How Do You Take Your Tea?

Tess Walker

How Do You Take Your Tea?

  • Words Devin Cirillo
  • Photographs Tess Walker & Larissa Fatseas
How Do You Take Your Tea?

How do you take your Tea?

Tess Walker – the visionary behind West End Tea Co. – has spent her professional life concocting and consuming tea.

While studying Naturopathy at the Endeavour College of Natural Health—an alternative medicine practice that calls upon the use of natural remedies—an assignment tasked her to create a medicinal remedy in the form of a tincture, cream, or herbal tea. She chose tea.

“I had a little moment where I realized that there were benefits from tea that went far beyond the actual act of drinking it,” she recalls. “The art of blending herbs together to create different flavor profiles while also delivering a medicinal benefit kind of blew my mind.”

After the assignment came to a close, Tess kept at it. First it was “somewhat of a hobby”, where she would blend up different concoctions on the side for friends, family, and neighbors. But when she fell into what she eloquently describes as “an absolute crescendo of making teas”, she realized that her hobby had turned into an obsession worthy of lifelong pursuit.

And so she made the harrowing, unpredictable decision to drop out of school and devote herself entirely to the practice of blending and selling tea.

 

 

“In my mind, leaving to start my own company was just the same as going to University,” she explains. “I was studying on my own behalf, learning how to do things, and figuring out a business. It gave me the same opportunities. I just didn’t go to lectures!”

How Do You Take Your Tea?

In 2012, West End Tea Co. was born. Instead of sitting in a chair learning the ins and outs of running a business second-hand, Tess threw herself into the fire head on, fully immersing herself in sourcing high quality teas and blending them together for utmost flavor and medicinal benefit.

Now, her line includes single flavors like Ginger Tisane, which soothes nausea, acid reflux, and cramps while being organic and free of caffeine. There are warming digestive powers in the spices of chai, so she offers in them in both a classic Indian Masala as well as a spice version scented with soothing vanilla. Her original “Beauty Sleep” blend promises that linden flowers, sarsaparilla root, hibiscus petals and a sprinkle of ginger will lure you into dreamland while detoxifying the liver. Practicing what she preaches, she pours various cups throughout her day to ensure she reaps the health benefits of the jars on her shelves.

It’s a process that demands a wealth of knowledge and a palate for beautiful flavors.

“When blending, I start with a base flavor of black, green, or rooibos tea,” she explains. “Then I use fruits, spices, and herbs to extend the flavor profiles by sweetening, spicing, or softening them with floral notes.” Through constant practice and experimentation, Tess creates flavors and blends that are new not only to her, but to the tea community as a whole.

 

Case in point: her unscripted, loose-handed Unicorn Blood pulls together an “odd, unlikely mix of flavors” of floral hibiscus, calming lavender, tart apple pieces, spicy cardamom, and warm vanilla bean. The blend is now locally famous and much beloved, along with her somewhat more traditional blends.

How Do You Take Your Tea?

Then there are her Organic Tea Latte powders. While she does offer traditional matcha powder – stone ground, of course – she’s taken the idea step further. Her Vanillabeet powder combines beetroot and vanilla bean for a sugar-, dairy- and gluten-free frothy drink that’s naturally sweet and comforting. Her Golden Milk Turmeric blends turmeric, ginger, and black pepper with water or milk for a warming, spicy kick.

This work blends into another favorited realm of exploration: food.

She grinds loose leaf chai tea into brownie mix for an exotic, indulgent treat. Tea powders get folded into yoghurt, blended into nice-cream, or whipped with milk to bulk up the comfort level of morning oatmeal. Her recipes are as health-focused as her tea blends, employing gluten-free flours, dairy-free fats, warm spices, and just enough sugar to make things sweet.It’s gratifying to see things take shape from nothing into something, and a tasty something at that,” she shares.

But, of course, investing in your passion day after day, and sustaining as a business, is not always teatime and tasties.

“The lack of security is the scariest thing.” Tess confesses. “That’s the hardest part; creating your own income. There might be passion, there might be drive, but there needs to be money.”

As a small business owner, she recognizes success comes only in part from what she can control. No matter how much expertise or passion she pours into her blends, the financial success of her company requires the interest and investment of complete strangers.

Firing out hundreds of emails and making dozens of cold calls to markets and hotel shops could lead to thirty responses of general interest; out of those thirty responses, she may make five sales. She compares the vulnerability required for that aspect of her job to dating: When you’re putting yourself out there, the amount of rejection you receive from people is harrowing. The worst are those who say they really like it and then drop off the face of the earth! It’s like a dating game: you’d much prefer for someone to just say no rather than lead you on.”

Instead of becoming too dissuaded by disappointment, Tess devotes her energies to expanding her tea blends, an intimate process she’s intent on keeping at the heart of her brand. “It’s important that I never lose the sense of connection with blending. And I always want to pack in house, right here in Australia.”

She places similar value on the connection with her suppliers, who ship their resources directly from tea fields in Sri Lanka. Having visited the farms and faces that tend to her ingredients first-hand, she feels an invaluable understanding of their origin, which helps further strengthen her connection to the process, from first bloom to final sale.

How Do You Take Your Tea?

Of course, there continue to be scary moments. But she has faith that her growing pains are part of a walking down an unpaved road that will eventually lead her to where she belongs: with her business on par with tea companies like David’s or T2.

Does she ever ponder quitting?

“Oh, all the time. You question yourself. Every day, there’s self-doubt. You have to ask, ‘What do I do that makes it all worth it?’ But I would never be able to just walk away. I’m so emotionally, physically, and financially invested, that walking away isn’t an option. But the biggest thing I’ve learned is that failing at something isn’t a bad thing. You’re only going to make the same mistake once. I really do enjoy what I do. I like waking up and being in control of my own day.”

And, in reality, isn’t that all any of us really want? All that, and maybe a cup of tea.

Connect With Tess
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Shop Tess’s Tea Range Online
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Showroom Brisbane
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P.S. Don’t miss out, Tess shared two of her recipes and few tea tips below!

Gluten Free Chocolate Chai Brownies

Brownie Receipe

Recipe

Print Tess Walker’s Brownie Recipe

Serves: 10
Prep Time: 20m
Bake Time: 25 – 30m

Ingredients
230g Butter (roughly chopped)
2 1/4 Cups Gluten Free Self Raising Flour
1 Cup Gluten Free Plain Flour
1 1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Spiced Chai Tea
1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
2 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
3 Cups Brown Sugar
3 Eggs, Lightly Beaten

For Cinnamon Sugar Sprinkle
1 1/2 Tablespoon White Granulated Sugar
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

Method

Preheat oven to 160 degrees.

Place butter in small saucepan over low heat. Melt for 6 minutes (or until butter is a light, nutty brown).

Let cool.

Place Vanilla Spiced Chai Tea in mortar and pestle, lightly crush spices until fine.

Sieve flour in large bowl. Add Vanilla Spiced Chai Tea, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda and sugar. Mix well to
combine dry ingredients.

Combine wet and dry ingredients.

Transfer mixture to lightly greased, non-stick baking paper lined tray (20cm x 30cm slice tin is ideal).

Combine white sugar and cinnamon together in small ramekin. Sprinkle 3/4 over wet batter. Place in oven.

 

 

 

Golden Milk Chocolate Top Nice-Creams

nice-cream

Recipe

Print Tess Walker’s Nice-Cream Recipe
Serves: 2
Prep Time: 1 hour

Ingredients
1 Cup Coconut Milk
1 tablespoons Golden Milk Tea Latte Powder
2 tablespoons Honey // Agave Nectar **
2 Peeled, Chopped Frozen Bananas
½ Cup Milk Chocolate / Dairy Free Dark Chocolate**
2 Waffle Cones (Optional)
** Vegan Option

Method
In a blender, add 1/2 the amount of frozen banana chunks and half the amount of coconut milk until smooth. Gradually add the remainder of the frozen bananas and coconut milk until smooth.
Once mixture is smooth, add golden milk powder and Agave and blend again.

Transfer mixture into freezer safe container, place in freezer for 20-30 minutes or until mixture has hardened.

Once frozen, scoop mixture and set into cones. Return to freezer. (tip: To help the cones stay vertical, I place the prepared cones into a mug or tumbler glass).

Once melted, grab the ice-cream cones from freezer and roll them in the melted chocolate, using cone as a handle.

Return to the freezer.

When chocolate has set, bust out the Golden Milk Chocolate Top Nice-Creams and enjoy!

TESS’S TEA TIPS

Read Tips

Tip one
Get cozy with your brewing times! Every blend is different.
Green Tea: 1-2 Minutes
Black Tea: 3-4 Minutes
Herbal and Fruit Teas: 5-7 Minutes

Tip Two
Invest in a long term relationship with your Chai (and do a stovetop brew).

Stovetop Chai (recipe makes 1 cup)
Add 300ml of Milk to a small sauce Pan. Add 1 tablespoon chai mixture. Slowly simmer for 8-10m (Don’t Boil! Careful not to curdle). Strain into cup. Discard chai spices. Sweeten with honey (a really simple, easy way to get flavor!) Chefs Note: the longer the spices are allowed to simmer the stronger the flavor will be!

Tip Three
Stay savvy, and save the teas. Don’t toss your tealeaves out after the first use. They can be used up to THREE TIMES in the same sitting!

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