While in NYC over the holiday, I stumbled on Katrina Avila Munichiello’s A Tea Reader: Living Life One Cup at a Time, a nifty compendium of tea writings some of which go back hundreds of years. It’s an interesting little book that she organizes around Tea Reveries, Connections, Rituals, Careers, and Travels. Regardless of whether or not you are a tea aficionado, you’ll recognize names like Rudyard Kipling and Louisa May Alcott but there were so many names I across the centuries that were new to me. I’ve found this little volume to be educational, delightful, and revealing in ways that have surprised me. Pieces and observations written 100-200 years ago are so current, the language and expressions often like what I read and write today. Guess it is true that every generation discovers anew many of life’s pleasures.
One entry in particular touched me. Written by George Constance, The Tea Effect discusses his Indonique Tea and Chai Cafe on Magazine Street in New Orleans, its relatively short life and its demise brought on by Hurricane Katrina. The little cafe comes alive as he talks about its opening, first customers, and the positive impact the shop had on other local small businesses. Offering both bulk high-end and teas to savor in the shop proved to be a winning combination with other small businesses wanting to feature Indonique’s teas in their restaurants, kiosks, and the like. True to New Orleans reputation, the cafe’s clientele was diversified and entertaining. Small businesses are such a treasure and as a lover of tea rooms and shops, it saddened me to read about the impact of Katrina and the decision to close and relocate to Connecticut where he and his wife have re-opened the business as an internet tea retail site.
Here’s the good news. George Constance and his wife, Daya, are part of the new socially committed entrepreneurs. Mr. Constance writes “We pledge 10% of every sale we make to the communities that pick our tea through Non-Governmental Organizations like Mercy Corps that can most effectively make change and provide oversight…our website is dedicating percentages to organizations that fight the trafficking of children….We’re rebuilding Indonique as a cause….” And I, for one, wish them every success in their new re-invented venture.