Residing in Atlanta, Stephanie is the face behind the tea Instagram and blog known as Tea Journal. As an official tea journalist, her account and website spread knowledge about tea practices new and old, reflecting tips and photos from her daily sips and tea-traveling adventures. Stephanie loves all things tea and has spent seven years in the unique, tea-drinking world, traveling extensively and spending time in tea plantations around the globe.
We had the opportunity to talk to Stephanie about her passion for tea, her experience as a tea journalist, and her tea-traveling adventures. Check out the Q&A below!
Harney: When did you first start drinking tea and when did it turn into a passion?
Stephanie: I honestly can't remember when I began drinking tea! It was such a big part of my growing up experience with tea parties on special occasions or any occasion, really. I remember dressing up for a St. Patrick's Day tea at home when I was seven or eight. I have memories of going to a tea house during the holidays with my mom and a friend, drinking apricot tea and snacking on gingersnaps. It was a common thing in our life that gave us a chance to sit down, take a break from the busyness of our schedules, and spend time with family and friends. When I got older and realized that this practice wasn't necessarily common and some of my friends had never experienced tea time or maybe even tasted a good cup of tea, it became a passion of mine to share it with others.
Harney: What are some of your favorite places to travel or favorite places to drink tea?
Stephanie: I absolutely love the UK. I've been able to travel there a few times with school and for pleasure and can never get enough of it. The habit of tea time somehow feels richer in a culture that treasures it and the often-overcast weather makes a hot cup of tea all the more inviting. Every time I've visited I've been able to have tea in a different teahouse or shop, each unique enough but with the common theme of resting and enjoying the company of others. In the States, a cup of tea at my mom's house surrounded by the familiar feeling of home is hard to beat.
Harney: What is your fondest tea memory?
Stephanie: It's so hard to just pick just one but drinking Darjeeling tea in the tea fields of Darjeeling, India was pretty memorable. I was able to travel there a few years ago for work, and while we were visiting a local tea plantation, we were served freshly-processed Darjeeling tea. The tea, processed only a few days prior, coupled with the view of the Himalayan Mountains, made for a pretty unforgettable experience.
Harney: Why did you create Tea Journal and what do you hope others take away from it?
Stephanie: I initially created Tea Journal as a creative outlet for myself, somewhere I could save tea memories and recipes as I collected them. It slowly evolved into a space where I could share these memories and recipes with others as a means of encouraging them to venture into the world of tea. I hope that followers are inspired to taste a new tea, try an interesting recipe, or simply invite a friend or two over to share a pot and talk about life.
Harney: Any top tea tips for beginners?
Don't over complicate it. A beloved mug, a full leaf tea sachet, and some hot water are really all you need to start.
Drink what you like. Don't feel pressured to love matcha or something that feels completely foreign at the get-go. Drink what tastes good or comforts you and branch out from there. Earl Grey or an herbal berry blend are good places to start.
Pay attention to brew time. The difference between a good cup of tea and a bitter mess can be only a minute or two away from each other.
Harney: You experiment a lot with tea recipes on your blog. What are some of your favorites?
Stephanie: I really enjoy making chai at home and have experimented with it a lot over the last few years. My favorites are probably my Classic Chai recipe, which is my go-to, and the Smoky Maple Chai, which incorporates Lapsang Souchong, a smoked black tea.
Harney: What should people generally know about the art of drinking tea?
Stephanie: I feel like the art of drinking tea is just what you make of it. Every culture that has a history with tea has made it into something unique, defining, and different from anyone else. For some, it's a way to quiet yourself and find rest. For others, it's used as the center of social and community activities or purely for the caffeine boost. Each person has the opportunity to make it into what serves them best.
Harney: What are your current favorite types of tea or flavors of Harney & Sons?
Stephanie: I tend to drink more black tea than anything else. For personal sipping, I enjoy Darjeeling tea and malty Assam breakfast tea. For tea time with friends, I like Apricot black or Earl Grey which both hold up well with or without cream and sugar and allow for different drinking styles around the table. I've recently enjoyed Harney and Sons Earl Grey and Paris teas, as well as the Organic Rooibos for the chilly evenings we've been having this season.
Harney: What does tea do for you?
Stephanie: Tea does many different things for me, depending on the day. It's a welcome respite for my husband and me in the evening after our son has gone down for the night. It's an excuse to make dessert and have friends and family over, to catch up on the lives of those close to me or get to know someone new. It's a caffeine and mental boost in the afternoon when there are still many things left to do. It's a way to celebrate milestones or life-changing events. Most often, sitting down to prepare and sip on a cup of tea forces me to slow down for a minute in the midst of the beautiful chaos that is often present during this season of life with a baby, to process all that is changing, and to refocus on the key things that I value most.
Thank you for taking the time to share your tips and tea adventures, Stephanie! To learn more about Stephanie and her tea expertise, check out @teajournal on Instagram. All photography has been provided by Stephanie and her Instagram account.