Tea-o-graphy: the art and science of tea

Dana Blair, owner and founder of Tea.o.graphy, harbors such a passion for tea that she has built a whole business around it.

Originally published in Taos News

“Tea has a place in the heart of almost every culture and is the most widely consumed beverage in the world, next to water,” she says. “It even surpasses coffee and Coke, and is finally gaining wide acceptance in the United States.”

               Between Georgia and New Mexico

Originally from Georgia, Blair came to Taos in 2009.

“Since then, I have boomeranged somewhat between the two places,” she said. “I left Taos in 2011 to work on a wonderful, family-owned grass-fed beef farm around Athens, Georgia. There were mornings I would wake up in the small farmhouse I lived in—the light shining into my bedroom at such an angle, with just the right golden affect—thinking I was here. Taos was inside of me; it has a way of creeping into your bones and your soul.”

Therefore, when Blair felt ready to put down roots and start her dream of a tea business, she chose Taos.

A journey towards tea

Though Blair started Tea.o.graphy as an official business in April 2015, she began working with tea a long time ago.

She describes herself as a “diehard coffee fan” until around nine years ago. But when she had to quit drinking coffee for health reasons, tea was the natural alternative.

“In 2008, I moved to China as an English teacher,” Blair said. “When I wasn’t in the classroom, I was in tearooms. I began cultivating an interest for tea and knew that I wanted to work with tea on my own.”

She later moved to Santa Fe and worked at The Teahouse with former owner Dionne Christian, a master tea blender. The experience further inspired her passion for tea. Once she left The Teahouse, Blair started “geeking out on tea.”

She created her own little “laboratory,” experimenting with new blends. Her first blend was Café Sans Café.

“I was still missing the bold character of coffee, so I created a blend that could stand up to coffee-like preparations,” she said.

Café Sans Café is a deep, dark, bold brew with hints of caramel and chocolate. It contains roasted chicory root, Assam black tea, and vanilla bean.

“It is by far one of my most popular blends,” she said. “I carry it both in black tea (caffeinated) and herbal tea (caffeine free).”

What’s in a name?

“Tea.o.graphy is a play on the word ‘geography,’ which reflects the global aspect of tea—the many oceans and borders tea has crossed over centuries,” Blair explains. “But to delve even further, the suffix -graphy is defined as ‘a combining form denoting a process or form of drawing, writing, representing, recording, describing, or an art or science concerned with such a process.’ Tea is both art and science: it is also muse to the written word, to artistic expression. It is history, it has lived and traversed time, continents, oceans, times of war, times of peace (sometimes serving as the catalyst for both)… So much sitting there in your teacup!”

Where to find Tea.o.graphy teas

They are now available at Gutiz, the winter market, the farmers market in the summer, Cid’s, Taos Market, Taos Herb Company, The Bavarian, Elevation, Casa Gallina, The Love Apple, Aureate Plum, Sol Food, Noula’s coffee shop, Taos Cow, Pärcht Bottleshop and Bites, El Meze, World Cup, Taos Clay, Rottenstone Pottery, Bent Street Deli, Made in New Mexico, Shree Yoga, Ennui Gallery, Wired and Blair’s website www.tea-o-graphy.com.

They are also sold in all the La Montañita locations and will soon be available in the Ski Valley restaurants as well.

Products: types and flavors of tea

Blair carries a selection of about thirty teas ranging from herbal or tisane teas (caffeine free) to green teas, black teas, and specialty teas.

“All of our teas are organic and fair trade,” she said, “and locally sourced when possible.  We use only the most pure and sustainable ingredients, with no artificial scents, chemicals or harsh additives.”

Among the most popular herbal teas are Café Sans Café (without caffeine), Honey Lavender, High Desert Sage (inspired by the Taos Mesa after a rainstorm), The Cats Pajamas (a bedtime blend), and Ginger Spice, which she calls “my medicine chest.”
As for green tea, she has Matcha Mint, which makes a great mojito, and Fleurs de Provence (floral with handled jasmine pearls).

Black teas include Café Sans Café (with caffeine), Forest Floor, Lady Grey and Art of Flying’s Earl Grey, inspired by Taos’ own Art of Flying band.

Her specialty teas include Chocolate Rose and Sandia Rose, inspired by New Mexico and the Sandia Mountains.

“Many of these blends have applications outside of the teacup,” Blair said. “They can be used in cocktails recipes and culinary dishes.”

The sounding boards

Although most of the time Blair’s business is a one-woman show—she can be found making sales calls, marketing, blending and packaging teas at TCEDC, and more— she also credits many people without whom she could not carry out her business as effectively or smoothly as she is doing now.

“My apprentice Camille Cooper is invaluable, sharp as a whip and super creative, with a great taste for tea,” she said. “And Steve Chavez, his two children, and of course, my family back in Georgia… They are my sounding boards, sage advice givers, and my support.”

Tea of the Month Membership

The Tea of the Month Membership allows people to explore the culture of tea. Each month, members are sent a box containing three samples of teas following a theme (February’s theme was the Queen of Hearts.) They also receive an extra bonus tea or tea-themed item.

Members also receive an exclusive 15% discount on any of the month’s featured teas and a 40% discount when ordering in bulk. They also get first insights to any new products and discounts on them.

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About dovalpage

Teresa Dovalpage was born in Havana and now lives in Taos, New Mexico. She has a Ph.D. in Spanish literature and teaches at UNM Taos. She also freelances for Taos News, Profile, Hispanic Executive and other publications. A bilingual author, she has published eight novels, six in Spanish and two in English, two collections of short stories in Spanish and one in English. Her English-language novels are A Girl like Che Guevara (Soho Press, 2004) and Habanera, a Portrait of a Cuban Family (Floricanto Press, 2010). Her collection of short stories The Astral Plane, Stories of Cuba, the Southwest and Beyond was published by the University of New Orleans Press in 2012. In her native Spanish she has authored the novels Muerte de un murciano en La Habana (Death of a Murcian in Havana, Anagrama, 2006, a runner-up for the Herralde Award in Spain), El difunto Fidel (The late Fidel, Renacimiento, 2011, that won the Rincon de la Victoria Award in Spain in 2009), Posesas de La Habana (Haunted Ladies of Havana, PurePlay Press, 2004), La Regenta en La Habana (Edebe Group, Spain, 2012,) Orfeo en el Caribe(Atmósfera Literaria, Spain, 2013) and El retorno de la expatriada (The expat’s return, Egales, Spain, 2014). Her short novel Las Muertas de la West Mesa (The West Mesa Murders, based on a real event) is currently being published in serialized format by Taos News.
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