Working In Clark County: Jennifer Petersen, Tea Mentor

By Kay Richardson
The Columbian, Vancouver, Wash.

Jennifer Petersen wants people to know “tea is not just an old lady’s drink. It is the second beverage of choice internationally,” she says. Petersen travels worldwide as a tea mentor, teaching people in the industry about tea’s sources and chemical and botanical structure, as well as its healthful and tasty properties. The Northwest — famous for its coffee — “is a tea hot spot,” she says. “It’s just low-key.”

Name: Jennifer Petersen.
Residence: Salmon Creek.
Business name: Tea Trade Mart, provides education for tea industry professionals.

Educational/professional background: Graduated Capitol Business College at 17 and spent many years attending courses through Lane Community College, Willamette University, North Carolina State University, Forsyth Technical Institute and Washington State University Vancouver.

Jennifer: While working as an auditor/staff accountant, I was assigned to a presort mail client in San Francisco. From there, I established direct mail businesses in Los Angeles, Denver, Birmingham and Seattle. Having chosen Seattle over San Francisco, I explored the coffee business and acquired a barista certification. While at a Specialty Coffee Association of America conference in Denver, a business consultant advised that there are two areas in which women become more revered as they age: tea and etiquette. I could see myself at 100 years old, properly dressed, rocking on a porch and drinking a proper cup of tea.

Question: How you got started in your business?

Jennifer: The passion for tea became an obsession. Tea educators shared their passion and advice with me. I blended tea for wholesale customers, developed through trade shows and opened a retail outlet, Carnelian Rose Tea in Uptown Village. This sold in 2008, but I continued to blend wholesale tea until 2014.

The Specialty Tea Institute (where I’ve been an advisory board member for more than 10 years) has launched a tea mentor educational opportunity for students nationwide who become certified tea specialists. Although we’ve been teaching at major trade shows, I travel for individual and corporate training.

Personal/business philosophy: My job is to listen and to serve. It is about you, not me. My experience has been that the more people learn about tea, the more humble they become because there is no end to discovering the pleasures of tea.

Most rewarding part of job: The sense of family that tea brings. It is a simple leaf prepared with hot water. That’s it. Everyone is a peer while drinking tea. Differences disappear. Tea does not discriminate.

Most challenging part of job: Keeping my tongue in check. A sticky note on my computer states, “Do not engage.”

Question: One thing readers might find surprising about your work?

Jennifer: A variety of people have been students in my tea classes — from tea and coffee shop owners to Bigelow, Stash, Keurig, Green Mountain, sommeliers, chefs — from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, England, France, India (yes, India!) We have tea in common.

Greatest misconception people have about tea: That it’s an old lady’s drink. It is the second beverage of choice internationally. You might be surprised to know that the largest demographic of tea drinkers is male from 25 to 39. Robust or light, there’s something for everybody. And there are the health benefits to consider like better sleep, better digestion. Tea is good for your teeth and skin and has antibacterial properties.

Your favorite travel destination and type: Will o’ the Wisp — San Antonio, Istanbul, Egypt. Cruises are truly carefree and decadent; Alaska’s Inside Passage is my favorite.

Best feature of your Clark County community: The desire to inspire and nurture one another to become the best they can be. Whether it’s New Heights, Leadership Clark County, Justice for Children or Rotary, Clark County is a wonderful place to live.

Question: What would make your community a better place?

Jennifer: If we’d quit nitpicking, finger-pointing and patting ourselves on the back. We all pour our tea one cup at a time.

Favorite restaurant/pub/coffee shop/store: A toss-up between Torque and Peet’s.

Hobbies: Genealogy, baking, history, cookbooks

Most enjoyable book/play/movie/arts event in past 12 months: John Fiske’s collection regarding the American Revolution and colonial times: It is a surprise that some attitudes never change.

Something you’d like to do this year/within five years: Vacation in Texas during mild weather.

One word to describe yourself: Driven.

Person you’d most like to meet: Dr. Charles Stanley. I would like to have met Corrie ten Boom.

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