We had the good fortune of connecting with Claire Schlumberger and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Claire, can you share a quote or affirmation with us?
My favorite quote is from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh: “Smile to the cloud in your tea”. Those few words incapsulate all that tea is to me: a product from a specific terroir, reflecting the soil, climate, seasons and the skilled artisans applying ancestral crafts. Each cup of tea contains the five elements of nature and helps us remember to be mindful and enjoy the beauty of nature and life. Drinking tea is a nurturing experience that allows me to slow down and take the time to connect to my senses and to everything around me. Taking the time to share tea with family, friends and coworkers can become a ritual that is a source of joy, relaxation and well-being.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Even though we owe tea drinking to ancient China, its introduction to the Western world came through Europe. My love for tea goes back to my early years growing up in France when I drank mostly black tea and it wasn’t until a trip to Hong Kong that I discovered the rich history of tea, the Gong Fu Cha style of preparing tea and the whole breadth of tea styles. There was no turning back after that point and I went on to complete my tea sommelier education, gain some experience at Teavana and decided to open my own business. Tea is the world’s most consumed beverage after water, but it is not always the highest quality. What I wanted to do differently from other companies was to approach tea with my French epicurean passion for the best ingredients and pleasure of the palate and to source single estate teas from artisanal production as well as blends with only natural ingredients and flavorings. To source the best teas, I enjoy developing relationships directly with the tea farmers so that they can receive a fair price. There is nothing I love more than to visit tea gardens and to meet the people behind my favorite teas. Watching these tea artisans who take pride in their craft and traditions and sharing the local culture makes me better appreciate the unique taste and character of each tea. It also takes you off the beaten path and helps you discover places and people you would have never met as a regular tourist. So far, my trips have taken me to Japan, Korea and Vietnam and I can’t wait to get back on the road! I use my sensorial education as tea sommelier and my experience tasting hundreds of teas to only select teas for my customers that I would drink myself and always try to find organic or natural teas and love to support women tea entrepreneurs. From the beginning of Clair Thé, I have been fortunate to benefit from the support of gifted women and to be able to form a power team! My daughter Fiona has been with me since the early infancy of the company, visiting tea fields across Asia, interpreting at Korean tea festivals, helping me taste and select my tea collection and sharing laughs and tears when I was completely overwhelmed! Grace, my daughter-in-law, went from knowing little about tea to becoming an aficionado who lends her professional graphic design skills to keep improving my website. I feel very supported knowing I can always count on the strength and energy of these women. As an online business with presence at festivals and markets with pop-up tea tastings, COVID has been pretty hard. It is difficult to replace face to face conversations and tea education with social media and marketing, especially with the competition of big companies with large budgets and free shipping. But I trust that quality and exceptional customer service can make a difference. Just like the coffee third wave that has seen a revolution in consumer education and interest for specialty coffee of high quality and craft, I believe that the same will happen with tea.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
There are a few places that I think are quintessential to Atlanta and I take all my visitors there. The SCAD Fash museum is unique and celebrates fashion as a universal language and you get a beautiful view over downtown. For food I take them to Buford Highway and Duluth to experience some authentic Korean and Chinese food with of course a detour to Matcha Café Maiko for a delicious matcha parfait and Family Baking for some Chinese pastries. A stroll along historic Oakland Cemetery with beautiful views of Atlanta is also a must as well as some kayaking down the Chattahoochee River or some biking on the Silver Comet Trail. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I owe my tea knowledge, passion and curiosity to my tea tribe in Toronto. The George Brown College Tea program’s faculty and fellow students as well as my fellow entrepreneurs and members of the tea industry have been a constant source of inspiration and nurturing over the years. You can only learn so much in books, but the treasure of human interactions and field experience is limitless!
Credit for all photos is Clair Thé