February 13, 2014

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The Queens’ Tea: In the Business of Building Community

By Devin Felix

February 13, 2014

Salt Lake City – On a trip to China in the summer of 2012, Michael Ferguson and Seth Anderson became immersed in the world of tea. The couple had enjoyed tea together for a while, but in China they were in the place where tea is grown and where tea is a huge part of the culture. They learned about the biology of tea plants and the ways tea has influenced the course of history for centuries. Soon they had an idea: What if they started their own tea business back home in Salt Lake City?

When they got back to Utah they wasted no time. Ferguson and Anderson began importing high-quality ingredients from tea-growing countries such as India, China, Japan and Sri Lanka and devising some of their own tea blends. In September 2012 they incorporated their business, The Queens’ Tea, and by that November, they had begun selling at farmers’ markets in Utah. Their first big break came the following January, when they were asked to cater a tea room at a venue in Park City during the Sundance Film Festival.

Since then, word has continued to spread and the range of products offered by the company has grown. It now operates from a small shop at 800 S. 423 West, Ste. A109. The two have made return trips to Asia, where they worked on a Japanese tea farm.

Ferguson and Anderson see tea as more than just another drink, and they see their business as more than a way to make money. “What drives us is the ability to bring people together through tea,” Ferguson said. They like to point out that tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world, and that it is closely woven into the histories of many cultures and nations. The history of tea illuminates European colonial histories throughout Asia and Africa. Tea also facilitates social connection within and across cultures. “Tea becomes a prism to understanding culture,” Ferguson said. “If you can talk tea, you can talk to everybody. Tea is the original social media.”

The company’s early success is likely due at least partly to the rise of foodie culture in recent years. People have become more interested in high-quality ingredients and exploring flavors they haven’t before tried. Scientific studies have also shown tea to have a wide range of health effects, including providing antioxidants and benefiting the heart. For many customers, tea has become more than just a beverage; it’s become a hobby and a way of life.

Tea involves so many variables—a huge range of flavors, ingredients, brewing techniques and equipment—that it lends itself well to obsession and collecting. Ferguson and Anderson are happy to be a resource for people who prefer their tea experience to involve more than just opening a Lipton box and soaking a tea bag. They offer tea classes, where participants learn about the different types of tea, the history and biology of tea, brewing methods and other tea-specific topics.

In addition to the commercial aspects of their business, Anderson and Ferguson are in the midst of developing a philanthropic wing of the business, called DigniTEA, with which they intend to raise funds to benefit organizations that serve homeless youth in Utah.           

For more information, visit www.thequeenstea.com.

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