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Woman Shares Passion for Tea Through Libertyville-Based Company

Napoleona Tea an online tea retailer in Libertyville.

Tea at Napoleona Tea Company. Photo credit: Napoleona Tea Company
Tea at Napoleona Tea Company. Photo credit: Napoleona Tea Company
When Thresa Griffin sits down to have one of her several cups of tea each day, she knows what she's doing. 

Though she didn't grow up drinking tea—aside from the occasional cup of peppermint tea—she's probably as close as one can get to being a tea expert these days. A "tea master" who has traveled to places like China and Sri Lanka to learn about tea, Griffin is the founder and owner of Libertyville-based Napoleona Tea Company. Griffin seeks out small, artisan tea-growers and then sells those teas through the Napoleona Tea website. 

Griffin's love of tea started to grow a few years ago when, while surfing the Internet, she started reading about varieties of tea.

"I spent six hours reading about tea," said Griffin. 

The following year, Griffin went to a tea expo and then started attending classes and even traveling to learn about tea. Griffin also became a tea master through the Institute of Masters of Tea Arts in Vancouver, British Columbia.

"It just heightens the journey," Griffin said of becoming a tea master. "It taught me how to savor tea." 

Griffin noted, however, that being a tea master doesn't mean she knows everything there is to know about the world of tea. 

"Everybody thinks you know everything about tea," said Griffin. "It's hard to determine if anybody can really know everything. There's so much to learn."

What her tea master status means, however, is that Griffin has an in-depth knowledge of tea and is skilled in preparing and presenting teas—and she's eager to pass on her knowledge to others.

Tea Time

Griffin launched Napoleona Tea Company in late 2011, naming it after Napoleon Bonaparte, a historical figure she finds interesting. She offers a range of teas, including white, green, black, yellow, red, purple, Oolong, herbal, Chai and Rooibos. Teas are all sold loose-leaf style.

While she doesn't have a favorite tea, Griffin said she considers herself a "purist."

"I like single-estate teas, not blended teas," said Griffin. 

Flavored and blended teas, however, are a great way for people to be introduced to the tea world.

"For people who don't drink tea often, sometimes it helps to start with a blend or flavored tea," said Griffin. "Then you can work your way up to the whites, the greens, the black teas. The goal here is to experiment, to try something new."

To round out the experience, Napoleona Tea offers tea-making accessories like teapots and infusers. 

Griffin welcomes tea-related questions on the Napoleona Tea Company website. The site also includes information about tea history and legends. 

"Chinese teas are steeped in legend," said Griffin. 

Tea Tastings

Napoleona Tea Company offers tea tastings and classes. Griffin hoping to schedule more classes in early 2014. Customers can also schedule private tea tastings that can be customized based on what a person or group wants to learn about. 

Griffin added that Napoleona may offer a tea tour to Kenya next fall.

"That will be an amazing experience," she said. Other tours, including to places like Sri Lanka and China, are also in the works. "I think it will be very memorable."

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