Oregon Tea Traders 10 Year Anniversary Pack
Wow, we cannot believe it has been 10 years already! It has been a long and at times, bumpy road. COVID-19 has proven to us both our determination and dedication to our customers.
A brief history.
From 2006-2009 I lived in Dharamsala, India and remote Tibet studying Tibetan Buddhism, painting, and language. I met and married Shedhe Labrang while I was there, and when we decided to move to the US, I finished my degree in Cultural Anthropology from the U of O. At that point, realizing how useless a bachelor's degree in anthropology was, I searched for a career that could combine my love of travel, allow us to visit Shedhe’s family in China occupied Tibet, and give me flexibility to be a mother. The answer came during my last few terms in college. It's a long story involving a truck and a chicken, but the result was that I met a woman who had started a tiny tea company but wanted to move onto other things in life. I purchased the company (then named LMF Tea Traders) and began my journey into self employment.
Shedhe and I both worked part time jobs while getting our bearings about being business owners, and late in 2011 I became pregnant with my first child, Sonam. It was a wild year, full of changes. The business was pushed to the side, but we sold teas to a few more stores, updated our website, and began selling at the Eugene Saturday Market nearly every weekend.
2 years later we changed the name of the company to Labrang Tea Traders, celebrating Shedhe’s cultural heritage (Labrang was the name of the monastery in Tibet that he grew up in) and had a full redesign of the labels. Business was growing very slowly, as family and other jobs took precedence, but pieces were built one by one.
In 2015, after the birth of our second child, Shedhe and I divorced. Shedhe was working another job and I retained ownership of the company. It was an excruciating time for me, being a scared single mother who was too poor to afford any kind of child care, didn’t qualify for any government assistance due to being self employed, and had very few options but to just get through one day at a time. It took me a long time to begin feeling like myself again. I had to rediscover who I was, what I liked to do, what I was capable of doing, and what I wanted in life.
Though the thought of ditching tea and getting a full time job with a steady paycheck was appealing, I knew it would not work for my family, so I soldiered on. I packed tea while my kids slept, caught up on accounting in the middle of the night, gave them endless cardboard boxes to make into forts while I unpacked shipments, took them to shows with me, packed them on my back while making deliveries. My customers quickly got to know my children and still ask about them frequently. My children were my lifeline, and tea was my path to care for them.
As my children grew older and became more self reliant, life became easier bit by bit, and over the years I learned the lessons of business ownership by doing them. Business grew slowly but steadily, and I began to find an itching for something new. That something new slowly came to light when I traveled all the way to Mississippi to a meeting with the US League of Tea Growers. The concept of domestically grown tea was extremely appealing to me, and I dove into the organization head first. I began as their secretary, and am now their president. We are building the industry and the organization one piece at a time, and I have learned invaluable lessons along the way. I had so many mentors along my journey: Gary Smith from my local SBDM, Jason and Timmy from The Great Mississippi Tea Company, tea consultant Nigel Melican, and many others. My mother and sister have always been an unending source of support and love, and my children have been the air that I breathe. Despite all of life’s hardships I am so incredibly lucky. Though there are plenty of challenges ahead, this anniversary is really important to me because I have made it. Life has not always been kind, but I have weathered the storms, and recognize the growth that I have gained from them. I feel more alive than ever in my life, and am incredibly grateful for all that I have. Tea has been such an important journey, and the relationships I have with my customers have been so precious that I could not have gotten this far without them. It warms my heart when people tell me how much my teas mean to them. Their support pulls me up when I am feeling down, and gives me confidence when I feel crazy.
What is in our anniversary set?
Daydreamer’s Black Tea – This tea has been our most popular over the years. Cardamom, vanilla and rose with a smooth black tea. Slightly sweet and very flavorful with a wonderful cardamom flavor. Cardamom being one of my favorite spices in the world, I couldn’t resist adding it to this tea.
Black Magnolia – In 2018 I became heavily involved with the US League of Tea Growers and am their current president. I work regularly on issues related to growing (pun intended) a domestic tea market, both from the farmer’s and retailer’s perspective. Jason McDonald and Timmy Gipson from the Great Mississippi Tea Company have mentored me through this whole process and I am very proud to offer their award winning teas through my website.
Sticky Rice Puerh – This is such a unique tea I cannot help but love it. Puerh is an ancient style of Chinese tea that is growing in popularity in the US. Like oolongs, it comes in such a wide array of styles and flavors that people who are really into it hardly drink anything else because just within this one category there are nearly infinite variations. The only challenge with this type of tea is that it can be a bit of an acquired taste. The aged varieties are deeply earthy, sometimes mushroomy with a hint of compost. Not everyone loves them, but those who do love it with a passion. I began carrying these small puerh teas compressed with an herb called Nuo Mi Xiang which tastes exactly like sticky rice because their small size and familiar flavor are a perfect introduction to this style of tea. It's very smooth and easy to drink, but carries the dark earthiness that is characteristic of puerh teas.
Oregon Rain – I am a true Oregonian through and through. I love Oregon, and yes, even the rain. Local agriculture is another passion of mine, and I tired of importing the herbs that grew prolifically in my backyard! Finding local farms that had large supplies of dried herbs was a challenge, but this was one of the resulting teas and it is one of my favorites.
Crater Lake Blue – This is another tea that is primarily Oregon Grown, but it includes Butterfly Pea Flowers from Thailand which I have fallen in love with. They brew into a bright blue color and change to purple and fuschia with the addition of acid (such as lemon juice). They are a novelty, but to me they represent the boundlessness of tea.
Birch Chai – A combination of sweet dark spices such as clove and star anise with the earthy root beer flavor from birch bark. This amazing tea is one of our newest blends, but I adore its complexity.
Locally handcrafted tea mug – Pottery has been one of my passions such my college years when I began working with clay. Not having the time to make my own now, I adore supporting local potters. The cup included in this set was made by Jon King, a fellow Saturday Market member, and one of my favorite Eugene potters.
Cone Tea Infuser – People comment all the time is that loose leaf teas are just too complicated and messy to use. I understand the need for things to be easy in life, and these are my daily infusers for just that reason! They are super easy to use, easy to clean, and resilient. I have a stack of them in my kitchen, and have used them every day for 10 years. I want tea to fit into people’s lives, and though different infusers may work better for some, these fit my lifestyle and the life of many others that I know.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading, for supporting us, and for your care and love.