Thursday, January 30, 2020

Interview: Nazanin Yousefnejad of Tea Thoughts

Nazanin Yousefnejad, Photo Courtesy of Tea Thoughts

Tea people are the nicest people I've come across, and today's interviewee is no exception. You may have seen Nanzanin of Tea Thoughts on Instagram posting her beautiful tea photos, or perhaps you've visited her adorable online store (I love her pins!!) or ordered her Steep It Real box. I'm so pleased to present our interview!

I had the pleasure of receiving January's Steep It Real box, and I've been enjoying it all month long. I love that the tea themed products are all useful, fun, and high quality. She even includes hand-made items. There was only one tea included in the box, but it's a full-size package and very high quality. I much prefer this over boxes that give you many sample sizes of lower quality teas and blends, many you don't really want.

Learn all about Nazanin and her passion for tea, her wonderful creative side, and her personal tea rituals in the interview below.

Photo Courtesy of Tea Thoughts

I know you’ve grown-up drinking tea. Can you tell us a little bit about your tea journey?
I grew up drinking traditional Persian style tea which is usually just a black tea and in my family, mostly ceylon! I really consider my journey starting when I started my blog because when companies would send me teas to review that’s when I started drinking different types. I got several books on tea and learned more about history, cultivation etc. I think my journey took a real turn (for the better!) 1-2 years ago I was given a pu’er which prompted me to look into gongfu style practice!

Why did you decide to start a tea-related blog and business?
I’ve always been creative and loved to make things. My mom is an artist and always encouraged artistic expression through craft classes, kits and taking me to school with her while she worked. I’ve been a card maker, doll maker, jewelry maker and much more! When I got to college I really wanted to start a business of some sort but was too afraid. After graduating, I felt creatively stifled in my full time job so with a lot of encouragement from my family I started my blog on tea. It was meant to be a way for me to explore but being immersed in that world encouraged me to start my business a few months later too. I decided to open a tea themed shop to go hand in hand with my blog.

Some of Nazanin's pin designs. Photo Courtesy of Tea Thoughts

I love your tea pins! How do you come up with the designs?
I am inspired by everyday practices and items. A lot of my designs in pins and other shop items are from my own photographs or items I own! Recently I have also been creating designs based off of things that have great meaning to me like the pomegranate gaiwan (two of my favorite things!) and a pin to come that has cherry blossoms.

There are many subscription boxes out there, why did you decide to start Steep It Real?
The Steep It Real Box is more like a gift box because you don’t have to subscribe to it! I will come out with 2-3 a year and they can be purchased or not. I decided to make it because I don’t feel like the tea lovers of the world are really being served by other brands.

Speaking of Steep It Real, I loved my first box! I like that everything in it has a connection, and that you included one high-quality, full-sized tea instead of a bunch of ‘so-so’ teas. How do you decide what to put in the box every month?
The Fall steep it real box was the first one where I truly tried to tie in everything with a theme and others will be the same! I basically start with the tea and go from there. I had tasted hojicha from Hojicha Co and thought it was really high quality and I wanted to support the business. From there I think about what time of year it’s being released and what are people feeling at that time? Stress? Joy? From there I tried to pick items that could address those feelings with brands that I have personally tried and liked and items that I design to fit the theme as well.

The January Steep It Real box I received

Is it difficult to manage finding time for designing and blogging amidst everyday life?
It can be! I still work a full time job so most of my off time is used to work on Tea Thoughts. I have a flexible schedule which helps but lots of late nights and weekends shut in help to bring a lot of my ideas to life. I feel so passionate about Tea Thoughts that it feels normal though, I’m not sure what I did with all my free time before Tea Thoughts :)

I love the tea recipes you create. Do you have a favorite?
Thank you! I really love to bake and cook so I wanted that to be the focus of my blog so that people could see that tea can easily be incorporated into everyday life! It’s really hard to pick a favorite but I think the tiramisu is one of my favorites. On my blog I used a chai blend but I also made it with matcha for my mom and it was so good.

What inspires you in your daily life?
Nature is a large part of my inspiration because I live right next to a creek and there are trees everywhere so I often go for walks. Nature isn’t an inspiration in the sense that I see a tree and then I want to create a tree, it’s more like a way to ground myself and help bring good ideas to the front of my mind. I think the other big inspiration for me are the people in my life. My family and friends are a mix of incredible people and being around them inspires me in a way to be the best version of myself and to continue on with my work.

What do you see in the future for Tea Thoughts?
Starting this year I am creating a slightly new path for Tea Thoughts that includes more creating with intention. In the past, I was trying to figure out what works and there was lots of experimentation. I have a clearer vision for Tea Thoughts now that includes more functional items like an increase in my ceramics and possibly a tea related course in the future! I will of course continue to create favorites like pins and tea shirts.

Photo Courtesy of Tea Thoughts

Can you share some of your personal tea rituals with us?
I have two very distinct rituals for tea. In the morning and evenings I have a simple brewing routine that is reminiscent of my childhood. I use a simple tea pot to brew a ceylon tea that I drink with a bit of honey. This is how I’ve started and ended my day for as long as I can remember. It’s not about caffeine, it’s about the movements, the timing and the smells of the tea.

The other ritual is one I do most days between the other two tea times and this is where I practice gongfu style tea. I try to do this at home and I like to sit in front of my balcony door. If it’s not too cold, I will open the door so I can hear the sounds outside. I use a tea tray, pitcher and usually a gaiwan to brew one of the many teas in my stash. This is like my meditation time. Sometimes I do take photos to share but usually I will mark a day to do that so that all other times, I get to sit quietly and reflect on the day as I brew my tea. I don’t usually speak to anyone, it’s a time where I’m looking inward to kind of check in on myself.

Thank you Nazanin for taking the time out for this interview! I really enjoyed getting to know you better. Check out her Instagram and website for more Tea Thoughts!

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