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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."

Thank you !    www.theBrander.com


Bellocq's Hibiscus-Ginger Tea Warmer - DesignSponge.com

January 29, 2013

It may have taken until the end of January, but winter has finally hit NYC. The Bellocq tea shop is just around the corner from the Design*Sponge office in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, but it was cold enough on Wednesday that Max and I were completely bundled up (there may have been some shrieking when the wind hit our faces) and ready for some hot tea. Since I’ve given up coffee, Bellocq has quickly become my favorite spot to visit. (See our tea shop tour here.) I’m always learning about a new way to use tea. (On my last visit, founder Heidi Johannsen Stewart taught me to add a little lapsang souchong to soup when it needs extra body.) So when we were looking for a drink that was warm and alcohol-free, we turned to Heidi. Heidi is absolutely passionate about tea, and she came up with a delicious tea recipe that is a little fancier than just dunking a tea bag in hot water. — Amy Azzarito


Bellocq Hibiscus-Ginger Warmer 
Makes two 8-ounce drinks

Hibiscus is wonderfully refreshing and tart (and caffeine-free). The extra boost of vitamin C helps to bolster the immune system against the onslaught of winter colds and flus.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 3/4 cups water
  • 4 inches fresh ginger, chopped
  • peel of 1 clementine
  • 3 tablespoons Bellocq hibiscus tea
  • rosewater, to taste

Preparation

1. Put the sugar and 3/4 cup water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Add the ginger and clementine peel and remove from heat. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes. (The ginger-clementine simple syrup may be prepared up to a week ahead of time and stored in an airtight container.)

2. Bring the remaining 2 cups of water to a boil, add hibiscus tea and steep for 6 to 10 minutes. Strain the hibiscus and discard.

3. Add 4 to 6 tablespoons (or to taste) of the ginger-clementine syrup to the hibiscus tea. Divide between two generous mugs. Add rosewater, about 1 teaspoon or to taste.

4. Garnish with a slice of clementine peel.


Link to original article: Design*Sponge

Photos by Max Tielman

Design*Sponge Visits Bellocq Atelier

December 01, 2012

Bellocq was recently visited by the lovely team from Design*Sponge (Grace Bonney, Amy Azzarito and Max Tielman). The resulting flavors, conversations and images became two features which were both wonderful experiences for all of us at Bellocq.


The first feature is a photo essay about the Bellocq Tea Atelier in Brooklyn, New York.   Link:  Design*Sponge

The second feature was a half hour interview with Grace Bonney (now available as a free pod cast). The interview discusses the ideas that lead our decision making process and unite our efforts at Bellocq.   Link:  After the Jump! 

Enjoy! xxoo Bellocq

Special thanks to the team at Design*Sponge and to the team at Heritage Radio!



After the Storm: A Time to Give.

November 04, 2012

Bellocq will donate 10% from the sale price of any of our Tea Collections to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief. We will be making these donations for the remainder of 2012.

Throughout the Northeast so many have been impacted by Hurricane Sandy. This has been an urgent reminder to all that giving back to the community requires a commitment. While many people have been affected in small ways requiring no great assistance, there are those who have experienced substantial hardships--if not outright tragedy-- and need our help.  We have searched for an appropriate way to reach those in need and have selected the American Red Cross.  Bellocq is committed to assisting those devastated by Hurricane Sandy as well as others in need.


We welcome you to support the American Red Cross and other charitable efforts in your communities. There is always a mission worthy of your support.

We wish you love and comfort. xxoo Bellocq


Hurricane Sandy and Bellocq

November 02, 2012

Hurricane Sandy hit New York City incredibly hard this week. Our tea atelier in Brooklyn is on the first street parallel to the river and we certainly expected and planned for flooding overnight on Monday. We had our friends in the neighborhood check on the atelier throughout the very stressful night. We have been spared by the powerful storm surge that Hurricane Sandy brought to so many in New York City and beyond. We have power, we are dry and our teas are safe. At home and throughout our neighborhoods we lost many beautiful trees but considering the power of this damaging storm we are feeling extremely thankful.


Our hearts go out to all our friends effected by the Sandy who are without homes, without power or recovering from the stress of the storm.

xxoo Bellocq


Racked NY - Tea in Greenpoint

October 11, 2012

Where Ralph Lauren's Karen Brown Finds Tea in Greenpoint

New York City has more stores than anyone could physically tackle, but somehow we always keep returning to the usual suspects. To break out of the rut, we've asked some local shopping and fashion gurus to provide their hidden retail gems—those unique stores around our fantastic city that we might not all know about. Cue the Beatles: We're about to get a little help from our friends.



Karen Brown is the senior concept designer for Ralph Lauren Home Collection, where she's responsible for putting together mood and concept boards as a starting point for the brand's housewares. Here, she shows us her favorite spot in Greenpoint for tea, flowers, and more.

Bellocq Tea Atelier is one of the most magical shops in New York. The practically unmarked gem of a shop/showroom sits in front of a warehouse/factory space. Upon entering, you feel as though you've entered some top-secret hidden tea lab and den. Their loose, full leaf teas (and flowers and so on), gathered and sourced from around the globe, are displayed as beautifully and delicately as the teas themselves.

One of the owners, Michael Shannon, takes the time to thoroughly explain each tea, telling you tales of heights and locations, scents and flavors that you never even knew existed. Luckily for us, Michael, along with partners Heidi Johannsen Stewart and Scott Stewart, have taken the ancient craft of tea and made it something we can all enjoy.

Thank you Karen Brown!  &  ny.racked.com


Bellocq at the NYIGF! Booth #3956

August 18, 2012

If you are in town attending the New York International Gift Fair (NYIGF) at the Javits Center, pop-over and visit Bellocq in booth #3956. We are on the upper level in the "Accent on Design" Section! (Sunday Aug 19th - Wednesday Aug 22nd)

The atelier in Brooklyn will have standard hours at the atelier in Brooklyn this weekend Friday & Saturday 12-7; Sunday 12-5. We would love to have you visit the tea atelier! 

xxoo Bellocq


Above; the packaging assortment of Bellocq teas.

Above: the Bellocq Boxes with a woven silver tea strainer.

Hope to see you! Enjoy! xxoo

New York International Gift Fair

www.nyigf.com


Purl Soho Welcomes Bellocq Tea

July 18, 2012

I never knew how profoundly I could connect to tea until I was personally introduced to the incredibly delicious, fragrant and evocative world of Bellocq Tea. Its owners and creators, and our longtime friends, Heidi Johannsen Stewart, Michael Shannon and Scott Stewart, truly understand the magical beauty of tea, and through their passion and stewardship, everyone around them soon understands it too! And so it is with immense pleasure that we welcome Bellocq Teas to Purl Soho!


Bellocq Tea evolved out of a rich collaboration between Heidi, Michael, and Scott, three extraordinarily creative people. Old friends with a shared interest in tea, they launched their business in London two years ago and last October opened their lovely Bellocq Atelier in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  Drawing from previous experiences in food, design and product development, this impressive trio put their collective talents together to create, not only incredible teas, but a whole world of beauty. Heidi, Michael and Scott have built a universe for their teas that touches each one of our senses.  In addition to being exceptionally delectable and aromatic teas, everything, from the rich packaging to the colors of the Atelier walls to the teas themselves, is visually stunning. And if you visit, you can hear for yourself the passion that these three share for their products. Otherwise, these gorgeous photos by our dear friend Anna Williams do an amazing job of telling the tale!

If you'd like to learn more about Bellocq, we highly recommend that you pick up the current issue of Kinfolk Magazine which features an in-depth look at Bellocq and its teas. Kinfolk is a publication run by artists who share the respect and love for all things hand made that both Bellocq and Purl Soho embody. That's why you can now find Kinfolk Magazine at Purl Soho!  Find the current issue right here.

Bellocq's teas range from the wonderful smokey richness of their Lapsang Souchang to the vibrant freshness of their herbal blend, Le Hammeau.  Each tea is impeccably hand crafted using 100% organic whole tea leaves and botanical ingredients.  With so many amazing blends and pure teas to chose from it was a challenge to pick our favorite dozen, but somehow we managed!

Black Teas

Green Teas

  • Etoile De L'Inde - A favorite at Purl Soho, this beautiful blend of green and jasmine tea also includes passion-fruit, rose and marigold.
  • Majorelle Mint - A classic Moroccan mint tea with a twist! Blended with gunpowder green tea, marigold and citrus essence.  This tea is wonderful iced with a sprig of fresh mint.
  • Roasted Kukicha - An earthy green tea made from the branches of the tea plant rather than the leaves (Heidi tells us that some people consider Kukicha to be an herbal tea rather than a green since the caffeine content is so minute.)

White Teas

  • Jasmine Silver Needle  - A classic white tea that is dried with the delicately sweet essence of jasmine flowers
  • White Nixon - A refined white tea with lavender and peony, great iced!

Herbal Teas

  • Little Dickens - Made for kids with a hint of chocolate, loved by all! Serve with milk and honey.
  • Hindu Holiday - The most scrumptious caffeine-free chai around, this tea includes everything from rooibos, ginger and cardamom to jasmine, rose and marigolds!
  • Le Hammeau - A summery blend of botanical ingredients, including lemongrass, verbena, chamomile, mint and more. 

Each tea is available in a beautiful Traveler Caddy or in a simple Atelier Bag. Choose your favorites right here! Or not sure which tea you'd like to try? Pick a Boxed Set of eight pure teas or eight tea blends here. If you're thinking of putting together a special gift, be sure to include a lovely Bellocq Woven Tea Strainer or a pretty package of loose tea Paper Filters!

We hope you'll love these teas as much as we do! We feel they go hand in hand with crafting (picture a pile of quilt squares and a hot cup of tea or a half-finished merino sweater and a steaming pot for one!). Bellocq Teas are also in perfect harmony with our respect for handcrafted materials made with pure love. So even if you can't visit Bellocq's world in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, you can bring some of their magic into yours!

You can find all of our Bellocq offerings right here. Enjoy! Joelle ( posted on www.PurlBee.com )

Thank you, Joelle for the warm welcome! 

xxoo Bellocq

TAGS: blog Purl


Bellocq Brooklyn - LE DIVAN FUMOIR BOHÉMIEN

July 10, 2012

"Si le charme du lieu est si puissant, c'est qu'il s'agit non pas d'un simple décor commercial mais d'un univers à part entière tissé de correspondances subtilement dosées."


Après une spectaculaire traversée de l'East River depuis le Pier 11, sur Manhattan, on atteint Greenpoint, au nord de Brooklyn, quartier d'anciens chantiers navals, parfois appelé "Little Poland", en pleine réhabilitation. On tourne ensuite sur la droite, dépassant les entrepôts où sont jalousement gardés les décors de Boardwalk Empire, la nouvelle série de HBO,  puis on arrive sur West Street. Au 104, une porte pleine, des fenêtres grillagées ne laissent rien présager de la magie qui attend le visiteur qui passera le seuil de la boutique du Bellocq Tea Atelier ni du délicieux accueil qu'il  y recevra.


Si le charme du lieu est si puissant, c'est qu'il s'agit non pas d'un simple décor commercial mais d'un univers à part entière tissé de correspondances subtilement dosées. Les livres posés sur la petite table du salon rose sont tous bleus, certes, mais leurs titres sont aussi tous choisis pour leurs affinités avec les différents thés de la collection. Les touches de jaune, de rose, de bleu, de vert, de cramoisi semblent faire écho aux composants des mélanges : pétales de rose, de bleuet, de souci, feuilles de sauge, de menthe. Derrière le comptoir, on aperçoit un exemplaire maintes fois consulté du Charleston, A Bloomsbury House and Garden de Virginia Nicholson et Quentin Bell  ; sur un rebord de fenêtre, on trouve le livre de Bruno Suet, Le temps du thé, et Wabi-Sabi For Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers de Leonard Koren. Voilà, nous savons qu'ici, le thé est une esthétique.

www.florizel.canalblog.com


Bellocq Tea Atelier - Oh How Civilized

July 07, 2012

BELLOCQ TEA ATELIER  July 5, 2012

I made a note to visit Bellocq Tea Atelier ever since I saw and tasted their beautifully packaged teas at Haven's Kitchen a little while back. They're located in Greenpoint, Brooklyn so I made the trek out there for a visit recently. I took the L to the Bedford stop and instead of taking a cab or car service, I opted for the 20 minute walk. Taking the G to Greenpoint will get you much closer, with just a two block walk. Walking down West Street, I spotted brown double doors with a white sign. I walked by it at first, unsure if it was the shop entrance since I was expecting a storefront. Once inside, I was pleasantly surprised by the beauty of the shop. It's flat out gorgeous. I walked through a small foyer to enter a light filled room showcasing all their teas. One wall is stocked with their tea offerings in bright yellow large tea canisters. Opposite that wall is a table with their small travel canisters on display.


I met Heidi, one of the owners, and she offered sample tea tastings of any of the teas on the wall. I was looking specifically for a black tea so I got to try five different ones before I decided on the Ceylon. For each tea tasting, she would take one of the large yellow canisters off the wall, give me some information on that tea and allowed me to take a whiff. They all smelled fantastic. Into a cup with some loose leaf tea, she added hot water and let it brew a bit before serving them in small glass cups. After I finished sipping the tea, she would start the process over again with another cannister off the wall. It was nicely paced and relaxing and I got a good sense how each one tasted.



I got the Atelier size of the Ceylon ($9), which is packaged in a small brown paper pouch. The next size up would be the travel caddy – the cannisters on the table. They also design and sell their own tea strainers.

The whole experience was so pleasant, relaxing and informative, I felt like Heidi was my personal tea guru/shopper. It was definitely worth the trip out there. 

They also offer a $250 tea tasting in a private room, connected to the main room which can last up to three hours for one to six people.

Note: They're only open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. 

LOCATION: Bellocq Tea Atelier | 104 West Street, Greenpoint, NY | 800.495.5416

Thank you!

www.ohhowcivilized.com