~ Talking tea and life with Heather Agosta ~
Incredible experiences and smiles from great people have welcomed us to The Jasmine Pearl every time we've visited Portland, and we were thrilled to chat with Heather about the journey behind it. Grab your favorite cup of tea and enjoy! ~ Sadie
The LAB: What was your first experience with tea, and how did it contribute to where you are today?
Heather: My first experience with tea that I remember was when I was five or six years old. I would have tea parties with the little girl next door. We would eat cookies and get super jacked-up on caffeinated orange spice black tea. We would play all day in her parents greenhouse. It was awesome!
All of my first tea experiences are happy and usually associated with having tea with friends and family. So I have a deep appreciation of how the tradition of “taking tea” is a really lovely social interaction and a quality way to spend time with acquaintances and loved ones.
The LAB: How did the Jasmine Pearl come to be?
Heather: My husband, Chuck, and I enjoyed tea, so when we traveled we would always seek out places to drink it. In 2003 we found ourselves in a Moroccan-style teahouse called La Teteria el Bañuelo in southern Spain. We had been to several teahouses in Spain at that point, but this one was very special. As we were sipping mint tea out traditional Moroccan teaware, one of us blurted out “we should start a tea business”. The other one of us said “ that is just what I was thinking”. It was an inspired moment. From that day on we put all of our energy into creating our tea business.
The LAB: What are 3 of your favorite things about living in Portland?
1) Proximity: I love that in less than two hours you can drive to the ocean, the desert, the mountains or the forest.
2) I love the topography, the valley and the rivers give the area a really cozy feel, and any direction you look you can see mountains and trees.
3) The people! Locals and transplants make Portland a very interesting place to live and have a business.
I should qualify this by explaining that I have lived in the Portland Metro area my entire life, so I can’t fairly compare it to other places. However, I have travelled extensively, so I do have some perspective on its differences. It is funny to grow up in a place that no one ever wanted to visit, and then watch it become the place everyone wants to move to. What Portland is today and what it was 30 years ago are pretty different. I like the influx of interesting people and the ideas, and the culture that they bring with them. But it is very weird watching a small city turn into a medium/large city...essentially becoming unrecognizable.
The LAB: How has the rise of specialty coffee culture and consumer awareness affected the tea industry?
Heather: I think people have become more quality-focused when choosing their beverages, especially coffee. The desire to pay a little more money and work a little harder to make a delicious beverage has definitely helped pave the way for specialty tea. Good tea requires a little bit of attention to prepare. I say, if someone is willing to grind their own coffee beans, then they are usually the kind of person who is willing to take the extra time to brew loose-leaf tea.
The LAB: What's your favorite customer story?
Heather: We have a customer who came in to our shop after giving up coffee. His taste buds and sense of smell were still used to the intensity of coffee, so when he came in he wanted our strongest, most flavored tea. Over time, we have watched his palette get more and more refined, and now he just loves the subtleties of fine oolongs and Japanese green teas. Tea has become a really important part of his life. He does charity work in Africa, so he will send us pictures of our teas in Nigeria. It is one comfort that he allows himself on his travels. It makes me happy to know that these teas make him so happy!
The LAB: What's your morning routine?
Heather: Wake up, make a cup of tea (this time of year: Ceylon with milk) snuggle with the dogs and then go to work. Pretty simple.
The LAB: If your life was a movie, what would it be called and who would play you?
Heather: My life is still a work in-progress, so that is a really hard one to say. I would like to think that there are still many adventures to be had. Maybe I will be able to answer that when I have more time behind me.
The LAB: What's your go-to after hours drink, and favorite place to order/drink it?
Heather: I am loving Brew Doctor’s Citrus Hops Kombucha. I like to hang out at Peninsula Park in North Portland in the rose garden in the spring/summer. Drinkin’ Kombucha out of a paper bag (kidding about the paper bag!).
The LAB: What do you suggest for customers who are new to tea, or exclusively coffee drinkers?
Heather: Tea is a really fun and diverse beverage to enjoy. There really is a tea for everyone! Sample, sample, sample. There is so much to explore and with so many great ways to brew tea - it is a great culinary journey to go on.
For coffee drinkers, I think that you don’t have to be just a tea drinker or a coffee drinker (why do people think this?). Both beverages can peacefully coexist in your cupboard! Some days call for a rich Guatemalan coffee and other days call for Chamomile.
The LAB: Thanks so much for the insight Heather - we can't wait for our next cup of tea at The Jasmine Pearl!