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A Journey of Water

October 27, 2021

 

WELCOME TO THE ARCHIVES

A digital dossier of all things camellia sinensis and beyond

 

ISSUE NO. 01 : a journey of water

 

Bellocq Tea Atelier was born out of great admiration and wonder. A deeply-rooted expedition to discover, learn, and create alongside this sumptuous and cardinal plant. Tea is oftentimes depicted as solely esoteric, missing the curiosity that is essential to creating a connection with this historic plant. From leaf to cup, each plucking’s experience is entirely different and a necessary lesson in refinement and patience. While creating this curiosity-driven journal, we were constantly drawn to the sentiment that tea is essentially a journey of water. A series of transfusions with the eventual goal of producing a pleasurable and exploratory cup. Join us in the exposition of curiosity, the related terroir-based pedagogy, and the discovering the vast uses of tea, and its accompanying parts, in our everyday lives.


EXPLORE

wanderlust

 

Each leaf, brass candle, herb or hand-thrown chawan is linked in collaboration to a global network of artisans. This journal will highlight these creators and examine the artistic process and intention behind each product. We hope to shed some light on commonly asked questions like: Where is your Lapsang Souchong grown? What the heck is up with the Fireside Chai? Who creates your glassware? What was the inspiration behind the iced tea collection? This journal creates a unique opportunity for coaction and curiosity; a curated meeting place of wonder.

EDUCATION

tea culture

 

Tea and its surrounding components are in constant flux. This perpetual weaving of tradition, history and innovation is where we find opportunity for scholarship. If you have ever found yourself speculative about brewing methods or what TGFOP means when associated with a tea type, we welcome your questions and encourage you to explore the vast and occasionally feral leanings of our collection. As humans, we are in a phase of aspiring metamorphosis - tea is the symbiotic epicenter for development and introspection. Tea is the binding agent of our collective value systems. Let’s explore together.

EPICURE

recipes & pairings

                                                        recipes & pairings

 

Tea is a natural companion to recipe and menu curation. It has the defined ability to reveal otherwise hushed tasting notes within a dish, blend seamlessly with a cocktail or elevate one’s overall dining experience. Discover nuances of flavor and technique through the clever use of tea. We will delve into tea and food pairings and alike infused recipes. Each humbly luxurious while remaining grounded for the ease of home-base implementation or restaurant-paced functionality.


Neue Galerie Gift Guide - Bellocq

December 21, 2018

"The Neue Galerie Design Shop is committed to providing the finest design icons ranging in style from the Biedermeier to Vienna 1900 to the Bauhaus, while also presenting contemporary designers who capture this innovative spirit."
Renée Price
Director, Neue Galerie New York

Bellocq Tea Atelier for Neue Galerie
Alpine Dream Tea

An artisan, hand-crafted blend inspired by the alpine meadows of Tyrol.  Wild harvested herbs include balsam fir, sweet fern, green alder and arctic rose, as well as organic chamomile, mint, ginger and currant.  Bellocq Yellow Traveler Caddy 


Happy Valentine's Day!

February 13, 2015

A hibiscus and spice-infused love potion to keep you warm this weekend!

Happy Valentine's Day to you! xx

Corazon Hot Toddy
Makes 6 servings

2 cups water
3 tablespoons Bellocq ‘ Corazon de Cien Fuegos’ loose leaf tea
2 tablespoons Fragrant Orange Sugar (Recipe Below)
7 drops Orange Bitters (optional)
Cinnamon Sticks, for garnish
Thick Strips of Orange and Lemon Peel, for garnish

1. Bring water to a boil. Add Corazon de Cien Fuegos tea. Brew 7-10 minutes. Strain. Add sugar; stir until dissolved. Garnish with Cinnamon sticks and citrus peel. (Particularly good with a splash of aged rum too!)

Fragrant Orange Sugar
Makes 1 cup

1 cup granulated sugar
The zest of 1 organic orange, zested finely on a microplane.

1. Combine sugar and orange zest in a small bowl, blending well with your hands until incorporated.

 


BELLOCQ ATELIER CANDLES - Early 2015!

August 17, 2014

Bellocq Candles to be Introduced this week at the NYNOW 2014 Gift Show!

Available in six beautiful scents and presented in exquisite hand crafted solid brass vessels. After three years of development we are very pleased to share these gorgeous pieces with our cherished clients. Shipping February 2015! 

Visit Bellocq Tea Atelier at the 2014 NYNow Gift Show! You will find us in Booth #3846 within the "Accent On Design" section!

We will be sharing a full selection on teas and accessories for our wholesale clients! Love to see you!

xoxo Bellocq 

 

BELLOCQ CANDLE SCENTS

 No.12, Le Hammeau

(Lemongrass, Sweet Orange, Chamomile & May Rose) 

No.29, White Nixon

(White Peony Tea, Grapefruit Peel, & Lavender)

No.38, Majorelle Mint

(Freshly Torn Mint, Gunpowder Green Tea & Moroccan Cedar)

No.45, The White Wolf 

(Vintage Saddle Leather,  Dried Hay,  Snow & Cedar)

No.47, The Queen’s Guard 

(English Heirloom Roses,  Lavender,  Rose Geranium & Ceylon Tea)

No.54, Gypsy caravan 

(Saddle Leather,  Campfire,  Black Tea & Wild Flower Honey)

 

Wholesale Client Inquiries: Please Email - Inquiries@Bellocq.com

xoxo


Bellocq Fruit Tart with Chamomile Cream

July 23, 2014

Bellocq is pleased to share this delightful fruit tart with chamomile cream! This will be a wonderful dessert for your next gathering! Have a wonderful event!

The chamomile cream also makes a delicious filling for cream puffs (pate a choux) or shortcakes!

Serves 6 / Makes one 9 1/2-inch tart or six 4-inch tartlets.

For the Dough:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

5 tablespoons sugar

pinch of salt

2 sticks  cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten

4 tablespoons iced water, or as needed

 

For the Chamomile Cream:

1 cup (236 ml) whole milk

2 tablespoons fresh or dried chamomile blossoms

3 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

pinch of salt

2 large egg yolks

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup cold heavy cream

 

To Finish the Tart:

2-3 cups assorted seasonal berries such as strands of red and white currant berries, apricots, red and golden raspberries, blackberries, blueberries 

fresh chamomile blossoms, for garnish

Prepare the Dough: Mix together flour, sugar and salt in a food processor.  Add butter and pulse a few times to combine.  With motor running, add egg yolk and ice water until combined.  Gather dough into a ball, knead once or twice, and wrap with plastic wrap. Flatten into a circle; refrigerate 1 hour.

Prepare the Chamomile Cream:  In a small pan, heat milk to a low simmer.  Remove from heat, add chamomile blossoms, cover and set aside, 30 minutes.  Strain milk into a clean saucepan; discard chamomile.  Whisk in sugar, flour, salt, egg yolks and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 5 minutes.  Whisk in vanilla.  Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate with plastic wrap directly on surface until cold, about an hour. 

Whip heavy cream to form stiff peaks and gently fold in cooled chamomile cream.

Finish the Tart: Preheat oven to 375ºF.  Roll dough on a lightly floured surface 1/4-inch thick.  Transfer to a 9-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom.  Trim dough and refrigerate until cold, about 20 minutes.  Blind bake the tart: prick dough all over with a fork, line with parchment paper, and fill with baking weights or dried beans.  Bake 15 minutes.  Remove parchment and baking weights and continue baking until tart shell is golden, about 18-20 minutes more.  Set aside until cool.  Fill cooled tart shell with Chamomile Cream; arrange fruit on top. Refrigerate 30 minutes or until ready to serve.  Garnish with chamomile blossoms.


Parcel by Post: The Ballad of Cup and Saucer (Love this Video!)

November 20, 2013

We hope you will take a moment to enjoy this short stop motion animation about a surprise parcel by post and its contents as they engage in an inspiring and magical afternoon of tea and hijinks!  xoxo @Bellocq

Animation by Burcu Avsar & Helen Quinn
DIT & Editing by Travis Drennen
Music by Clara Kennedy
Produced by Bellocq Tea Atelier: Heidi Johannsen Stewart & Michael Shannon
Tea party at Bellocq Tea Atelier: www.Bellocq.com

 

 

 


HARRODS of London Welcomes Bellocq Tea Atelier

November 06, 2013

Three years ago we departed from our first and greatly beloved tea atelier in London. At the time our hearts were filled with a mixture of excitement and uneasiness. We were uneasy about leaving Bellocq's first home, our many friends and clients. We were also excited to build our future home and headquarters in Brooklyn. As we departed we made ourselves and our wonderful clients a promise. We promised to find a extraordinary new home for Bellocq's teas in Great Britain.

 On that note: we are absolutely delighted to have found a perfect new home for Bellocq in London! Thank you Harrods! We couldn't dream of a finer location!

Bellocq teas are now available in Harrods legendary Tea & Coffee Hall!

We highly suggest you pay Harrods a visit. The experience is exquisite!

Enjoy!   xoxo Bellocq


Steven Alan - BELLOCQ TEA ATELIER

September 06, 2013

We recently had the pleasure of visiting Heidi Johannsen Stewart and Michael Shannon of Bellocq at their tea atelier in Greenpoint. While we sampled a variety of their unique, handcrafted blends, the duo spoke with us about their love of tea, travels, and inspiration.

 

How did you discover your mutual interest in tea?
Heidi: We were both very passionate tea drinkers and we would go traveling and bring back teas for each other. We were perpetually bringing suitcases full of tea back and sharing it with each other along with other delicious and beautiful discoveries. We had always appreciated a very similar aesthetic or point of view, so there’s a common ground there. It was just our little thing that we did. We worked in very different areas but we always connected on tea. In fact, it’s funny – our very first conversation was about tea. Many years ago, in the little kitchen at Martha Stewart, when we both worked there. I was making some mint tea and Michael commented about how he couldn’t drink mint tea anymore. His family on his father’s side is Syrian and Lebanese, and he had had so much of it in his life. We had a laugh about that and discovered this wonderful shared passion for tea.

Michael: I actually don’t remember saying all that but our first conversation was definitely about tea!

 

What made you decide to start a business together?
Heidi: We always talked about doing something together. We weren’t quite sure what, but as we talked about it more and more, it seemed like tea was a venue for us in which we could materialize all sorts of interesting fantasies we had, things we wanted to create, and it opens up a world for us. It’s a world that allows for some mystery, and allows us to realize all these things in our imagination. There are lots of lovely tea brands around the world and at one point we thought maybe we would import, but then we thought, with all our backgrounds, what are we doing? My background in food and food styling gave me insight into all these different flavors, and Michael’s background in product design went into the packaging, Between my palate and Michael’s experience in product design, and my husband, Scott, who’s also a partner and works in the interior design world, we thought maybe with our skill set we should do the entire thing.

 

Where does the name come from?
Heidi: Well, it’s funny – of course there’s the photographer [E.J. Bellocq], whose work from the turn of the last century in New Orleans we admired, but it’s not an homage by any means. To be perfectly honest, we came up with many, many names and we both came with lists with hundreds of words. Strangely, Bellocq was on both. What we love about his work is that it was unconventional and he found beauty where people didn’t often see it. I had a book on Bellocq that was on my shelf for years, and I would always pass it and think that visually, it was a lovely word, so it’s a combination.

 

Your first shop was in London. What brought you out there, and then back?
Michael: Heidi’s husband Scott is also a partner, and he works in the interiors world. He was working out there on a project and told us about a beautiful space in the King’s Road for a pop-up shop. Heidi and I were still working out of her kitchen, tasting and selecting teas, and we were looking at real estate. When he called, I was in Williamsburg on Wythe, which of course is now very busy, but at that time it was pretty empty. I was having a grilled cheese and he called from London and told us to stop looking. We had to be open in two or three weeks. When we got there we had ten days to set up. We did it. It was a three moth lease and we asked to stay .They let us have it for the year. When we were in London, we shipped all of our teas directly there and were blending the teas in the shop. We weren’t doing wholesale then. When we came back we started doing wholesale, and we’re now in about 150 different stores. The whole business changed by the time we came back and it was hard for us to imagine getting back to London, even though everything was in storage and we really wanted to reopen.  We do a lot in Japan, which has been really great for us. There are two little shop counters that we went and set up and designed in Tokyo and Kobe.

 

How did you come to choose this spot specifically. Were you always interested in this area?
Michael: No, we were interested in a place that was easy for all of us to get to, and we were really looking for a factory, not a retail store, which is why we’re on this funny street. This is where all of the tea comes in, where it’s stored, blended, packaged – everything. It had all that we needed. We took the space, divided it all up, and put the walls up. We made the showroom for our clients to come in, and it started getting press. People started asking if they could see it, and if we were a store, and we thought, well, we CAN be a store. We’re only open on weekends because things are busy during the week. Now that Greenpoint has become such a popular location we’re getting more and more customers. Ovenly, River Sticks, Achilles Heel from the Marlowe and Sons team, and the park opened up, so that’s helped a lot. We’ve been open on weekends for more than two years now and in the first year, it was mostly tourists who had read about us – people that you would never expect to see here. They’d read about it and come, but we never got local people. It wasn’t strange to see Martha Stewart show up, but it was strange to see the neighbors come in. They’re always surprised to come across it.

 

What do you love most about creating your unique blends, and what is it like to watch others experience them for the first time?
Heidi: Tea is wonderful. It can be a bit mysterious, a bit exotic, a bit comforting. All of our teas are interesting because the blends are stories. They start to take on their own world. With each of our blends, the story keeps developing, so it’s a funny thing – they’re little stories, and we like that. They become not just teas, but they really have their characters in this world we have here. It’s a creative outlet.

One of our favorite parts of having clients come in and sharing our teas with people face to face is that scent memory is so strong. We’ve had people come in and cry because an aroma reminds them of things and brings back memories. It touches them deeply in an emotional way. It can also be uplifting, or elicit any number of reactions. We’re very interested in that aspect of it. It’s for everyone. It brings evderyone together, and everyone has a response. We like that so much, and it’s very important to us.

 

Being in an urban environment, having tea is a great way to carve out a quiet little moment because it forces you to slow down for a bit. There’s a ritual to it.
Heidi: It’s not on the go. It’s definitely nice to sit down and just focus. It’s really helpful. Again with the scent and flavor, if you pay attention to it, it helps bring you together and center you a bit. Life is very busy these days, and I think for me personally, it’s helpful just to have a moment for myself. It helps me regroup, and I like that about tea.

 

We noticed you even have a children’s tea.
Heidi: Yes, Little Dickens. I have little ones and they like tea, and when my son was four, he helped develop that tea. We worked together to talk about what’s delicious, and the things we like to taste and smell. We would do a little blending and taste untl we came up with that. It worked out quite nicely – we love that tea. It’s an interesting tea because our clientele is very broad but we get some very serious tea drinkers – for lack of a better term, tea nerds – but they love that tea. It’s entirely disarming and very soothing. I always find that to be very interesting.

 

You’ve traveled a lot in your careers, and some of the ingredients for your teas are sourced from far flung places. It’s obvious travel plays a big role in your work. What are some places that really inspire you?
Heidi: We love discovery and exploration, and we bring that here as well. Flavor and scent are a wonderful place for discovery, and travel, by way of the senses. Michael and I were just in Japan. We were in Kyoto and turning every corner, something would smell so interesting, whether it was flowers, or incense – it was so overwhelming for us.  We were experiencing new color palettes, sounds, scents, flavors and customs. It shakes you and keeps opening you up. That’s really important to us. I love when you’re traveling and you smell something you haven’t smelled before. It opens up your perspective. When you’re confronted with a new scent that’s not part of your culture, you don’t have scent memory for it – I love that! It’s so exhilarating and fascinating.

Michael: Kyoto, of course. We have great memories of Mexico too.  Heidi and I don’t often travel together. We often have to travel individually just because there’s so much to do. She’s going back to Japan in the fall and I’ll go to India. I love working in India. There’s also a place called Anji in China, where there are bamboo forests. As you drive up you see tea fields everywhere and when you get to the top, it starts turning into bamboo forest.

 

When you’re sourcing your teas, what specifically are you looking for?
Heidi: We go through a very rigorous process with our sourcing. We travel to Asia annually, but cannot visit each garden every season as we source from various provinces in China, Taiwan, Japan, and India – it’s impossible for us to do that. We have great relationships with various gardens, so for instance if we are trying to find a white Chinese tea like white peony, we will taste many and keep going until we find one that captures the flavor profile that we desire. The quality has to be there. All of our teas are full leaf, so we don’t use broken leaves. Full leaf is the entire leaf or just the bud. We are using just the first two leaves and the bud. All of our teas are high elevation. Some of the mass produced teas are grown at lower elevations so they produce very quickly, so they have many harvest. For teas grown at higher elevations, the growth is slower. Slow growth produces a finer quality leaf; the nuance of the flavor is much more profound. You want the plant to work, and that can produce a finer product, in the same way grape vines that have to work harder have the potential to produce a finer wine. The processing is considered as well; an excellent tea master is essential. We source the finest teas we can procure and don’t use the fannings or the dust (broken bits). Sourcing is what we spend a great deal of our time on. We’re very dedicated to that aspect of it (and also highly caffeinated after these trials).

 

Michael: Definitely high elevation, single estate. We see them like wines, and you can do that with teas, more so than with coffee, because teas can hit about 70-80% of your taste buds. You can describe teas in the same ways you can describe wines. We try to offer the teas with descriptions in that manner without getting too lofty. A lot of times in the tea world, people will describe something like, “the taste of fresh bamboo!” No one knows what that tastes like. We want it to be accessible. One of the reasons we started this company was to make high level teas and luxury level blends that were accessible and not elite. It works as long as there’s a lot of education around it, so when people come into the atelier, we talk to them a lot about what we do and we try to make them as comfortable as possible because the tea world is so vast and so hard to understand if you don’t know it.

 

We love tea and consider ourselves avid tea drinkers, but when we walked in here, we didn’t know where to start.
Michael: Exactly. If a client comes in and doesn’t know a lot about tea or seems intimidated, we first start talking about how green teas, white teas, black teas all come from the same plant. We really start at the basic level so that people understand what they’re dealing with, and the difference between teas and herbals. Also, just the fact that someone might say, “Oh, I’ve had a Dragonwell before,” but that’s like saying you’ve had a Cabernet. There are so many different qualities, depending on what region it’s from. We’ll taste 20 or 30 to get one we like, so our gardens are not the same every year. It’s agriculture, People forget that. Things change with weather, with process, the tea master, etc. Anything can happen. When you’re dealing with this sort of thing, you need to taste a lot of teas. Most tea companies are like factories where all of them will bring their style of tea (each region has it’s own style. You could have 30 different gardens who bring their tea from this one area and they drop off their teas, and the companies will blend all of those to make one consistent flavor and sell it on the lower level market. When we say single estate, it’s like going directly to a farmer and not going to the supermarket, where everyone’s carrots are mixed up.

 

Your blends are really unique, and we always get a great response when we give your teas as gifts. What’s different about the way you craft your blends?
Heidi: All of our teas are proprietary. We’ve created all of the blends, and they’re unique to Bellocq. The Earl Grey of course is Earl Grey, however, what makes our tea different is that we use full leaf, high elevation, and a very, very fine base leaf, which other companies will not do (they use the fannings). They’ll use them as a vehicle for flavoring, whereas we take into account the leaf and its flavor profile. Then we blend, and we blend with only natural oils. Other companies will use flavoring. So for the Earl, we use only natural, Sicilian Bergamot, and the pure extract from that. We don’t use a synthetic flavoring. That’s why it’s not a perfumey bergamot. There’s an essence of fragrance but it’s not a flavoring. You detect the sharpness of the bergamot and its facets in the scent and the flavor.

All of our teas are hand blended and in small batches which helps with quality control and making sure each batch is as it should be. A lot of tea companies get their blends from large conglomerates that are located in Europe, which is why you might wonder why one specific tea tastes a lot like a tea from another company – they just private label.

 

Can you tell us a bit about some of the teas we carry in our Home Shop?
Heidi: For the Majorelle Mint, we use Chinese gunpowder green, which is lovely. The leaves are tightly rolled and  have a very ashy profile, so they unfurl as they brew. We blended that and added a bit of sweet orange to it because we thought it would lift the entire blend . . . and then we kept thinking about that image of Yves Saint Laurent in his kaftan! We also drink the Siam Basil Lemongrass constantly. You can make a really delicious simple syrup with that I use in cocktails, and I cook with it. I poach chicken breasts in it. It also makes a very good iced tea.

 

What’s the key to brewing a perfect cup of tea?
Heidi: For brewing regular tea, the rule I use is one teaspoon per eight ounces of water, then brew according to instructions. A delicate green tea is going to want maybe 1-2 minutes, but a black tea might be 4-6. Some of our white teas want more than that. They can go up to eight minutes.

For iced tea, I usually do about two teaspoons per eight ounces of water. I want the brew a little stronger because when it’s cold, the flavor constricts. For something like the Majorelle Mint, I will brew it hot, then let it come to room temperature on the counter. Then I put it in the refrigerator. Iced tea will get cloudy if you put it hot into the cold.

 

When is it time to throw out a tea? Is there a suggested expiration date?
Michael: Everyone has got tea in the back of their cupboard that you don’t want to throw out because there’s something sentimental about it, and they don’t drink it but they keep it. It’s like spices. We recommend, as long as you keep your tea out of light and sealed, we recommend that from the time you buy it, it’s at its absolute best from the first 3-6 months.  After that it can still be good, but it’s not going to be its best. Certain teas, like Earl Grey, can dissipate quite quickly.

 

Any upcoming projects you’re especially excited about?
Michael: We’ll be doing more housewares – textiles, glassware, ceramics, and a candle line. We always thought we were going to do more in that world, but we had to secure the tea line first because there’s so many moving parts in it, and there’s so much sourcing, so we thought we’d just focus on that for a few years before launching other things. We also painted ourselves into a corner with the level of quality and the style that we love so much that it’s very difficult to get that sort of refined product we want and get it right. We go to places in the same way we go to source teas, from the places where they’ve always been made, in a certain way. It’s the same with materials. We work with a lot of local cooperatives, and I love that we can still work with small groups of craftspeople. It takes a long time to get to those people.

Many thanks to Heidi and Michael for having us over and for sharing their tea with us! You can find select Bellocq blends at our Home Shop.

Link to original article:   www.StevenAlan.com

Thank you Steven Alan!


Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Le Hammeau-Poached Apricots

July 28, 2013

Serves 6. 

Serve with small butter cookies or langue du chat. 

Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Le Hammeau-Poached Apricots

 

1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 1/2 cup buttermilk

   1/2 vanilla bean, halved, scraped out with tip of knife, reserved

6 tablespoons sugar

very small pinch salt

Le Hammeau-Poached Apricots (recipe below)

Chamomile flowers, garnish  

1. To prepare the panna cotta: Put gelatin in a small bowl with 2 tablespoons water; let soften 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a heavy-bottomed pot, bring cream, sugar, vanilla bean, and salt to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved.  Remove from heat and add buttermilk and gelatin, whisking until completely dissolved.  Transfer mixture to a spouted measuring cup, then divide mixture between 6 serving dishes or ramekins.  Refrigerate until cold and firm, about 3 hours, or overnight.

3. To serve: add 3-4 slices of poached apricots and a few tablespoons of poaching liquid to each pannacotta. Garnish with chamomile flowers, if desired. ( To serve the panna cotta out of the mold, simply run a paring knife around the interior edge of the ramekin or dish. Invert the ramekin onto a serving plate and then, holding the ramekin to the plate, give a firm "shake",  the panna cotta will release onto the plate. Proceed as above.)

 

Le Hammeau-Poached Apricots

Serves 6

 

4 cups spring or filtered water

1 1/2   cups sugar

1/4 cup Bellocq - No.12 Le Hammeau tea

6-8 smallish apricots, quartered 

1. In a heavy bottom pot, bring water and sugar to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved.  Add the tea, cover, and steep 10 minutes.  Strain into a clean saucepan.  

2. Add the sliced apricots and poach, over low heat, until apricots are slightly softened, about 5 minutes.  Let apricots cool in poaching liquid. (And store in poaching liquid if preparing ahead.)

The remaining poaching liquid can be used to sweeten iced tea or cocktails!

Enjoy! xoxo


The Brander - Bellocq: The Tea Artisans

June 05, 2013

Michael Shannon and Heidi Johannsen Stewart have been friends for years and share the same sense of style as well as a great passion for tea. At Bellocq Tea Atelier, located in the industrial neighborhood of Greenpoint in Brooklyn, they have created a magical world to display their exceptional teas with otherworldly romantic appeal.

But for the raw exterior of the erstwhile pencil factory by the East River creating a rough urban backdrop, you could almost think you had stumbled into a fairytale. Rustic furniture made from recycled wood, venetian-style stucco walls, draped fabrics, hanging mosses and ferns. All staged in a Rembrandtesque chiaroscuro setting. Aubergine-colored walls set off the yellow tea containers displayed on the shelves. Heidi Johannsen Stewart stands at the counter, expertly preparing thimble-sized teacups. She appears as ethereal as the delicate glass cups she is handling. Bellocq co-founder Michael Shannon is clearly more of a dervish, as he whirls around the tea atelier energetically. Soon we are seated on faded rose-colored velvet cushions in the corner of the tasting room and sipping "Pu-Erh", a specially fermented tea from the Chinese province of Yunnan. It has a strong, earthy taste. Heidi Johannsen Stewart crumbles a dark, flat cake – "Pu-Erh is steamed before it is formed into this shape" – on the coffee table. "This room was inspired by a classic Arabic home, where you have these sofas facing each other and people are reading poetry and are drinking tea," says Michael Shannon while inhaling the aroma rising from the steaming cup of freshly brewed Pu-Erh. "It is a place to relax and enjoy. It is absolutely non-commercial. There is nothing for sale here."

You need to see the product on the shelf, and it looks beautiful. You need to hold it in your hands and it feels beautiful, and then it needs to smell good and taste good. It has to make you feel good. Then we have done what we set out to do. If any of this fails along the way, it would not be successful.

The founders of Bellocq met while they were working together at Martha Stewart’s lifestyle and media buisness: Heidi as a food editor, food stylist and recipe creator for Martha Stewart Living, and Michael as a product designer for the company. "We were always traveling around the world and were buying tea for each other," Michael explains. This little ritual ignited the idea for the business, and when Heidi's husband, interior designer Scott Stewart, who designed the London store for the US retail chain "Anthropologie", told them that a space was temporarily available on King's Road, they seized the opportunity. "So we opened a tea store in London," Michael Shannon says, as if this bold venture miles away from home were the most natural thing in the world. "Which was not how it felt at all," he says dispelling our suspicions immediately. "It felt pretty scary to start with." But the tea aficionados decided that this was their chance to take on the niche for teas that couldn’t be found elsewhere. Full leave teas at the top of the market with all natural high-level ingredients. They knew that regular tea brands in stores are managed by large companies interested mainly in selling large quantities – who then package their teas more or less attractively, depending on the buyer. Bellocq aimed to be different: an artisan enterprise that offers complete solutions for the entire production chain, starting with purchasing, on to formulating tea blends and packaging, up to the décor in the store. The pop-up store in London gave the young entrepreneurs an opportunity to develop and establish their brand, despite not having a detailed master plan. "London was a spontaneous decision." The business evolved organically from there," says Heidi Johannsen Stewart.

Our range doesn't offer a selection of Darjeelings or Earl Greys. We only carry one of these types of tea: the best one we could find.

Small bowls with dried leaves are arranged before us. Plain, unadulterated, whole-leaf black teas. White and green teas. Oolongs. The Bellocq blends come with beguiling names such as "Kikuya", "The White Wolf", "The Queen's Guard" or "L'Etoile de l'Inde." We see yellow chamomile heads, pink rosebuds and blue cornflowers, and discern the scent of lemon grass, cardamom pods, peppermint, lavender, sage and ginger. Fantasies and memories have flowed into these tea blends. "Le Hammeau" for example is meant to evoke a stroll through a wild flower field. "With the sun shining through, warm and soft, making you feel light-hearted, but grounded at the same time," Heidi Johannsen Stewart recites while pouring the dark-gold infusion into the diminutive cups. The blends are created intuitively, much in the way of a master perfumer whose nose instinctively knows which fragrances will work together. Sometimes the process is very fast, sometimes it takes a couple of weeks. As intuitively as the Bellocq style itself develops, with one thing leading to another. The shop's interior furnishing was constructed out of recycled timber from the salvage yard. by the style and tea experts themselves. The choice to paint the walls a dark aubergine was another harmonious decision. "As soon as Scott mixed the color, we both instantly knew that the labels for the tea caddies had to be yellow." They named their company after photographer Ernest J. Bellocq from New Orleans, who in 1912 published style-setting nude portraits of prostitutes from the red-light district Storyville. "We both like the beauty of his images very much," Heidi Johannsen Stewart explains. Though probably of equal importance is the fact that the letters of the name are visually pleasing. All the same, the name "Bellocq Tea Atelier" is only featured in a minute font at the bottom edge of the label. With understated charm, it seems more a recommendation for style and quality. "If you buy a product, you take possession of it. It belongs to you and becomes something very personal. That's the sensation we want to convey."

We’re very much tea people, but we’re also about lifestyle. We want to open the experience up to everybody. We try to take all the snobbery out of tea.

After a year in London, the pop-up tea store pulled up stakes and moved into the former pencil factory in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. It has limited opening hours for a private clientele only. Coinciding with their move, the Bellocq founders began concentrating on wholesaling; in the meantime, Bellocq tea blends are available in selected stores in the US, Japan, Mexico, Canada, China and England. A new client segment has developed made up of restaurants seeking to build up a new gastronomical experience based on tea. "The same way it happened for coffee with small-scale roasting plants and specially trained baristas. Now the time has come to create the same appreciation for tea," Michael Shannon says with conviction. "There are so many other exciting things that can be done with tea. Tea parties, tea cocktails, or even cooking with tea."



Heidi Johannsen Stewart and Michael Shannon look on Bellocq as a self-propelling vehicle taking them on a journey with an open end. "We want to evolve, explore new possibilities and experiment with them," says Heidi Johannsen Stewart. They now started working with glass and ceramics to create tea services. But that is just the beginning. Where the journey will lead doesn't concern either of them overly much. As long as it remains just as spontaneous as the decision to take on the adventure in London. They have just one proviso: "Bellocq should always retain a dash of mystique for us and our clients."

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