Years ago, when Art of Tea founder Steve Schwartz visited the Maldives for work, he stayed at a resort surrounded by some of the world’s most wildly beautiful waters, yet everywhere he looked, he saw people staring down at their phones.
“We were in paradise,” he recalls, “and no one was talking to each other.”
For Schwartz, tea is an antidote to our over-stimulated lives. He has three daughters — ages 13, 14 and 17 — so he knows full well what modern-day parenting feels like. He aims to help his kids (and others) be present, mindful souls in a culture that doesn’t lend itself to thoughtful living. Providing opportunities for respite and restoration is what Art of Tea is all about.
Schwartz founded his tea company, headquartered in Monterey Park, in 2004 in the minimal confines of his living room. He had studied Ayurvedic medicine for years, traveled to see, smell and taste the finest hand-harvested tea leaves in the world, then started experimenting with making his own blends at home. His ingredients were so special that his work quickly caught the attention of local hospitality folks. Wolfgang Puck was Schwartz’s first high-profile customer, followed by Vera Wang, The Peninsula Hotels and many more.
“They had faith in me, and they trusted me,” he says. “I was sourcing something authentic that you couldn’t get in a lot of places. And we have stayed true to that.”
Nearly 20 years into the work, Schwartz still loves to geek out about tea. Give him a few minutes and a listening ear, and you’ll get an education on the planet’s oldest beverage (outside of water). First, he might tell you, in the politest way possible, that drinking store-bought bagged tea is comparable to eating only the dust at the bottom of a potato chip bag. He will remind you that true tea comes from one evergreen shrub — camellia sinensis — while tizanes (often called “herbal tea”) are what we’re drinking when we enjoy steeped flowers, herbs and spices. Then, he is sure to share that ingredients in a premium tea blend, including minor amounts of caffeine, polyphenols, flavonoids and catechins, help relax the senses.
“In L.A., we’re surrounded by traffic, people, the hustle and bustle of life,” he says. “Sometimes we just need permission to just chill out a little bit, and tea gets us to that space. I can conversate with my wife and have a good conversation with my kids. Tea gets us into that zone. It cuts the frays of the mind.”
Of course, Schwartz and his family drink and connect over Art of Tea creations. The company sources raw materials directly from the best farms — dried fruit, flowers and tea leaves — and all are rigorously quality tested at his Monterey Park warehouse. There are dozens and dozens of tea options for sale online, from Yunnan black and Meyer lemon to vanilla berry truffle and a seasonal pumpkin pie. What’s stunning about a canister of any loose-leaf Art of Tea product is how visible the ingredients are. In a scoop of white winter chai, I spotted fennel seeds, peppercorns, anise and cinnamon chunks. A scoop of apple pie tea looks like an abstract fall wreath, all oranges and creams with a pop of red from whole pink peppercorns. To top it off, these teas smell as wonderful as they look. Just preparing my sachet was a mindful and multisensory experience — precisely what Schwartz is going for.
“We can make our home a sacred space with tea,” he says. “We’re here for such a short time. What can we do to live the most precious life we possibly can? Being really mindful and having intention with your loved ones is the greatest gift you can give yourself and them.”
Here, Schwartz shares his recipe for a family tea ritual.
Recipe for a Family Tea Ritual
Schwartz, his wife and their three daughters hold a family tea ritual every Saturday morning. It’s a time of mindful togetherness, plus a digital detox, he says. You can replicate this ritual any day, any time, with any kind of tea.
If you try the whole-leaf, handcrafted blends from Art of Tea, preparing your own sachet can be part of your family’s collaborative process. More important than even the tea, Schwartz says, is your presence and focus. We hope this inspires you to create your own ritual with your family.
Step 1: Turn off all screens in your home.
Step 2: Gather as a family and draw your water together, in silence or in conversation.
Step 3: Heat your water in a well-cleaned kettle or pot.
Step 4: Select your tea, perhaps the same for the whole family, perhaps a different tea for each person. (For their ritual, Schwartz’s family usually has Art of Tea’s Egyptian chamomile, or they gently muddle fresh mint leaves then drop them in the teapot before steeping Art of Tea’s Earl Grey creme inside, too.)
Step 5: Sit or stand together and tune into multiple senses as you steep, then sip. Share what you’re smelling and tasting. Share if the tea reminds you of something else.
Step 6: Enjoy these moments of slowness, intention and restoration.
In honor of the season, peruse Art of Tea’s fall and holiday selections here. Don’t miss the dark chocolate peppermint tea, another Schwartz family favorite.