Category Archives: loose leaf tea

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The clock is ticking, time is passing quickly, tick tock, tick tock!

Lights, Camera, ACTION!

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After a year of planning, saving, and several trips to Idaho, the Cowgirl Chocolate Company is moving to Pilot Point, Texas in January 2018!
I am so excited to be privileged and honored to be the lucky one to take over for Marilyn Lysohir – founder and owner for the last 20 years, also fondly known as The Head Cowgirl. In 2007, the company was just an idea, a dream, and a love for gourmet chocolates which developed in her youth.


As I have talked with Marilyn over many hours during our training sessions and travels, and we shared many of our stories, and histories, I found we had in common a hidden dream of one day owning a specialty chocolate shop. I have since found, after meeting several of the chocolatiers that work with Marilyn to create her proprietary truffles and bars, that it generally starts that way: a job, a genuine interest, a love of the artistry in working with confections, and then the desire to enter the profession of Candy through retail, wholesale, or master creator – the chocolatier.
My journey started with an interview at a small, family owned, chocolate company in Carlsbad, California, when I was 19 years old. As luck would have it, or should I say, bad luck would have it, I was also a struggling college student and the work schedule offered conflicted with my class schedule and I had to pass on that job. But – I was hooked!
As life often does, my chocolate path took many segues, and after several years, my dream seemed so far from the direction I was heading. I tucked the idea back in my mind as a ‘maybe some day’ hope and dream. But as time continued to pass – it seemed less likely that I would ever realize my chocolate dream.


In 2007, I was bitten by the e-commerce bug and took the plunge into my other passion, Loose Leaf Teas. In 2015, I launched an e-commerce site for International Teas and Antique Tea Ware. I also earned my Tea Specialist Certification and was able to take several training classes offered by some the most renowned tea authorities from all over the world. But, the web site was not fulfilling my wish to have my own little tea house where I could share my tea experiences and introduce my customers to all of the things I had learned. In honesty, the tea culture is ‘an experience’ to be shared with friends, family, and complete strangers we may have just met. The web site was a bit sterile. I needed to add a brick and mortar presence so I could show my customers all the wonderful ways of tea.


I looked and looked, but could not find the perfect place. It was either too small, too big, or too expensive. It looked like I would have to find a way to make the web site work. A storefront wasn’t in the cards….. then, in January of 2017, I was in Moscow, Idaho, visiting a dear friend, and, also looking at commercial storefront space – I was always looking. As luck would have it, I found that the Cowgirl Chocolate Company, had become available for sale. My mind started racing – was it really possible? As a tea store was on my list of ‘to do’s’, was it really possible that a well-known and successful chocolate company was actually for sale and available to me?!
After much soul-searching, prayer, and negotiation — the deal was made, and Marilyn and I began the process of teaching me the in’s and out’s of a successful chocolate business. And, as another piece of the puzzle fell into place, a store space I have been wanting for 10 years in Pilot Point Square – became available in May. I saw it as – destiny. My dream and hopes coming to fruition. All of the pieces falling into place – one right after another!


And now, it is here. Marilyn finished out her Christmas Season. The trucks have been rented, my brother so graciously agreed to help me drive from Idaho to Texas, and I hit the road early next month. The entire enterprise moves over two weeks next month and I will be opening for customers in February 2018!


Excited doesn’t even begin to express the emotion I feel when I think about the future. After 35 years, my own Tea and Sweets Shop featuring the imports and novelties of 9 Lives Tea House and the delicacies of chocolate and confections from Cowgirl Chocolates! What more can you ask for!? We will feature a number of different candy selections – our own and creations from some of the best artisans. We will host tea tastings and offer classes for teas from countries around the world. We will offer gift packages for that special someone, a create your own gift basket package, and we can ship it for you too!

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I have to pinch myself often. It is a wonderful feeling to know that what once was just a dream, can become a reality if we have a little faith and follow the paths and signs set out before us – often in plain sight…. when you least expect it!

Watch for our Formal Announcement! But in the meantime, find your zen and everyone, tip those tea cups!
Judith A. Ames
CEO/COO – 9 Lives Tea House / Soon to be – Head Cowgirl for Cowgirl Chocolates

 

In Praise of the Old!

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As I take over the new building on Main Street, I find myself marveling at the old wood floors, tin ceilings, and most of all – the wonderful smell of ‘age’, ‘history’, and ‘the past’.

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Future Home of 9 Lives Tea House/Cowgirl Chocolates

I grew up with much older parents. My mom and dad were born in the early 20’s and my grandmother in 1880’s. Because I cam along so late, she was the only grandparent I had the opportunity to know. She was one of my best friends. I think we were a lot alike, she and I. She was wise, kind-hearted, and mischievous all rolled into a just under 5 foot tall package. We were definitely kindred spirits.

Antiques were everywhere in our house and as I was able to purchase my own house, the old, recycled furniture became a part of my household collection. There wasn’t one particular style I liked, so it all was a mix and match set. At the time, I owned my first house in New England. A very dangerous place for an antique lover like myself. Many weekends were spent scouring the historical towns and shops for a piece I just had to have.

My aunt and uncle were antique dealers and their house was full of stuff. They ran their business out of an old Victorian home in California. I used to love visiting. The smell of the old furniture was intoxicating – for me anyway. I used to dream – someday, maybe I will have my own antique building, or antique store.

I believe that is what drew me to this building on the Main Street square. The first thing that hits you when you open the door to the loft or the store is the smell of old, aged wood. It never ceases to bring a smile to my face, and a feeling of thankfulness for being the lucky one to be able to have this opportunity to open my first storefront in this building and to be able to live above the business.

However, today, I began to worry – “will this wood aroma affect or permeate my tea?” Quality, loose leaf teas are easily affected by light, moisture, and smells. Or, then I thought, “would my tea possibly affect the aroma of the wood in this building?”

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As with everything that this building has experienced in its’ 140 plus years, I believe the teas will seep into the old wood doors, concrete floors, and tin ceilings. The aromas will compliment each other and create a whole new aroma experience.

That’s what makes this place such a perfect choice for the new store. Between the musty, smoky wood, the fresh tea leaves or the smell of a fresh brewed cup, AND the delicate, gourmet chocolate that will be added with the addition of the Cowgirl Chocolate company, I have a feeling I will find myself having to shoo the customers on their way.

I can’t wait to open the doors to this culinary and aromatic experience. It will be wonderful to see our customers lingering and enjoying all of the product choices.

My vision and plans include creating a true cafe’ experience. I have over 26 tea classes to offer for folks that wish to learn more about loose leaf teas brought in from all over the world. And, because each year brings new flavors, the classes will continuously be anew. The nuances and varieties between countries and tea regions never ceases to amaze me. Like a fine wine, tea is paired with different foods and each influences the flavor and experience of each other.

We should be open early 2018 – there are still so many things to do, but maybe I can sneak in a couple of classes in for anyone that wants to dip their toe in the world of tea. Follow us on Facebook or follow this blog for any announcements. I am so looking forward to sharing what I know with my customers.

Looking forward to meeting you’all. Be sure and stop by to check out the store!

Judith A. Ames – ‘Find Your Zen and Do The Brew’ – everyone, tip those tea cups!

9 Lives Tea House/Cowgirl Chocolates

Main St., Pilot Point, Texas

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My Tea and Sweets Cafe’

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Good things come to those who wait! All in good time….. Sayings that I have ingrained into my existence. I knew when I started my ‘TEA’ experience, there would be hills to climb, obstacles to surpass, and trials and tribulations – so goes life! After all, I was embarking on the adventure of tea –  a tonic that has been around since the Shang Dynasty as a medicinal drink, dating to the 3rd century AD. Drinking tea became popular in Britain during the 17th century. To enter the Tea World – one must pay respect and some dues.

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When I completed my degree from UNT, I was elated, mostly because now, finally – now, I could dedicate my time to my new tea venture – 9 Lives Tea House. The website had been designed and a preliminary launch was accomplished in 2014. E-commerce has been a rough learning curve. The technology expands and adjusts at a lightening pace. I have been ‘technically’ challenged, or technically hesitant, however you wish to look at it. My website – although secure and sound for today’s mobile market, already needs a major upgrade and revision. One I am about to undertake….. all in good time.. lol

My ultimate dream in the tea world was to take 9 Lives to a physical presence – a brick and mortar, where I can offer the tea experience to my clients and share what I have learned about this delightful indulgence. I have tried many times to secure the perfect location to open my tea shop. Every time, there was something in the way; the timing was not right, someone else won the bid, the owner of the ‘perfect’ building decided to sell it instead of lease. I met with frustration at every turn. But, I am not one to give up easily, after all – there was the ‘all in good time’ part of my mantra.

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Well – last week, my opportunity finally came! A building I had been looking at and wishing to acquire for 10 years – became available for lease. An 1800’s building in Old Pilot Point Square, formerly an antique store, will now become my first Tea House. In addition, I am in the process of acquiring a well-established candy business – another long-time dream from my childhood. Words cannot describe how excited, hopeful, and blessed I feel about the opportunity before me.

Though it will take me a bit to get it all set up, I hope to open my new tea and sweets shop early 2018. If I can at all make it happen – perhaps by Christmas Season 2017, but it has taken me this long to get to this point, a few months is not too much longer to wait.

And – with that – my third and fourth mantras:

Patience is a virtue!

and then,

On to the next!

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Watch for my formal announcement and in the meantime, ‘Find Your Zen and Do The Brew’ – everyone, tip those tea cups!

Judith A. Ames

9 Lives Tea House and Candy Shoppe

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The Dangers of Being a Tea Proprietor – Part II

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The yearning is a strong one….. For those of you who share my love of All Things Tea, you will understand the natural desire that comes from the pure enjoyment of Tea. Although I began my tea journey in my teen years, I did not grant myself freedom to consider becoming a Tea Proprietor a possible twilight profession until about 5 years ago. But, being practical, and having enjoyed several professional careers over the years, I did not feel quite ready to launch a Tea business. I decided to return to school while I built my plan, my brand, and my skills. After all, my tea experiences to that point had mostly revolved around grocery store brands and ‘common’ tea varieties and blends.

Having completed the major goals in education with a Behavioral Science Degree and a Doctorate in Metaphysical Studies, I thought I would proceed into the work of counselor or life coach. I took 2 months to unwind. I spent time in self-reflection and review. I traveled and took the time to reconnect with friends I had sadly neglected during my school studies. Most asked me, “So, what is next now that school is done?” To which I would reply, “I’m not really sure?’ I think I will just mediate on it and put it out to the universe for guidance and see where it leads me. (And, yes I really do this frequently. It has served me well through the years.)

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And so the tug-of-war began. My mind began searching for – the logical and practical path for this last career venture. But my heart, my heart began the tug to the tea business. Having launched the e-commerce site a couple of years ago, school prevented my full dedication to running the site. sure, I listed items and I sold some of my most collectables. I also built a dedicate fan base for many of my teas. But, I never could go full throttle. My business plan projected several future paths.

I think for all of us bitten by the tea bug, one goal is to open a true Tea House. A community place for friends and neighbors to gather, talk, and share the wonderful teas we make available. I was bitten by this bug very early on but had to bury it because my educational goals and running a Tea House were in direct conflict. I am capable of multi-tasking, but not quite to that extent. I had several places I have been interested in that I thought would make a great shop but they were owned by other people at the time. But I always kept my eye on them, hoping and wondering what the universe will bring. Then – Bam! I was made aware that one of the places just – suddenly, became for sale! Imagine that!

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I proceeded through the due diligence. Yes, yes – this place would be a great store-front for my tea business! I was so excited – my vision was forming before my eyes! But I was not receiving the message to JUMP! Just do it! It is time! Why was that, I asked myself. Being one to reflect, I decided to step back. I needed to think about it . Explore my gut feelings. “I think I will make some tea and contemplate.”

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In the end, I decided it was just not the right time. My current life is pulling me in many directions right now and I am not sure where these paths will lead. After all, tea culture is one of relaxation, sharing with friends and family, and enjoying the grand tea experience. For those that have been bitten by the Tea bug – you can understand fully the draw and the pull to having your own Tea House. For me, at this time, my e-commerce store fits my lifestyle better than planting myself and putting down roots in one community. There are other towns, cities, and states to explore before making that commitment.

 

But – stay tuned! The universe may redirect me at any time! How exciting that is! Life is such an adventure and one can only hold on for the ride.

In the meantime – brew a cup of tea and relax. All things in good time…..

Judith A. Ames

9 Lives Tea House

The Great State of Texas

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It’s off to the World Tea Expo we go……..

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It’s THAT time of year again! In February, I begin to receive the notices in my inbox that my time is running out! Early registration ends on February 29th (since this is leap year)! Anxiety sets in about the 14th. Can I really afford to attend this year? Having finished my latest degree in December 2015, I am thrilled to be back to my tea venture almost full-time. (There are other ‘clean up’ things I have been putting off for – oh, say, the last three years!)

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I develop great angst knowing that within the next two weeks, I have to decide what I will be doing in JUNE! Really? I have enough trouble deciding what I will be doing next week! Then, in the last week of pre-registration, I begin to receive emails daily! “Your time is running out!” “We will miss you if you don’t register soon!” Then, “Monday is the last day to reserve your spot!”  With each passing day, the pressure builds, until, the one email that really sends me into action – ” You can save $$$$ if you register by the end of today! Last chance!”

This email seems to spring me into action! Of course I want to go. I feel so out of the loop having missed last years Expo. I log into my account and proceed to fill out the registration. Then, wait, why can’t I sign up for my all time favorite Expo experience, The World Tea Tour. Nine whole hours of nothing but tea, tea, tea, then lunch! Then tea, tea, tea and more tea! It’s an absolutely glorious day – for the true addict! The tour experience includes all of the teas of the world, it’s the only time to connect with my all important suppliers! After all, I haven’t seen my friends in two years and certainly there are new varieties that I must add to my shop! After three attempts, I grow very frustrated and pick up the phone to call in my problem.

The folks that handle this Expo are always so nice – but, then again, that is part of the tea culture. She was unable to determine why the Tea Tour was not available on my forms. She tried on her computer and there it was! I tried switching from IE to Firefox and still no luck. Well, she says, then I will just register you from here. And with all of the patience in the world, she filled in all of the details for me. There is one question that asks if this is your first time attending. I said, “No, I have been three times before.” To which she replies, “Yes, I recognize your business name!” For a moment, I contemplate, “Is that a good thing? Or, a bad thing?” I chose to be positive and replied, ” Great! Yes, I have felt I missed so much last year since I was unable to attend”

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Since I was saving so much by pre-registering, I selected two or three additional lectures. I have never been disappointed, the speakers are superb. Upon finishing my registration, I hung up – quite pleased with myself at getting things done nearly at the absolute last-minute! Deciding not to procrastinate further,  I proceed to the airline and hotel sites and booked everything for my trip.

Shortly after, I begin to receive emails from my tea friends and tea suppliers, “Are you coming to the Expo this year?” To which I happily replied, “Absolutely!” It may not have been in the budget, but as my plans for the Tea Shop are expanding this year, I need to re-connect with my vendors and friends. It’s going to be a great adventure! And, this year the Expo falls on my birthday! I cannot think of a better way to celebrate than with my tea addict friends!

World Tea Expo: Las Vegas, Nevada – June 13th – 17th.

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