The week before last a lovely woman visited the shoppe for her first time. She perused the shelves with genuine interest and then shared with me she has taken several tea classes. Despite having also taken numerous classes on the plant Camellia Sinensis, being new to the tea business, her information intimidates me “just a little bit”. As she looked over the shelf with the oolong tea selection, she casually mentioned to me she had recently been told there is no such thing as a “true” Milk Oolong in the United States which caused her to be somewhat dubious when she came across mine. She purchased it, but my own curiosity was peaked to know what she was talking about.
I must digress for a moment to a year ago when I was first pondering opening this adorable little shoppe known as Mimi’s Teas. Yes, I had the name before I had a location or the first ounce of tea purchased. I had a vision for what I hoped to create, but little more information, education, and knowledge than an awareness of Teavana, a huge retail tea store at the Tacoma Mall, my visits to Mad Hat Tea Company in downtown Tacoma, and trips to the Tea Madame Tea Shop as far away as Sumner, Washington.
I had no idea where to begin so I did a Google search of tea importers and called the first one on the list.
I knew so little I didn’t realize there is a vast difference between importers and wholesalers, but that story will be saved for another post. A very generous soul answered the phone and responded to every question I could come up with in the hour long conversation. He also gave me more to think about than I could process. As we were bringing our conversation to an end, he provided me with the name of a reputable and highly respected Tea Man who wholesaled his products.
This Tea Man, whom I gratefully refer to as my mentor, provides the majority of the specialty tea sold in my shoppe. Back to the story… As soon as my lovely customer left the shoppe I emailed the Tea Man to ask what I had to learn.
Here is his witty and informative response;
Milk Oolong: to be diplomatic, your customer is partially correct. There is very, very little true Milk Oolong in the US. Fortunately, we import a true Milk Oolong from Taiwan. Most Milk Oolong is dusted with milk powder. How does one tell? Easy really. Examine the Milk Oolong under a good magnifying glass and you can see milk powder.
I remain assured of the high quality of the tea selection you will find at Mimi’s Teas. Feel free to bring a good magnifying glass! I hope to meet you soon!