"America is embracing us" explains Anne Drury-Godden, one half of the creative and entrepreneurial team at South Australian specialty tea business The Devotea.
"There's this idea that the US threw tea drinking overboard at the Boston Tea Party, and that they just drink coffee or iced tea made from tea bags. The truth is that there is a thriving loose leaf tea culture there, and we are engaging every day with enthusiasts across all states."
With seven speaking engagements booked across the US - some sold out - and a book release in Las Vegas locked in for June, the pair intend to do a lot of talking about tea.
Anne explains the decision to launch the book in the US, rather than here in Australia. "Whilst we have a great loyal following here, the American arm of our tea business is really taking off, and so we are going where the interest is."
It started last October with an invitation to Anne's husband and business partner, tea blogger Robert Godden to speak at a couple of events at World Tea Expo 2013 in June this year.
The book entitled "The Infusiast: Diatribes from The Devotea" was bought to fruition over the ensuing six months and will be published by a New York-based consortium
"I'd been writing a book of sorts for a while, so we made a decision to make it all happen at once. " say Robert. "This was easier said than done. The book was rather vague, and the sort of transitory topics that make up a good blog do not translate well to a more permanent medium such as a book."
"We both write for magazines and the like, but the decision was made that I would write and Anne would edit, which was challenging for both of us. I remember 10,000 words being edited out with a single decision".
"We didn't want it to just be reprints of old blogs, and in the final version it is about 90% new material, with a few favourite rants thrown in for good measure".
"It's not a book aimed at people who care about what side of the hill a tea is grown or the difference between brewing at 93 versus 89 degrees. It's the stories where tea is interwoven into people’s lives, from famous historical figures to ordinary tea drinkers. It has recipes, history, looks at different countries that grow tea and pokes fun at some of the geekery, snobbishness and mystique that surrounds tea.
Meanwhile, the pair's tea blends have been a growing source of satisfaction in the US market.
"We started with 8 of our blends available in the US, and have just added a couple more" explains Anne. "The head of our distribution centre in the US very diligently put samples into the teapots of selected, well-respected reviewers, and the reviews have been sensational, which leads to more sales. We expect to announce that a substantial tea subscription service has picked up one of our blends to send to all members in coming months, but we can say no more than that at this stage."
The US events include an invitation to speak to a group of Australian ex-pat women at the Australian Consulate in New York, a keynote address at this year's New York White Tea Event, various events at World Tea Expo, a blending workshop in a fashionable West Harlem Bistro and talking to a society of lovers of all things Victorian and Tea-related in Philadelphia. There's also the book launch on June 6th in Las Vegas and casual appearances at some meetings of tea groups.
"This trip we've been guided by where the invitations have come from" says Anne. "Places like San Francisco, Seattle and Portland might well be on the agenda next time, but for now, we've been so overwhelmed with the interest on the East Coast that it made sense to just say 'yes' to nearly every invite and work out how to cram it all in afterwards."
"What we do know is that on virtually every block in the US there's someone who not only drinks tea, but is happy to have a conversation with us about it."
"Over a cuppa of course."
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Enquiries: Robert Godden via [email protected] or 0433 413 305