Profiles in Tea: Jennifer Petersen, The Cuppa Countess

I’ve known Jennifer Petersen for many years, and it seems like every time I talk to her she’s involved in some exciting new project. If you ask Jennifer what she does, she’ll tell you simply “I network. I love meeting people and listening to their stories.” Recently I asked Jennifer to tell me her story.

Jennifer Petersen presenting the Special Award Blue Ribbon, and $50 gift certificate from King Arthur Flour, to winner Ron Palmi at Clark County Fair. (Photo source: Jennifer Petersen)
Jennifer Petersen presenting the Special Award Blue Ribbon, and $50 gift certificate from King Arthur Flour, to winner Ron Palmi at Clark County Fair. (Photo source: Jennifer Petersen)

How did you get involved with tea?

I’ve been a tea drinker since about age seven. In 1995, I was at a trade show and attended specialty tea classes to fill in the time. It was an eye-opener. It was kismet. It was Jennifer: meet tea.

Around the same time, I attended a Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) meeting where there was a discussion about two opportunities that become more attractive as a woman ages: tea and etiquette. The theory is that the older a woman becomes, the more respect she gains in these areas.

Through personal experience I’ve become convinced that tea is excellent for one’s health.

What is Tea Trade Mart?

Tea Trade Mart develops businesses through trade shows, mastermind sessions, and speaking engagements. In other words: helping tea companies keep their sales “hot.”

As the food and beverage industry continues to grow, hospitality becomes a major focus: think in terms of customer loyalty and what it takes to keep a customer romance that lasts for years rather than a one-night fling.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to open a tea business?

  • Drink tea, tea, and more tea. Learn to recognize the differences in all sensory aspects.
  • Join Specialty Tea Institute (STI).
  • Be prepared to work harder than ever.
  • Be sure you have a business plan and goals.
  • Ask yourself how much you’ve willing to sacrifice to accomplish your dream. How much time, money, and sleep? How much of your personal opinion?
  • If financing is necessary, which of your private assets will you pledge: Savings? Investments? Your home? And then do not go beyond that point.

What are your responsibilities as a member of the STI governing board?

STI is a wonderful group of people who have no self-promoting aspirations – they merely want to share their knowledge and appreciation of Camellia sinensis. My strengths on the board have more to do with organization, presentation, and socialization than with regaling audiences with stories of visits to countries of origin.

What changes have you seen in the world of tea and what do you predict for the future?

Tea has become more transparent as access to accurate information is more readily available. Changes in growing and buying behaviors translate into more certifications: organic, fair trade, kosher, etc. Smaller U.S. tea companies are being purchased by global conglomerates with larger distribution channels. RTD (ready to drink) has become more important. The mega companies grow, package, and ship their own teas. And of course tea growing experiments have increased in the United States.

Tell us about the scones!

The Amazing Scone Baking Race was created as a publicity vehicle for tea shops. It has been fun, interesting, and successful. People love to bake, they love contests, and they love winning ribbons and being acknowledged for their great recipes.

How about your newest project, lavender?

I’ve sold lavender fresh-picked from the farm, blended tea with it, made jelly with it, planted and grown it. Finally I decided to write a cookbook with lavender as the theme.

How did you get your nickname?

My marketing coach dubbed me the Cuppa Countess, although I am more comfortable in a tea apron than a tiara.

What is your favourite tea, and how do you prefer to steep and drink it?

I love all teas except pu-erh, although I’ll usually grab an oolong first. My favorite teapot is an eight-cup stainless steel Savoy with a wraparound cozy. Although I have plenty of beautiful teacups and saucers, I prefer to drink tea from a mug – I like the way the aroma and steam wrap around my face while I’m sipping.

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