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The Mysterious Tea Lady

I am Annaliese, the enigmatic Tea Lady. I have always preferred a 'back of the house' role in my businesses. While the younger generation seems to relish 'branding' themselves, I'm very content in my quiet pursuits without the personal attention. Despite my reserved nature, I have derived deep contentment and joy in my little realm within the food world. It brings me great pleasure to connect with you in this space.

The Culinary Journey
My second career began with attending culinary school and immersing myself in numerous expert-level pastry classes. One of my proudest accomplishments was achieving the coveted title of "pastry chef" and subsequently opening a French-inspired bistro. These experiences not only bolstered my confidence in professional baking but also deepened my love for the craft. Even before obtaining formal credentials, I was an avid and skilled baker, driven by a keen interest in chemistry, mathematics, and food science. I found immense pleasure in baking and continuously sought to develop new and innovative products.

My original inspiration for pursuing a culinary path stemmed from my dream of opening a bed and breakfast inn. I came tantalizingly close to making this dream a reality when I discovered a stunning historic property on Galveston Island, Texas. It was a perfect haven, featuring a professional kitchen, breathtaking gardens that had graced the pages of magazines, a charming wood-paneled library that doubled as a pub, and a beautiful dining area that also functioned as a restaurant. The exquisitely appointed guest rooms and the warmth of the current innkeepers captured my heart. Eager to seize the opportunity, I flew to Texas over Labor Day weekend in September 2001 to spend a week immersing myself in this enchanting oasis. However, upon my return to California, the tragic events of 9/11 unfolded, casting a somber shadow over the nation. Given the heartbreaking circumstances, I decided it was not the appropriate time to pursue the project further.

Though it was challenging to reassess my path during that period, new opportunities eventually presented themselves. I lent my expertise to other restaurants, helping them develop signature dishes for their menus. Additionally, I was hired to contribute to the opening of a new coastal restaurant, where I played a pivotal role in setting up their baking department and training their bakers. However, the demanding schedule of a baker, with its early morning hours, began taking a toll on me. Despite my profound love for the art of baking, I yearned for a change.

It was during this period of contemplation that memories of my earlier travels to tea-growing regions resurfaced. I reminisced about the vibrant open spice markets and my deep affection for tea. The exotic fragrances of spices, combined with my adoration for tea, sparked the birth of a new venture: Malabar Trading Company. Leveraging the power of the internet and email, I reestablished connections with tea garden owners I had met during my travels and commenced importing premium grade and bespoke teas and spices. Driven by my passion for flavor and a penchant for researching historic classic blends from renowned tea houses and merchants, I discovered a new calling — developing my own unique tea blends. Among the most beloved products were my authentic chai spice blends, one of which won acclaim at the prestigious International North American Tea Championship  in 2011. The flagship Whole Foods Market in Austin, Texas was my first major customer.

Farmers Market Days
An opportunity arose to join the local Monterey Bay Certified Farmers Markets, which proved to be a perfect avenue for connecting with the local community and educating customers about premium tea. Armed with sample jars filled with loose-leaf tea, I delighted in sharing my knowledge about flavors and the art of brewing tea with enthusiastic customers.

As the tea business flourished, another delightful component was added — baked goods! It was my hope that customers would not only purchase tea but also indulge in other delectable treats such as scones, tea cakes, and pastries, allowing them to create their own exquisite afternoon tea experiences. Furthermore, I crafted preserves using locally sourced fruits from nearby farms and introduced a line of new products I developed called Honey Cremes. The response was overwhelmingly positive — I was blessed with the opportunity to pursue my passion while customers relished the fruits of my labor.

However, with the advent of the pandemic, I regrettably had to withdraw from the farmers' markets. Thankfully, my online business allowed me to sustain tea sales, although I had to temporarily halt my baked goods production. But there was a silver lining to having much more time on my hands during those uneasy months — I developed many wonderful new friendships on Instagram!  

The Next Chapter
Today, as I embark on the quest for my elusive next chapter, my heart is set on the dream of opening a well-appointed event venue or tea room (with a garden of course!). Picture tables adorned with vintage china collections and exquisite linens, and the tantalizing aroma of freshly baked goods permeating the air, beckoning customers inside. It is a sanctuary of warmth and hospitality, reminiscent of the beloved TV show Cheers, where every visitor is embraced like a cherished friend, and "where everyone knows your name."

In this envisioned tea room, I aspire to create an atmosphere that transcends mere consumption and fosters a sense of connection and community. It would be a haven where people can escape the hectic pace of life, unwind, and indulge in the pleasures of fine teas, delectable pastries, and heartfelt conversations. I envision guests finding solace and delight in the comforting ambiance, while forging meaningful connections with fellow tea lovers and leaving with a lasting sense of belonging.

As I continue my journey, fueled by passion and a desire to craft extraordinary experiences, I eagerly anticipate the day when this dream takes tangible form. I am committed to curating an  endearing venue that goes beyond serving tea — it will be a sanctuary where memories are made, friendships are forged, and the simple pleasures of life are celebrated. Together, we will embark on a delightful journey through the world of tea, where every cup poured becomes a moment of tranquility and connection.

While my life path has encountered numerous twists and turns, I am eternally grateful for the fulfillment and joy that the food world has brought into my life. I cherish every opportunity to connect with fellow tea enthusiasts and share in the magic of culinary exploration.