Tea just seems to be one of those subjects that draws people into it, hooks them until they don’t want to do anything else. They end up devoting their lives to the study of the leaf and over the years become true tea veterans.
Awhile back, I wrote about Jane Pettigrew, known in the UK (her home country) and many other countries, including the U.S., for her books and lectures about tea. While looking into her accomplishments, I first heard of a true tea couple: Bruce and Shelley Richardson. They are from the U.S. but approach tea with all the enthusiasm that Brits are famous for.
Shelley is originally from North Carolina. She and Bruce now live in Kentucky. Neither state is known as a bastion of traditional British/European style tea service. Amazing that an area of the country known for its iced “sweet tea” made from Lipton, Luzianne, and other less-than-gourmet teas would boast two of the most acclaimed tea veterans out there.
Their tea adventures included buying the Elmwood Inn, an historic inn in Perryville, Kentucky, in 1990 that had been used as a restaurant for years. They restored it to its historic appearance and ran it as a bed and breakfast, with part of it as their private residence. The key to their enterprise was a tea room, which they weren’t sure would go over too big. Surprise! It became known far and wide. After 14 years, though, both Bruce and Shelley had gotten so busy with writing, taking photographs for, and even publishing a number of best-selling tea books, plus traveling to various events for personal appearances and to help others discover the joys of tea, that they could no longer keep the tea room going. So it was closed.
Small wonder it can be tricky to find a tea room where the personnel know about tea.
Bruce speaks at a wide range of locations, including the Dallas Museum of Art, the St. Regis Hotel in New York City, The Protocol School of Washington, the Pensacola Opera in Florida, TeaTime magazine’s An Occasion for Tea, The Etiquette & Leadership Institute, the Jane Austen Society of Louisville, the World Tea Expo, and radio stations in Kentucky and Pennsylvania.
The books they have written, co-written, done photographs for, etc., include:
- The Book of Tea
- Tea & Etiquette
- Taking Tea With Alice
- Children’s Tea & Etiquette
- The Great Tea Rooms of Britain
- The Great Tea Rooms of America
- A Year of Teas at the Elmwood Inn
- A Tea for All Seasons
- The Tea Table
- The New Tea Companion (co-written with Jane Pettigrew)
In addition, Bruce and Pettigrew put together three city guides to enjoying tea:
Shelley is the creative mind of the team, with a relaxed yet refined style that guided the set up in the Elmwood Inn tea room. She now focuses on the publishing of the books above through the company she and Bruce founded: Benjamin Press.
The Richardsons still procure, blend and sell their own signature line of fine teas, several that became quite popular when their tea room was still open.
Don’t miss a chance to speak with them and/or hear their talks on tea. Their schedule for 2011 is quite full.
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