The Story of Color Theory Tea
This journal entry was originally written on 10/6/21. I’m keeping it here, as a part of history, hopefully to help you wherever you are. Thanks for reading.
CHEERS! It’s the official launch day of Color Theory Tea Co!!!!!!
Months in the making, this brand is quite actually a resurrection of a sad death. The former loose leaf tea line & tea bar downtown I owned were my absolute passion project, first starting in 2019.
My brick and mortar space was historic, but in many places really inadequate to serve the community. The floors were sticking up (and we later found out were concealing LOADS of black mold ew ew ew). And the space was largely crowded by a mezzanine for seating which wasn’t even wheelchair accessible. Beginning in January 2020, I budgeted and plotted and assembled a task force and started making my ideal changes to the space so it could host my tea bar dream.
Why tea? Well I live in Lakeland, FL, and though it’s nestled in between Tampa and Orlando, the small business scene is still in early development. Downtown was basically trashed throughout the 80s and 90s, and it was until VERY recently - like maybe 2010? - Lakeland started coming to life with some unique local businesses.
The city is actually stunning. It hosts, you guessed it, gorgeous lakes that have sunsets no one can top. Historic homes ranging from Florida classic bungalows, to midcentury usonians built by Frank Lloyd Wright’s students (yep, just randomly throughout neighborhoods). My hobby is just driving around looking for a new dream house. AND a perfect historic downtown that juuust needs some love to thrive! It’s also home to…I’m sorry…FOUR different colleges. So it is a town filled with college students and I wanted to make something for them.
Tea is both timeless and super unique. It’s often an after thought on coffee shop menu’s, but statistically, up and coming generations opt for tea over coffee at shops. It’s a love I’ve shared with my mom when she first took me, a middle schooler, to Oxford Exchange in Tampa for a peppermint white chocolate tea latte.
I brought tea to my dorm, I shared it with friends, I would never want to see how much money I’ve spent on chai lattes in high school.
And guess what wasn’t in Lakeland…tea!
I contacted my dear friend, Nicole, who is the insanely knowledgeable lead roaster at Lakeland’s only organic certified roastry - Patriot Coffee. She’s like maybe April Ludgate where I am more on the Leslie Knope spectrum - we balance one another out.
She came on as a Twenty Seven contractor to help us create (her idea actually!) not just a tea bar, but our own line of tea.
Of course, quarantine hit and life got harder. We zoomed most meetings, then finally were able to sample together and get the dream started. Meanwhile, construction is happening!
The Twenty Seven tea bar launched on Halloween. It was magical - we had, excuse me, a damn good menu. And for the time we were up and running, we really had a special community. I miss this perhaps the most.
The tea, the names, the experience, was beloved by many. And certainly one of the hardest parts to leave behind, especially since it really felt like it didn’t have enough time to be as successful as it would be.
AND they’d like to do all the logistical work, packaging, etc. BUT KEEP ME AS CREATIVE DIRECTOR. HUH!?
I was astounded by the recognition that I made something worth keeping alive. It provided buoyancy in my soul a bit, while I was in the process of quite literally throwing my art away daily.
So then began months of meetings, name ideas, concepts.
The lesson: good things come when you stop pretending like you’re in control of everything.
Alternate lesson: open palms are better than white knuckles
I want to especially thank Chris & Nicole for investing in this dream. And for YOU sticking with me through the worst year of my life.
Cheers to Color Theory Tea! P.S. rainy bookstore is my current favorite :)