Exactly ten years ago (just days after the Nisqually earthquake) my then-girlfriend-now-wife Alanna and I loaded up our cars and headed north to Seattle. She was transferring to UW from UNR and I was excited about landing a vegetarian cooking job and making music in one of my favorite cities. We were both 19 years old.
We broke the drive up into two days, spending the night with friends of my wife's family in White Salmon, WA. The following day we rolled in to Seattle and made our way to my uncle's house on Queen Anne Hill. We moved ourselves into his half-finished basement.
During the next 6 months, Alanna started school and I looked for work. I did cook at a few places but never got any real momentum. My favorite memories from these months are of playing "house boy." Nearly every weekday, after I did some chores, I would explore new parts of the city before buying groceries and then coming home to prepare a big vegan dinner.
Unfortunately, after six wonderful months I ran out of money.
Alanna and I wanted to get our own place so I ramped up my job search. In October, fate smiled on me as I noticed a small help wanted sign in the window of the Teacup. I think Brian Keating (then owner) and Donna Fellman (then manager) decided to hire me because I had a small amount of cafe experience and great availability.
One thing I did not have was tea knowledge.
I liked to experiment with my tea and was often drinking my own blend of 40% Keemun, 40% White Peony and 10% Yerba Mate which I called "Liquid Love." I also added soymilk and sugar to more teas than I now care to mention.
In those days it seemed like Phoenix Dragon Pearls and Keemun Hao Ya A were the "be all end all" of Chinese tea at our little store. We also sold small amounts of several oolongs, one loose-leaf shu puer and one white tea which I'd say was pretty good for 2001. The sale of strong black tea, scented tea and herbal tea has always been of greatest importance to Teacup and I've always been proud selling many types of tea to many different people.
My greatest joy during this period was learning more about tea and tea business from my new mentors Donna and Brian. They guided me through the basics of tea with daily cupping sessions and pointed me towards numerous resources to help cultivate my own budding tea career.
My first truly inspiring tea session was when Donna brought in some of her own Tie Guanyin oolong and introduced me to gong fu style tea preparation. My second was an introduction to Darjeeling tea, which included a Darjeeling green and oolong, all imported by Brian from the biodynamic Ambootia tea estate.
My third most memorable early tea experience actually occurred in Spring of 2002 when Brian partnered with Teahouse Kuanyin to import a couple 600 gram cans of a prize winning Wenshan Baozhong. We sold that tea for $10 per ounce... seems like a good price now... but back in 2002 we all thought that it was the most expensive tea possible. How the times have changed, eh? Needless to say, I thought it was amazing and I couldn't help falling in love with Taiwanese tea.
This last decade has been an awesome ride. I'm sure my thirties will be too... and like most bloggers, you can bet I'll keep writing all about it.