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Tea shop celebrates anniversary


Turtleheads Tea and Coffee Company, LLC, one of the only places in Knoxville to buy organic loose-leaf tea, will celebrate its one-year anniversary Thursday, Nov. 1.

With their first year behind them, Jan and Tamara Miller, co-owners as well as mother and daughter, have realized a dream 12 years in the making.

“We always had tea [in the house] ever since I was young. My interest in tea grew when I was in college. I started studying tea and learning more and more about it. About 11 years ago we decided it would be nice if we could open our own place, and we started the sketching phase.

“When we moved here we looked at the demographics and felt like this could actually work. There is nothing here like it; it was a novel idea,” Tamara said.

Jan credits their customers with the store’s success.

“We love Farragut and we have a lot of loyal customers that we want to thank,” she said.

Quality is very important to the Millers.

“Every single tea is tested by us when it comes in. We rotate it off the shelf on a regular basis. We buy it by the pound [as opposed to buying in larger quantities] so you know you are getting it really fresh. A lot of our customers have realized that if they want it, they had better come buy it because it may not be here next week. We would rather not have it than not have it fresh,” Tamara said.

“We spend a lot of time researching our vendors. We work almost exclusively now with very small family owned businesses. They are as passionate about their tea as we are. Our growers are fanatic about the organic quality of their tea,” she added.

“We could go ahead and buy from a large company, throw it in a can and call it loose-leaf tea, but our goal is to be not expensive, but exquisite.”

The Millers want to make sure their customers enjoy not only their tea, but also the experience of coming into the store and learning about the different teas.

“A lot of our focus is on education and the pure joy that tea brings. Many of our teas are processed using traditional methods. [The growers] are out there picking one leaf and two buds, or two leaves and one bud, they dry it on a big rack and put it in a bamboo bowl and fluff it. People are interested in that process,” Jan said.

As a special touch, customers also can enjoy a traditional Chinese tea ceremony.

“It is called the Kung Fu ceremony. Basically, we walk you through what it means, then we make you a beautiful cup of tea and serve it to you. It is just a little something special we do. People really seem to enjoy it, and it doesn’t cost anything,” Tamara said.

The Millers are as passionate about their tea ware as they are about their tea.

“Some of our teapots are from the National Geographic Foundation, which means they are fair trade. They go directly to the artists and pay them a fair wage, so you are guaranteed that you are supporting them and their community and they are receiving a fair price. They hand-make every single one of them,” Tamara said.

The coffee side of Turtleheads Tea and Coffee came about only after the Millers tried a coffee they fell in love with.

“Originally we were Turtleheads Tea Store and then we decided to start testing some coffees, [and we found] there is a lot of really foul coffee out there. Then this particular roaster that we carry now sent us a bag of coffee and we tried it. We almost just called ourselves Turtleheads Coffee after that,” Tamara said.

“Its called Sweetwater Organic Coffee. It is all organic, it is all fair trade and all shade-grown. They work with as many of the smaller co-ops as they possibly can. Right now they are doing amazing work in Ethiopia.”

To celebrate their anniversary, the Millers will begin the tea tastings their customers have been asking for.

“They will be very informal, about 10 people or so and us, just here talking about the teas, letting people try them,” Tamara said

“We will also be having expanded hours starting after Thanksgiving and going through Christmas,” she added.

For additional information on Turtleheads Tea and Coffee Com-pany, LLC, visit www.turtleheadsteaandcoffee.com.

 

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