Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Storage Saga Continues...

Well... the chalk board paint didn't work. I don't know why I thought it would, but I tried. The paint came off in the dishwasher. So now I have to scrub off the rest of it and resanitize. I was going to use utility shelving, but instead I'll get a cabinet with doors, so I can shield the jars from light. I'll look at some thrift stores to see if I can find one. If not, Big Lots has one for $79 that I can use. So soon... hopefully... the Storage Saga will end.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Working on Christmas Eve...

I spent 2 hours at Office Depot today having labels and business cards printed. It really wasn't so bad... Tammy, behind the counter, is a joy to do business with. She was so upbeat and kept smiling through slow computers, slow printers, with no help and customers stacking up. I met a lady that works for the school board... she says she's thankful every day she still has a job. We shared our dreams... mine of course, The Bohemian Tea House and hers... a center for middle school kids to learn life skills after school and keep them off the streets unsupervised. Such a gracious woman... I hope her dream comes to fruition. As she left, we hugged and wished each other a Merry Christmas and she invited me to her church. I might just take her up on that. Then I met a lady that is a real estate agent. She commented on my labels and I told her about my new venture. She invited me to join her networking group... I will definitely take her up on that!

Sometimes gifts aren't so obvious... They don't come wrapped in pretty paper... but instead come in the form of strangers offering, smiles, kind words and opportunities for sharing and growth.

Merry Christmas... Happy Hanukka... or whatever it is that you may celebrate this time of year... but for us all... Peace on Earth!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Good News...

I forgot to post... My food manager certificate came yesterday!

The Labels are Done!

These are my
business cards.
Pretty cool huh?

These are my main front labels.

What do you think?

There will also be tea "title" labels with net weight and packaging date on the front and the required cottage foods labeling and ingredients, as well as how to order for pick up at farmers markets (no shipping - per Florida Cottage Foods Act) on the back.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Storage Problem Solved!

Teas need to be stored in air tight containers and protected from light. They, like anything else stored long term, should not be stored in plastic. So tins and opaque glass are the materials of choice. Tins were cost prohibitive... solution... glass canning jars and storage containers (found them 50% off at Hobby Lobby) sprayed with black chalk board paint! So as soon as my paint dries well, I'll sanitize my jars and lids and break open the new teas I got! Pretty cool!

I dug out my food dehydrator and sanitized it. So now I can dry my own fruits and berries for my tea blends. I've also been working on my labels and have come up with some cool designs. I'll post when I get them finalized!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Moving Forward...

Got my packaging. The bags are smaller than I expected, but I can work with them and order larger ones next time...and they are made from 25% recycled content and biodegradable. I also put in another order for teas. One thing I really need to work on are my labels. I've also gotten a couple of requests for blends... So I'll be working on these too.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Making Slow Progess...

I took my food manager certification class and test today. I feel like I did well, but won't find out for sure for a couple of weeks. I ordered packaging as well. I am, however, still trying to find storage vessels, either glass or tins. It's not recommended to store loose tea in plastic... nor in clear containers. If I store it in glass, I will have to cover the jars with paper or paint. I'm making progress... but it's certainly not quick!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Changing Gears...

Well I got my sample packaging. But... as much as I like it, I won't be able to use it. I want my packaging to be green... and this is, but it will be to expensive. My idea was to use biodegradable cello bags put inside of these cool compostable corregated pillow packs. Turns out that, though the packaging would be really cool and would definitely attract customers... It will cost around $1.30 per package and of course that cost would have to be folded into my tea price. However, if I go with basic biodegradable kraft paper bag with a window (PLA lined), the cost will only be around 20 cents per package. As much as I'd like to do the cool and unique packaging... I can't justify the cost. Dang it!

Oh well... Back to studying for my food manager test!

Editing the Collection...

I've been waiting for the packaging samples that I ordered to arrive, as well as my scale. In the mean time I've been experimenting a little. I've also been considering some of the teapots in my collection and what to do with them. I need to "cull" some of them that can still be used. I also have some that the crazing has become too bad and a couple with cracks that I just couldn't part with before. So... what to do with them...

The useable ones, I've decided to sell along with other vintage teawares and sets that I put together. As for the cracked ones that can't be used for tea...

Birds need tea houses too!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Developing Recipes...

I'm so impressed with the quality of the tea stock i got! The China black is so good... as is the Rooibos.... I blended a relaxation tea the day I got the shipment and have tweaked it a bit so far. I'm also working on a Caramel Creme Rooibos! It needs just a little more work and I'll be satisfied with it. I dug my food dehydrator out of the garage to dry some ingresdients... I'm still working on packaging as well.. So stay tuned!

Saturday, December 3, 2011


I got my teas today! My first shipment arrived just before 5pm... I've already blended a spearmint based relaxation tea... I'm not sure how much valerian root to put in it, so I'll increase it as needed. It all arrived just in time too. My insomnia and RLS have been really bad for the past week. My husband even got up and slept on the floor last night. Hopefully, the tea will help me (and my husband) sleep!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Progress of the Dream...

Yesterday I obtained my county occupational license. I also inquired about municipality license requirements for the farmers markets I plan to sell my teas at. I've requested packaging samples as well. So hopefully... by the time I get my food manager certificate I'll have some trial blends to package and some packaging nailed down. I want my packaging to, not only be green but to, be creative as well. I want someone to look at my packaging and want to look inside!

On another note... I want this website to be informative... and not just about teas. So I'll be posting links on my sidebars, as well as in my posts, that will give you information about sustainability, environmental stewardship, healthy foods and social justice. I'm going to start with this one: Food Dialogues. It's all about communication between ranchers and farmers and the consumer. Check it out!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Let the Blending Begin!

I just placed an order from my supplier! It's a small order, for experimenting with blends, but a first order none-the-less! So as soon as the shipment arrives... the blending begins! Since I had to order ingredients by the pound, I'll have many ingredients in stock when I pass my food manager test. Looks like I'll have to solve my eco-friendly packaging issues very soon!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


I've made multiple inquiries to a specific biodegradable packaging supplier and have yet to receive a response! Made inquiries at other suppliers this morning... Hopefully I will get a response from them! If not, I guess I'll have to turn to tins. I like the idea, but they are expensive and take up a lot of room. Hmmm... just got an alternate idea... What about heat sealed biodegrable cello bags, inside of opaque boxes made of recycled cardboard? I'll have to check into that!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Time to Study!

I received my food manager study guide! With my class and test 3 weeks away... I'll be working hard studying and taking quizzes and practice tests! I've opened an account with my primary tea supplier and am working on setting up an account for biodegradable packaging. I'm also scoping out the local markets where I'll be selling and I've set up a Twitter account so I can tweet my schedule to my customers. You can find it here.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Market Research

Every year, my friend Lois has her "Cool and Groovy Garden Party" and invites her artistic friends to set up tents and tables to sell their creations in her whimsical garden. She sends out invitations and posts flyers to bring in the customers. I have participated for the past 2 years. Yesterday, I not only set up my craft and vintage tea ware table, but I set up a tea station for some market research.

I blended and brewed some teas from what I had in my kitchen and offered them for tasting. I had prepared questionaires for each taster to fill out. I got some very good results. My Lemon Creme Spice was hands down the favorite. The Rose Petal Black took a close second, suggestions were to add more Spearmint. While, the Berry Good Oolong came in last. Some liked it, but most didn't, stating it was weak and too tart.

I also emailed the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services some questions about the Cottage Foods Act recently signed into law. I can start this venture under the act, blending and packaging my teas in my own kitchen. However, I can only sell directly to the consumer, meaning no internet or mail order sales and I cannot go over $15000 in gross annual sales. So the plan is to start out as a cottage business and sell at farmers markets and other events, until I start actually making money... Then I'll contract with a professional kitchen and expand into internet sales and local grocers.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Journey Update!

Well, I've applied for a Fictitious Name and registered for the Food Manager Certification class and test with the State of Florida. My class and test is December 12... less than a month away! I've also contact a couple of commercial rental kitchens, as well. I hope to hear back from them soon. Things are progressing!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Beginning of My Journey

I've recently become unemployed after more than 10 years at a regional environmental government agency, more than 5 at a state environmental agency and many years in the private sector prior to that. In this economy, jobs are hard to find, especially for those over 50. My husband has been ill and has been out of work for more than 2 years, making me our sole provider.

So... what to do? I thought about being the full time artist that I've longed to be, but my production of pieces has been sporadic... not enough to support myself, much less myself and my family.  I want to do something I'm passionate about, but don't have much capital for a business start up. I also wanted there to be an environmental element and a social justice element. There also had to be a spiritual connection. So I asked the questions: What am I passionate about? What can satisfy the environmental and human elements? What about the spiritual connection?  The answer... Tea!

For the past few weeks, I've been working on planning the opening of The Bohemian Tea House. I plan to blend, package and sell fair trade, organic teas and herbal tisanes under my own label. Primary sales will be online and at local farmers markers. My goal (besides blending and selling wonderful organically grown teas that help to support workers on the plantations) is to eventually have a mobile tea lounge selling and serving my own artisan blended teas (and perhaps some baked goods) at venues and events throughout the US, or at least the southeastern US.

Wish me luck and stay tuned!