Coco Business Inspiration : Mizuba Tea

Last year #TeamCoco were lucky enough to spend some time in Japan experiencing a traditional tea cermeony. The Japanese tea ceremony, also called the Way of Tea, is a Japanese cultural activity involving the ceremonial preparation and presentation of matcha (抹茶), powdered green tea. 
We loved the experience so much that we went on the hunt to find a supplier for us to get our matcha tea fix anytime. Mizuba Tea Co, founded in 2013 by Lauren Purvis, imports, wholesales, and retails fine, stone-ground, matcha green tea from Uji, Japan. Currently based in Portland, Oregon, Mizuba stands for direct-trade with its matcha suppliers, making deliciously high-quality teas accessible to all,  and can’t wait to share one of the best cups of tea they’ve ever had with you.
Lauren is a true #girlboss and she took time out of her busy schedule to tell us more…
Tell us a bit about Mizuba Tea and your journey to getting where you are today?
I always have to start with my mom. While it wasn’t Yorkshire Gold, she would give me Bigelow’s Constant Comment tea every morning before grade school, when I was 12 or so. I grew to really love tea, and started exploring all I could! My family is really into food, and is involved in the wine world. I began to learn how to taste things critically, which led me to higher quality experiences. I was exceptionally fortunate to have traveled quite a bit in my teens, so I encountered beautiful brands such as Mariage Frères, or Kusmi. When I was 19 years old, experiencing Afternoon Tea at The Dorchester Hotel pretty much changed my life. I slowly started learning about single-origin teas as well, and was quite struck by Japan’s grassy senchas or Taiwan’s dynamic oolongs. By the time I got to college, I had amassed a rather large tea collection. However, I never seemed to enjoy appreciating the experience of a beautiful cup of tea as much as when I was sharing it with a friend. What else could I do but to share all the tea I had? I started hosting pop-up tea parties and shops in my dorm room sophomore year, which grew into quite an event twice a week. Everyone encouraged me, “this is what you need to do with your life!” To an English literature major specializing in Charles Dickens (it’s true), anything to do with business, let alone actually owning one, seemed impossibly out of reach. I didn’t listen for 3 years, until…I had the opportunity to visit a friend in Japan! I instantly was blown away by the quality of tea – leaps and bounds better than any green tea I’ve ever experienced from the American market. I fell in love with the experiences and relationships made over every cup of tea I shared, and long story short here: I serendipitously met a tea farmer in charge of his 100-year old family matcha firm, and haven’t looked back since.

What has been your highlight since launching the brand?

Oh goodness, I’ve been blessed with so many highlights! Ultimately, I think all the friendships and relationships I’ve been able to have through Mizuba. Our tea truly is a link – a source of connectivity, culture, and community from source to cup. I’m so thankful to be able to live out what I know how to do very well – share the best cup of tea I’ve ever found with people, and make meaningful community around it. That, and maybe my product being in VogueUK magazine…I might have had a little #GirlBoss freakout!

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Describe the brand 3 words?
Fresh, relational, transparent

Who is involved in the brand?
Myself. My awesomely amazing husband who also happens to have an eye for design and vision. My incredibly loving and generous parents, who have a taste for Fortnum and Mason teas. SO many awesome girlfriends that like to spend an afternoon baking say, a Mizuba Matcha Kiwi cake with me (recipe on the blog, of course).

You are clearly well travelled, with your business taking you as far as Japan. Where else have you visited and what was your favourite thing about it?
I am exceedingly grateful and fortunate to have visited 16+ countries. I have very special memories from each. Favourite thing…people and food! It always, always comes down to the people and food, right? Okay, that and grocery stores. Foreign grocery stores and markets are my idea of a treasure trove. To all my UK friends, please do not take Borough Market for granted. Or a cheap box of mince pies from Waitrose (weird, I know, but you cannot get goods like that in the States! Did you know Digestives cost like, $5 bucks here!? Please send via post, thanks. That being said, I’ve resorted to making my own).

Tell us what a typical day in your life looks like?
It’s hard for me to not start a day without sweating, whether that be running ~5-6 miles or tackling some serious high-intensity intervals in my living room. I love it because that usually means I make a nice, cold smoothie afterwards or a big bowl of oatmeal. Quiet time with Dan and reading follows suit while I make my morning tea, and then….e-mails! All the e-mails. E-mails all day, unless I get out for a meeting. Mid-morning I’ll try and break to make either a bowl of matcha, or a matcha latte. We usually always make dinner at home, so I’ll start that around 5:30 or 6pm, chat on the phone with friends while I’m doing that, and we usually garden a bit (we have quite a garden). Relaxing and more reading until I get some decent sleep!

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Before Mizuba Tea, what did you do on the work front?
I taught horseback riding lessons and was a receptionist for a tennis country club. I do miss being at the barn.

It can be hard to juggle life and business, what do you do to switch off from work?
That was a hard lesson to learn for sure. Have grace, stick to your own, productive hours, and don’t’ be afraid to set your terms – if someone needs to respond to you during a certain timeframe, let them know. I definitely don’t look at my phone. After 5:30pm, it’s all about hanging with the husband, our friends, and our home. We all need space to clear our brain!

Who/what inspires you?
History and culture. I love the medium of a beverage, whether that’s a cup of coffee, a glass of wine, or a bowl of matcha. What can I do to contribute to a beautiful moment? One that yes, I get to enjoy myself, but one that also is a medium of communication and gathering? The giving of something so special to someone, in order to share its gifts in that moment. (ie – a cup of high quality tea with a friend or stranger).

Are there any sources you go for support with running your business?
Yup! My community around me! Portland, Oregon is fortunately a WEALTH of food and beverage folk. Our city is an exceptionally hospitable, supportive, creative, and generous community. Make friends, be generous with your knowledge, and learn from others.

Did you always know that one day you would be a #Girlboss?
Absolutely not!!! I’m the most accidental business-owner there is, but I wouldn’t change a thing. The past few years have been a joy, but it certainly hasn’t been without its 90 degree learning curve, mistakes (“learning opportunities”), or sense of being overwhelmed. At the end of the day, I’ve kept my head up because I feel grateful to be at least overwhelmed by something I truly love. But of course, there’s the super satisfying, “I took on the challenge and survived” days too! I take a lot of heart from people around me, and have faith that building Mizuba is possible. Each day is new, with a lot of patience, persistence, and grace.

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If there’s one #Girlboss activity you could get better at, what would it be?
Oh man. So when you start a business, you very quickly realize what you’re good at, and what you’re not good at while juggling say, the potential six careers that your business requires. I’d really like to learn accounting and taxes inside and out, and not just rely on hiring out to do the books. I want to come alongside someone and really understand what I’m hiring them to do.

For women aspiring to run their own company, what advice would you give?

100% be a phone person. You are able to speak to people more directly, and in turn, they must give an answer directly back to you in that moment (in most cases). You’re not just another e-mail that gets lost in the box, or a message that is able to be put off – but rather a real relationship your business clients, colleagues, etc, have to engage with. Be kind. Be gracious. Be responsible. And have fun!!!!

www.mizubatea.com

@MizubaTeaCo // #MizubaMatcha , #MatchaMoment

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