Growing up in the South, there’s typically only two types of tea: sweet and unsweet. The very idea that tea comes in any other variety is nothing short of mind-boggling to some. And then there are connoisseurs such as Kimberly Richardson of Memphis, who works to elevate and tantalize the taste buds of others with her own tea blends.
“I order my products from several herb and spice companies, plus I visit international groceries,” Richardson said. “When I get an idea for a blend in my head, I pull out my mental list of ingredients and mix and match until I have a blend that represents what I’m trying to convey.”
Richardson launched her company Viridian Tea with the express purpose of crafting unique, flavorful tea blends that are perfect for intimate moments with friends, or for simply curling up with a good book. This isn’t surprising, considering Richardson is an award-winning author and editor when she isn’t searching for the right ingredients for a cup of tea. She has published three novels, two short story collections, and edited several award winning steampunk science fiction anthologies. Her latest novel Open A was published last September by Dark Oak Press, an independent publisher that specializes in speculative fiction.
Richardson speaks about tea the way some speak about religion — reverent, yet impassioned.
“I honestly don’t know where my love of tea came from; it just happened,” she explained. “However, once it took hold in me, there was no looking back. Several years ago, I attended a matsuri (Japanese for festival) in Phoenix and had a chance to take part in a tea ceremony. That ceremony takes the simple act of having people over for tea and elevates it into something spiritual and calming. I used to be a coffee and tea drinker until April this year – when I said goodbye to coffee, I fully embraced the tea lifestyle and have not looked back.”
On the surface the deceptively simple act of preparing tea seems worlds apart from the single minded ambition and tenacity of writing a novel, but Richardson sees it as merely another facet of her creative output.
“My writing and my tea making are not that far off from each other,” she said. “My mind is always in motion, always creating ideas based on scraps of thoughts or ‘what ifs.” It’s true for both my writing and my tea making.”
Richardson often names her specialized blends after her own literary work and the work of other authors she admires, giving them unique, whimsical names such as Faerie Tea, My Enemy’s Tears, and Goth Librarian (named after Richardson’s first short story collection).
“Now that I’m making teas based on books and stories, the two acts are really overlapping quite nicely,” she said “Lately, I’ve been making blends for authors and their books – that’s been quite nice. It’s really cool to tell people, ‘Hey, you’ve read the book, now drink the tea!’
Richardson, a frequent guest of honor at science fiction and fantasy conventions around the country, is constantly on the lookout for new venues to promote not only her literary work, but also her tea company.
“It’s funny – people are now remembering me more as the Tea Empress than the author. It’s cool, though. I’m just glad they are enjoying my tea blends,” she said. “I also sell my blends at Tubby and Coo’s Mid City Bookshop in New Orleans; Little Shop of Horror in Durham, North Carolina; Fantom Art Gallery in Memphis and The Book Juggler in Memphis.”
Ultimately, the two great passions of Richardson’s existence are really about the quiet moments in life. In a time where most of us are only the tap on an app away from both the frivolities and horrors of the wider world, it’s no small thing to have a bit of calm amidst the storm. Simple things, like a good book or the perfect cup of tea, can do a person a world of good.
Richardson’s teas can be found at etsy.com/shop/ViridianTeaCompany, while her books can be purchased at darkoakpress.com. (Warning: the combination of both book and tea will result in a tranquil evening at home.)