), Teography is an artisanal, small company that handcrafts extraordinary teas and tisanes.
I recently featured Dana B’s brainchild on my post on Cid’s Anniversary Bash, where their teas are one of the store’s (tea section) biggest draws,
I thought it was high time I paid a visit to Teography in person, so wandered over there one rainy day last week.
“We started with our 2 oz retail bags and were quite successful with these,” Dana told me “Last year, when we presented the idea to be apart of their bulk tea section, Cid was incredibly open and welcoming to the idea. In no time he had us highlighted in the bulk section.”
As we chatted, her partner Steve came over and sat down with us.
Her first blend (which is still available) was “Cafe sans Cafe…”coffee without coffee…” A blend of Chicory + Assam + Vanilla bean (with an herbal counterpart: Chicory + Dandelion + Carob + Vanilla bean)….coffee like notes with Chocolate and Tobacco undertones.”
“I had finally arrived at a tea I could enjoy!” She continued, “It can even be run through an espresso machine and hold up to coffee like preparations. It was a life saver for me!”
(I too had this problem during my pregnancies when coffee was out of the question – oh how I wish this was available then!)
Listening to Dana talk about the teas, I was struck by the similarity to the approach to wine making and tasting. After talking to Debi Vincent at Chokola, it was evident that there is a huge movement globally, away from our fast paced, Industrialized rat race, to a slower, more appreciative sense of being; a far more sustainable lifestyle. Tea Culture encapsulates that perfectly.
A teacher at the time she created that initial blend, shortly thereafter, Dana’s job took her to China for a year and a half, and it was there, where Tea Culture was truly born, thousands of years ago, that Dana began to learn about tea.
Tea, not tisanes (which are the herbal blends) from the leaf of the plant that produces what we know as black, green and white teas.
“It was in China, that I really fell into tea and began to understand tea and the difference between high quality loose leaf tea and pre-bagged/cut and sifted, /probably sat in warehouses and grocery store shelves for way to long tea. I dove into the rabbit hole that is tea and have not resurfaced since! “
How lucky for us that the rabbit hole led to Taos after a short stint in Santa Fe, and by Kismet, ultimately arrived at the end of the magical alley neighboring OptiMysm off of Kit Carson Road.
Teography has officially been in business for two and a half years. They are in about 50 locations in Taos and growing thoroughout Northern New Mexico, into Colorado, and beyond with a few boutiques and restaurant’s now carrying their tea in LA, NY, DC, and even in the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library in Atlanta.
For the first year and a half “it was just me with the love and support of my partner, Steve (Chavez) and his kiddos (2 children from his former marriage), which has now expanded to us, plus an intern and three employees…and the tea family is growing!” Dana explained.
Her and Steve’s meeting is as romantic as it gets – he was visiting from Albuquerque where he is from and she was then, moonlighting as a waitress at Gutiz, while getting her fledgling company off the ground. They connected immediately when he came into the restaurant, but then he left and although she found herself thinking about him, she brushed it off and carried on with her work.
A few month’s later he came back, slipped a note into her check book and the rest is history.
They opened their cosy tea shop in May of this year, with Steve (who has a background in Art and Design) designing the interior and all the modular furnishings, which were built by a local craftsman and Steve. The couple did all the work on the store/studio themselves. The tiny space seems much bigger than its square footage, and is aesthetically pleasing and comfortable at the same time. A cosy spot for a quiet cup of tea.
The tea shop and production studio function as one, but the main focus is on Teography’s growing wholesale business.
They handcraft a variety of organic teas with a strict focus on sustainable, environmental standards. The ingredients are directly or fairly traded with small, local farms as well as small farms all over the world who are growing purely and ethically.
“We carefully and lovingly hand blend in small batches to maintain the freshness and purity of the ingredients.” Dana explained.
As we talked, one of their employees, Jessica, busied herself in the studio blending and packaging teas to ship out.
Clearly the couple have a great relationship with the people who work for them as the easy banter between them proved, with Jessica interjecting here and there, it was obvious to me that Teography is based not only on fair practice, but also friendship and collaboration.
Camille Cooper (Zoe Zimmerman’s daughter), started as an intern with Teography earlier this year and spent her summer Saturdays, ensconced in their booth at the Farmer’s Market, urging everyone to try the teas and tisanes she had on hand. Soon after she began working for them she told them she dreamed of a tea made with cardamom and bergamot. Light Grey was born.
Even Steve’s had a hand in blending. Sandia Rose is a nod to his family’s long history in New Mexico, and boasts red chile in the mix. Black Magic is another of his unique blends, with an Oolong/Assam/Anis base making for a smoky, mystical infusion.
With names like these, you’d be hard pressed not to try these teas. While we chatted, I sipped on a cup of Desert Sage, minty and earthy all at once, it definitely tasted like home.
Forest Floor was created after time spent hiking in the mountains. “I wanted a tea that tasted like it smelled up there,” said Dana. Cat’s Pajama’s was named for “a lazy cat I once had,” she laughed.
“It’s a spin on Sleepy Time tea,” Steve explained. “But better.”
“And this one,” he brought a canister over for me to smell, ” Fall Fig, is Thanksgiving in a cup!”
Thanksgiving might be upon us, but the folks at Teography are already working on Christmas deliveries! Their Tea Of The Month Club (visit their site linked below) is in full gear and do be aware that Teography will put together gift boxes for individuals and Corporations alike.
The tiny storefront also carries a few locally made items (mugs from Clay Mavens and chic tea cosies crocheted by another local small business), that would make brilliant gifts with a couple of great tea blends in a basket.
A Tarot reading (and deck of cards) from OptiMysm, a hand thrown ceramic mug and a bag of Black Magic would make a great gift for the resident mystic in your life. Just sayin’
Teography is open daily, do drop by to have a cup of something warm that won’t give you the jitters!
All photos (including shot of Dana, Steve and Jessica) taken on my iphone.
Images of tea blends, thanks to Teography.
B&W shots of Camille Cooper by Zoe Zimmerman