1. Hi Nice to meet you, Steve - can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Steve Schwartz and I am the CEO and Founder of Art of Tea, known in the tea space as a master tea blender, international keynote speaker, loving husband, and father to three girls.
2. What inspired you to create the company?
When I was 19, my mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I had just started school on a full scholarship but moved back home to Los Angeles to take care of her for about a year before she passed. The whole time she was battling the disease, we were going from doctor to doctor to help heal her, and when she passed, I had this awakening. If cancer had been around for thousands of years, and Western medicine was only in practice for the past hundred years or so, what other options were out there? I became fascinated with the principle of Eastern and Preventative medicine as an alternative to the Western medicine that failed to save my mom and subsequently enrolled in the Ayurvedic Institute in New Mexico. It was during this time that my passion for the alchemy of blending and combining herbs and botanicals began to unfold.
I worked several jobs and saved up to travel the world to see firsthand how these herbs were grown – I met with farmers in Asia, India, Africa, and the Middle East, searching for the best possible teas and botanicals available. At the time, I had no plans to turn this curiosity into a tea business, but after settling back in Los Angeles, I began applying the knowledge and experimenting with blending different teas and botanicals in my living room.
Then, I caught the attention of a few local chefs, including Wolfgang Puck, next came some hotels, and it just continued to escalate from there. I had boxes piled up in my living room and was hand-delivering teas to restaurants, and it got to a point where it became clear that this was the path I was meant to pursue. I officially founded Art of Tea in 2004, and haven’t looked back.
3. Where does the name “Art of Tea’ come from?
I was reading the book Art of War and the Book of Tea at the time of trying to come up with a name for the company I was in the process of building. My wife and I were on a walk brainstorming and the name Art of Tea just clicked and we knew it was meant to be. It fills the need for tea in this world and the strategy to build a mission driven team.
4. What’s a piece of advice you would give to fellow aspiring entrepreneurs?
When I was in the process of starting Art of Tea, there weren’t a lot of people I could lean on for support, so I basically turned my car into a university - I started listening to CDs on marketing, business strategy, management, and so on until I had fully saturated myself in that world.
My advice is to essentially learn as much as you possibly can about the industry you’re trying to break into, the process of starting a business, and what you can do to set yourself apart. Whether it’s reaching out to people and brands you admire, reading books, listening to podcasts, really whatever makes sense for you - knowledge is power and it is so instrumental in helping you build the confidence and skills that you need to be successful.
5. Do you have any tips or tricks for making the perfect tea?
The key to preparing the best cup of tea comes down to your method, the quality
of your tea and water, and of course, personal preference.
That said, I always suggest using freshly drawn water for your tea. Avoid using water that has been sitting in the kettle and re-boiled water as both will change the flavor and the consistency of your tea.
It’s also important to know that each type of tea requires a different temperature and steep time for the best taste. A temperature kettle is great for ensuring the perfect brew but another easy way to achieve a lower temperature after your kettle has boiled is to let the water sit for a few minutes. Additionally, steep time is typically detailed on the tea packaging, and for any Art of Tea products, you can easily find this information on the packaging or on our website.
Lastly, although it doesn’t improve your tea necessarily, I recommend being mindful during each step of the brewing process. The simple act of slowing down to prepare and enjoy a cup of tea may help clear your mind and reset mentally. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness. It’s about allowing your mind to find peace from the stress that comes with day-to-day life, and I’ve found that brewing tea is a great way to tap into this and relax, even if only for a few minutes a day.
6. What would you say Art of Tea’s Brand Mission is? How are you applying it to your day-to-day operations?
Our mission is to create a delicious, sustainable tea-drinking experience and we want to impact as many lives as we can through tea. Tea can be such a powerful conduit for health and wellness and also for internal connection and connection with loved ones.
We’re really proud of our Manifesto and core values at Art of Tea. These have been our foundational building blocks as we continue to grow and work with new vendors, farmers, wholesalers, and customers. Before we set our goals for the year we always review our core values and make sure they’re still in line with our direction. It’s so much more than blending delicious teas - it’s about being intentional with our working relationships and partnering with like-minded companies and suppliers with similar brand values. It’s about treating each and every product as if it's our only product through careful and thoughtful attention, and every customer as if they are our only customer with top-notch customer service from our Los
Angeles headquarters. It’s about thinking outside of the box, all while reducing our carbon footprint and supporting causes that we care about. We recently partnered with EcoCart, allowing customers to make their tea purchases carbon neutral, and are continually looking for new ways to give back to the planet. Ultimately, it’s about accountability, and we’re excited to keep innovating and improving to deliver the most delicious, sustainable, and impactful tea experience possible.
7. What is your favorite product on your website right now?
Recently, I’ve been really into our herbal blend Breathe which features bergamot, turmeric, lemon myrtle, and ginger. When I need an energy boost, I gravitate toward our Matcha Plus Green Tea blend which is a Sencha base dusted with Ceremonial Grade Matcha, or Earl Grey Créme, which is also our bestselling tea blend year-round.
8. Talk to us about your branding, if you could describe the aesthetic in three words what would it be?
We strive for clean simplicity when it comes to our branding and design. If I had to describe our aesthetic in three words, I’d choose fresh, high-quality, and inviting.
9. What are some of your favorite brands to follow along with?
I was really inspired by the book written by Chip Wilson, the founder of Lululemon, Little Black Stretchy Pants. It’s all about what it took to build the company into what it is today with his team. I’m also a huge fan of James Perse for their high quality lifestyle items. And finally, Porsche 911. The body has stayed basically the same with each production year and yet it remains timeless.
10. What’s next for the Art of Tea?
We’re always looking for new and exciting ways to engage with our “communiTEA.” We’re excited to announce that Part 2 of our “Become a Tea Expert” series about how to taste and understand tea at a deeper level will be launching this Fall. We’re also really excited about a Matcha Cocoa product that we’ve been developing for the last few months; it’s this super uplifting and bright twist on a classic cup of hot cocoa. We have a few other delicious new blends in the pipeline, including a tea designed to complement your skincare routine. I’m so excited to share it with you all in the months to come.