I made it! I keep whispering that to myself these days. February marks the start of my fourth year in business. It also marks the 12th month of operating 100% curbside with the tea stand. I spent 10 of the 12 months of my 3rd year outside in the elements of Arkansas weather slinging tea and finding solace in the faces of my neighbors and customers. I MADE IT!
The loneliness of 2020 was really hard for me. Not just at the tea shop that sat quiet and empty day after day, but the world in general was a hard and lonely place. Isolating from those we love, the tensions of extreme partisanship in our country, and the loneliness of being misunderstood and directly lied about were all things I struggled with more than ever in year 3.
I am coming up on my 3rd business birthday - and things could have gone A LOT worse for the shop especially since we are so young and just getting our legs underneath of us.
Mom and Jessica are doing well. This year has been pretty hard for my Jessi girl. She loves her routines and loves having a plan, and 2020 just does not allow for that. She was going to get married to Donald in October but we have postponed their special day until next year as they are both high risk and so are many of their friends and family.
How am I doing? So many of you have asked and continue to ask, and I often do not know how to respond. My bubbly, perky self wants to say "I am great - just gotta keep going! Keep swimming! Keep trying!" but the reali-TEA is that I am really not doing so great in terms of how this year has impacted me personally. I am tired. I often bounce between discouraged and hopeful. But, the cases keep rising. I see more and more people out and about in large groups without masks on. It is almost like some folks have decided this isn't real, and that the impacts of this virus are just a charade.
As far as the shop goes, sales are steady. We were really doing good March through July - and then the heat set in, then back to school, and then the election. September and October months were slower than desired, but this last week of October was really strong which lets me know that tea season is here and y'all are ready for it!
Many of you have already been asking about Holiday Spirit and Twinkle Tea - these will be released Black Friday & Small Business Saturday like they are every year. I know so many of you are looking forward to stocking up on those! I just got the BEST cinnamon bark in this week to start blending it up!
I plan to be out curbside through November. I am not sure what we will do in December - that is so dependent on the weather and also how many active cases the state has then. Right now, we have more cases in the state and in the country than we did when we were in lock-down back in March & April. So, I am digging my heels in and staying on the curb as long as humanly possible.
Please continue to support my business - I know it's tempting to buy that tea at the grocery store or whatever big box retailer you find yourself in this holiday season, but I can tell you that I am TRULY grateful for every single sale - always of course - but this year especially.
Be safe, wear a mask, be kind & give as much grace as you can to all of us retail & restaurant folks.
I promise you, we are all doing our very best despite so many factors that are out of our control.
I've been giving a lot of thought to what the next month looks like for the tea shop in lieu of the announcement from the State of Arkansas on re-opening restaurants and retail shops.
The quarantine has taken quite a toll on my little business. I never thought I would face such an extreme hiccup in year three.
All that said, I am overwhelmingly grateful for the outpouring of support from friends, regulars, and complete strangers.
The past 7 weeks has been a LOT of shifting gears and a LOT of hard work but we are doing okay. My tea shop will be okay.
There is still so much uncertainty about how this virus spreads, how many people have it, can people get it again, and on and on. As many of you know, I run the shop with my mom and my sister, Jessica. Both of them are diabetic, my mom is over the age of 60 and I am currently the main contact for my Grami - doing her errands, taking her groceries, and visiting with her weekly. My considerations are not just for me, but my family, and ultimately for my customers. Opening the shop too soon could put those I love in jeopardy.
I have decided to continue with curbside pick-up, online order/shipping, and the Tea Stand through May.
We just released our fall loose leaf tea blends here at the tea shop! Our friends over at Rock City Eats have taken some time to try the new blends and give a few thoughts on their favorites.
The new blends include:
The Sassy Sage: bright, complex & no caffeine
Banana Nut Roo: rooibos base with warm nutty texture
Spiced Orange: black tea with a light spice & lots of citrus
The Drowsy Poet: yerba mate & rooibos with smoky citrus layers
Chamomile Cardamom Chai: floral and spicy, a nice non-caffeinated alternative to traditional chai
Be sure to swing in over the weekend for our all you can drink blend release party on Sunday! $5 gets you a cup and the chance to try all the blends!
We had a great time on Good Day Arkansas this morning with Chris from Colonial Wines & Spirits talking about our event on Thursday night! Come see me at Colonial Wines & Spirits from 4-7pm this Thursday to try Abbi's Herbal Mojito and our Blackberry Patch cocktail!
We will be selling tea and Colonial will be serving up free tea cocktail samples!
LET'S GET THIS PAR-TEA STARTED!
We've partnered up with the most creative, locally owned boutique tea shop in town – Abbi's Teas & Things – to bring you a delicious new way to experience two of our favorite things: beautifully custom blended teas and handmade gelato.
For two weeks we'll highlight three new spring tea blends created specifically for this beautiful time of year by Abbi Siler. Join us at ZAZA for a scoop of Strawberry Harvest Mint Tea Gelato, Lavender Lemonade Tea Gelato, and Blueberry Basil Tea Sorbetto (dairy free).
Each batch begins with freshly steeped tea from Abbi's. We then blend in fresh fruit, spices, and premium ingredients to highlight the inherent flavors and aromas of each tea to create a uniquely tasty cool spring treat. Be sure to try all three exceptional flavors over these two weeks and then stop by Abbi's Teas & Things in Hillcrest to pick up your favorite blend to enjoy at home. In addition to teas and treats, be sure to make time to chat with Abbi while you're in the shop. Incredibly knowledgeable about the health benefits and history of tea, Abbi can guide you to the perfect blend for your needs.
👉WIN A 'TEA to TABLE' BASKET
Tag your Gelato Tea Time pics with #AbbisGelato and you're entered to win a basket from Abbi's and ZAZA worth $75! Winner will be selected and announced on May 3rd.
👉MORE ABOUT ABBI'S - A SMALL FAMILY BUSINESS:
Abbi's Teas & Things is a small boutique tea shop in the Hillcrest Historic District of Little Rock, Arkansas. A family operated business: mom, daughter, and sister! Abbi's shop offers unique teas and a collection of cute things to browse. Their selection of tea ware, jewelry, and gifts are unique and ever changing; you never know what you'll find! Abbi's offers their own proprietary loose leaf tea blends alongside traditional tea favorites. • Learn more here: https://www.abbiteas.com/
👉MORE ABOUT THE FEATURED BLENDS:
🍓 Strawberry Harvest Mint:
Ingredients: white tea, rose petals, rose hips, dried strawberries, peppermint leaves, hibiscus flowers ••• A lightly caffeinated white tea that is naturally sweet, pink, and subtly minty.
Ingredients: dried blueberries, hibiscus flowers, green and purple holy basil (leaves & stems) ••• This special spin on Tulsi tea is spicy, aromatic with a sweet finish. Perfect hot with a splash of local honey or ice it up for a refreshing summer cocktail.
Ingredients: french lavender, green tea, dried apples, orange peels, marigold flowers, vanilla extract, lemon zest, blue butterfly pea flower ••• a springy and brightly aromatic green tea with a color that is as vibrant as the the height of spring
If you asked me last year if I would be sitting in my sweet little tea shop reflecting on the first 6 months of business today, I'd have likely not believed you. This tea shop has been a dream for so long, and those closest to me over the years have known of my love of tea, my heart for service, and the always present call back to waiting tables.
One of my last conversations with my dad was about why I was afraid to open a shop, and all the reasons why it wouldn't work or how it could go wrong. My deep fear of failure. He laughed with me and at me and told me to be brave. We talked about how I felt silo'd in a career that I was very good at, but not very fulfilled. We talked about who I have always been in his eyes, in my own eyes, and who I wanted to be going forward.
At the time, just a year ago, the tea shop was a symbol for who I wanted to be eventually. But to my dad (and to my mom) - they knew it was who I was all along.
When I decided to quit my very GOOD job at a very respected agency with a title and salary that I was very proud of, I had decided to let go of that chapter in my life.
The letting go wasn't really easy, but the 9-12 months that followed - - where I was forcing myself to BE STILL and figure myself out - - that was the hard part.
The starting over.
This morning, I'm sitting in my tea shop reflecting on all of the things that have changed in my life since last February. And, in these last 6 months.
How I've changed, how I've come back to life, how I've stayed true to myself after getting a little lost for a few (like 10) years. I'm thankful for my parents for seeing me even when I couldn't see myself. I'm thankful for my husband who has loved, supported, and cheered me on through all those decisions up the ladder, and now back down it.
And, I'm thankful for every single person who has come to the shop, talked about the shop, and all of you who are not just guests here, but friends.
Gotta go! Aspen is here for his morning treat & head pat! I'm thankful for the sweet puppy friends, too. 💚