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Creating a Bespoke Hat with Sarah Cant Couture Millinery

If you’re looking for the perfect Ascot hat, look no further than Sarah Cant Couture Millinery.  Sarah makes the most striking and elegant hats. I adore how structural yet feminine her hats are, as well as how much energy and fluidity they exude.

Collaborating with Sarah to create a bespoke hat is one of the highlights of my blogging career. Below, I share the creative process of this hatmaking experience and reveal the stunning work of art that Sarah made for me (scroll to the bottom if you just can’t wait!).

Sarah Cant Couture Millinery PatriciaParisienne charlecote park warwickshire national trust bespoke hat wedding hat mother of the bride hatDuring our first meeting in her sun-filled studio, Sarah was kind enough to let us have a glimpse into her life, learn what it means (and takes!) to be a milliner, and talks us through the bespoke process in her words. (You can watch the interview here.) At the end, Sarah indulged me and I was able to try on a few of those gorgeous creations!

Can you feel the vibrant energy of these hats?

Sarah Cant Couture Millinery Patriciaparisienne
This shot of her sketchbook shows the conception and evolution of the beautiful pale pink hat shown.

The Brainstorming Begins

We began the brainstorming by discussing the possible events where I could wear this hat – the time of year, the setting, and the dress code. I won’t be attending any races this season but have a few weddings to attend from August to November. The locations are very different (a farm in Stratford-upon-Avon, a castle in Belgium, and a very cosmopolitan do in London!), so this was taken into consideration.

After trying on a variety of hats (YAY!), Sarah had already begun to brainstorm different ideas for the types of hats and styles that would suit me. I loved trying on the pale pink hat above that is a very 60s piece (think Jackie O) but ultimately I felt more comfortable in a smaller piece. I also fell in love with movement of the satin ribbons of a few of Sarah’s hats; the ribbon looked like it was just casually blowing in the wind. The movement instantly resonated with me; even if it looks like I’m not doing much, my brain is still racing!

Sarah mentioned that we all naturally gravitate toward colors and shapes of hats – and it was love at first sight with that satin ribbon. We quickly decided on the base shape of the hat, and we chose the two colors of the hat based on the color palette I tend to wear: navy mixed with other neutrals, plus a splash of red lipstick.

Sarah Cant Couture Millinery PatriciaParisienne charlecote park warwickshire national trust bespoke hat wedding hat mother of the bride hat

Several Hat Samples

For our next meeting, Sarah had prepared eight sketches of possible hat trimmings. They were done on translucent paper, which were then placed on top of the pencil drawing of a head with my hat base. It was so easy to swap out the different options, especially if you need to see them over and over again to decide. As well as being very clever, the translucent sketches over the drawing brought the final hat idea to life.

As I mentioned earlier, the satin ribbon trimming was my favorite but I also loved other wire designs that I had seen on a few of Sarah’s other hats. Sarah had also put aside a variety of red and blue laces and silks, which felt incredibly luxurious to the touch. She does such a wonderful job of choosing and sourcing the materials, which again made it difficult to choose. After a thirty minute deliberation, the materials were chosen!  Before leaving that day, we also narrowed down the trimming choices to one wire and one satin design.

Sarah Cant Couture Millinery PatriciaParisienne charlecote park warwickshire national trust bespoke hat wedding hat mother of the bride hat

Trimmings Time

When I walked into the studio for our next appointment, the trimmings were ready –  and the base of the hat was, too! We went back and forth with trimmings – it was such a hard decision to make! All of the options were beautiful. Sarah also had placed a black silk underneath the blue lace, as the navy we had originally chosen didn’t allow the lace to really shine. I would have never noticed that it was black because the color of the lace tinted the silk navy.

The subtle change, in my eyes, displayed Sarah’s attention to detail and professionalism. She didn’t settle for an “okay” hat. Her work ethic, high standards, and experience led her to create the perfect alternative that would keep the intricate lace in the limelight, as we had decided.

We settled on a fit for the base, which comprised of trying on the base and altering it slightly to fit my head more snugly. Then we chose the trimming, which you will see below!

Sarah Cant Couture Millinery PatriciaParisienne charlecote park warwickshire national trust bespoke hat wedding hat mother of the bride hat

She’s ready!

I was so excited when Sarah e-mailed to let me know that the hat was ready. When I walked into the studio a few days later, “she” was on the mannequin. I couldn’t believe my eyes – there was my hat in all of her glory. I couldn’t believe how gorgeous she was in person!

The hat was just what I wanted – classic, simple, and elegant. I couldn’t wait to try it on. Sarah and I ran through how to put it on and how it should be worn, for my sake. For those that aren’t entirely sure how to wear one, have no fear; she will go over it as many times as you need to. In reality, it isn’t very difficult once you’re shown once how to do it!

The Best Part

The highlight of this whole experience was, of course, Sarah. I was amazed by her ability to “see” the person she’s working with: your face, your hair, your shape, and your personality and quirks. Her attention to detail extends far beyond her creations; she observes and weaves what she sees into her work. Sarah was able to create a hat that suits me entirely, embodies what I loved about her hats, and pairs well with my color palette, skin tone, and thick hair. Her warmth, professionalism, knowledge, passion for her craft, along with her endless creativity – which just flows out of Sarah, who was clearly born to be a maker – all come together to make unforgettable works of art and a remarkable experience for her collaborator.

How to Design Your Own Bespoke Hat with Sarah

To work with Sarah on a hat for Ascot or an upcoming race, wedding, party or any other event, you can get in touch via her website or her e-mail address: sarah@sarahcant.co.uk
 or give her a call: 07866 759703 (for international callers, dial +447866 759703).

The Big Reveal

She’s perfect.

Sarah Cant Couture Millinery PatriciaParisienne charlecote park warwickshire national trust bespoke hat wedding hat mother of the bride hat

Thank you again to Sarah Cant for this incredible experience and to Nicky Malone for approaching me with this phenomenal project. Hats off to you both!

PatriciaParisienne xx

~

Follow Sarah Cant on Instagram.

Sarah Cant Couture Millinery website

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Bespoke Hats, Expat Life, and Millinery with Sarah Cant, Couture Milliner | Interview

“Would you like to work on a project with the milliner Sarah Cant?” Nicky Malone from the eponymous PR company gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse. “Ahhh, yes!” I (pretty much) screamed into the phone, as I was walking down the Leamington high street pushing the stroller down the street. Having worked with Nicky last year on a hat project, I knew what fun awaited and couldn’t believe my luck.

Shortly after I began dating my husband John, I developed a fascination for the famous hats that the British wear to weddings, special events, and the horse races. After attending a few weddings together, I quickly noticed the gorgeous head ornaments that emerged for these special events. They seemed so distinct, yet so natural for the English women that modeled them so naturally.

(Also, remember Princess Eugenie’s hat for Will and Kate’s wedding? That drew major international attention to the tradition, didn’t it?)

Sarah Cant’s story is fascinating; she came from the U.S. for a quick year to do her doctorate at Oxford in French literature (yes, I know – not only is she incredibly creative but she’s also academically brilliant!). Twenty years later, Sarah is now the head of the millinery course at Kensington and Chelsea College, a.k.a. the establishment for the next generation of hat makers, the same place where she did her millinery training. Plus, she wrote a book called Hats!, which has been translated into several languages. Finally, Sarah has her own couture millinery studio, working with the most renowned and admired women and fashion institutions in the country.

What struck me the most when I saw Sarah’s work was the pulsating energy in her pieces. Each piece makes a statement in its own way – some with delicate wire trimmings, others with satin bands that look like ribbons blowing in the wind. Others, like an upcoming AW17 hat, dominate the room with a military edge and dazzling gold trim. Each hat has a vibrant character but when worn will blend with your personality – they allow you to wear them. I discovered this was even truer when I visited Sarah’s studio for the first time.

It’s always a bit daunting for me to meet new collaborators and clients for the first time. Sarah and I had spoken on the phone a bit prior to meeting but nevertheless; the butterflies were still there when I walked up the steps to her gorgeous studio. But there was nothing to stress about. Sarah is a very warm person, instantly making me feel at home in her sunlit atelier. Offering me a cup of tea and a biscuit (a woman after my own heart!), Sarah quickly sparked our hours-long conversation, and we set up for the interview. The video above is a peek into that lovely spring afternoon, where I learned not only about the fascinating world of millinery but also what life as a milliner is truly like.

I hope that you feel like you were the third person in the room with us. Pour yourself a cup of tea, grab a chocolate biscuit (or cookie!), and join us. Stay tuned for my next article, where I share the incredible experience of creating a bespoke hat with Sarah!

Hats off to you,

PatriciaParisienne xx

~~~

Check out Sarah’s website: Sarah Cant Couture Millinery

Sarah Cant Online Shop: https://sarah-cant-couture-millinery.myshopify.com/

Follow along on Instagram: @sarahcantmillinery

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Mother’s Day Gift Guide (U.K.)

Mother's Day Fortnum & Mason camomile & bee pollen infusion denby potteryGuess what? This Sunday is my first Mother’s Day! In the U.K., Mother’s Day is celebrated in March and is called Mothering Sunday. So official, right?

In celebration of all things mother, I’ve put together a mother’s day gift guide. They’re a mix of things I love and others that I’m lusting after but would all ultimately make a great present for that mama in your life. Also, the majority of the brands are British – yay for supporting local businesses!

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. Happy Mother’s Day to my fellow mums!

Love,

Mama PatriciaParisienne xx

mother's day gift guide mothering sunday london grace malee natural science verdure hand cream daniel sandler red carpet lipstick babe balm clean beauty co therapi honey skincare orange blossom cleanser

Beauty

1. London Grace nail polish (Rory) 2. Daniel Sandler red lipstick 3. Therapi Orange Blossom Honey Gel Cleanser 4. Malée Verdure hand cream 5. Clean Beauty Co Babe Balm

mothering sunday mother's day gift guide for foodies patriciaparisienneFoodie Gifts

1. Creighton’s Chocolate 2. Charbonnel et Walker pink champagne truffles 3. Pollen & Grace almond + buckwheat granola 4. Fortnum & Mason’s Camomile & Bee Pollen Infusion

mama gift guide mummy milestones boobbix studio seed mama jem + bea clutch pouch bonnie mob selfish mother collaboration mother jumper minty wendy teething necklace jewellery jewelry seraphine changing bag

New Mom

1. Mummy Milestones 2. Boobbix lactation cookies (Order at least two boxes of chocolate chip! 10% off with code MUM10) 3. Jem + Bea Mama clutch 4. Studio Seed correspondence set 5. Minty Wendy teething necklaces (my favorite) 6. Bonnie Mob x Selfish Mother “Mother” cashmere top 7. Séraphine Changing Bag

sarah cant millinery couture hats daisy london alexi london rose gold earrings stacy chan london clutch bag a piedi red hessian smoking slippers som'or bracelet patriciaparisienneAccessories

1. Sarah Cant couture hat 2. ALEXI London rose gold earrings 3. Stacy Chan clutch 4. Daisy London base chakra necklace 5. A Piedi red Hessian smoking slippers 6. Som’or letter bracelet

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Dempsey & Carroll’s Leo Mascotte | Snapshot of Life as a Creative Director

Dempsey & Carroll have created hand-engraved stationery since 1878. Purveyors of this elegant paperie, the company has established itself as one of the top stationery companies in the nation for its unparalleled attention to detail and the quality of its products.

I am thrilled to share an interview with the Creative Director of Dempsey & Carroll himself, Leo Mascotte. In this exchange, you will learn about Leo’s path to his current role, a day-in-the-life of Mr. Mascotte, the inspiration behind his work – in particular the California gift sets – plus the essentials you need in your stationery wardrobe. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

PatriciaParisienne (PP): You’ve worked with some remarkable brands throughout your career, Dempsey & Carroll (D&C) being at the forefront of them. What aspects of D&C drew you to the company?

Leo Mascotte (LM): Most kind of you, it has been a pleasure to be associated with such wonderful brands. Dempsey & Carroll has always been a favorite; a global meeting in New York called for a special gift for La Mer affiliates gathered here from far and wide. Working with Dempsey & Carroll we pulled a range of engraved motifs from seashells to exotic fish. We presented a set of personalized correspondence cards to each attendee. This is just the sort of gift that I love – unique, thoughtful, and tied to the place from which it comes. These same things can be said of Dempsey & Carroll.

2. What does a day in the life as creative director look like, and what do you love about your job?

LM: Thriving on an ever-changing menu of projects, I am most happy in a setting that allows me to jump from one task to another. From merchandising the store, to developing new products, to managing photo shoots. I love the fact that my day rarely feels typical and always keeps me a few minutes away from the next thing.

3. When designing new collections, do you have a particular ritual or artistic process?

LM: If there is a common thread these days it may very well be Pinterest. I use it to stash a never-ending trove of images, and find it to be an excellent source of inspiration and imagery. These are used to articulate first thoughts and new directions for each collection.

4. The remarkable history of Dempsey & Carroll not only sets it apart from other stationery brands but also serves as the heart of the brand. How do you marry the old (history) with the new (fresh designs)?

LM: There are so many ways that we try to make this marriage work. The Dempsey & Carroll archives are remarkable. I am an absolute sucker for a leather bound album titled simply “Yachting Stationery”. Dating from the late 1800’s it is a time machine to a world with timeless appeal. It served as the starting point for a storewide restyling last summer as well as new product, our Knot Tide correspondence cards for example. Keeping it fresh by asking ourselves constantly, would I want to have this, or would I want to give it as a gift?

5. Let’s dive into the gorgeous Californian-inspired gift sets. I adore them – especially the La Jolla (yay for my hometown!). The variety of towns and cities that you chose piqued my interest. Why did you choose these particular eight places, and how are they represented in the sets?

LM: The idea for the California sets came as we were christening another group of products. Place names are a favorite way to give voice to visual ideas. California came to mind as perhaps the only American location big and varied enough to support a large seasonal assortment. Some towns demanded sets, other sets went looking for and easily found the places from which they came. They are all places that have intrigued me over the years, and where I would love to visit over and over.

6. Which is your favorite gift set at the moment, and why?

LM: If I had to choose just one set, it would be Belvedere. So many people had never heard of this magical town before we named the collection. Introducing something unexpected is such a pleasure. It allows one the chance to re-experience the process and joy of discovery.

7. Would you mind sharing some of the pieces or collections that you think represent Dempsey & Carroll best?

LM: The La Jolla and Nob Hill sets have been strong sellers, thanks in part to their notebooks, both from our most recent Schumacher collection. It was such a treat to work with Schumacher Creative Director Dara Caponigro; we have known each other for sometime, having been introduced by Thomas O’Brien while I was at Aero Studios. Dara has taken this esteemed house to such fresh and wonderful new places, we hope the paper collection has pulled off a similar trick for Dempsey & Carroll.

8. Despite the advanced technology that we now have at our fingers, stationery is still so popular. Nothing can beat the feeling of taking a pen to paper, can it? What items can you recommend as must-haves in a stationery wardrobe?

LM: Could not agree more, a piece of hand written correspondence always finds itself at the top of any pile of mail. For me the blue blazer (aka first and most essential foundation piece) of any stationery wardrobe is the bespoke correspondence card. Like the navy number you reach for in your closet time and again, I recommend buying the best quality card that your budget allows. Do so and you will discover the limitless ways that you will be able to use it. From the exuberance of a gift enclosure to the support offered in a condolence note, there is no substitute for the timeless appeal of effortlessly impeccable engraved cotton stock.

Many thanks to Leo for sharing a bit of your Dempsey & Carroll life with us!

Head to Dempsey & Carroll’s website to see all of the gorgeous gift sets – and more!

Happy writing,

PatriciaParisienne xx

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Happy December!

Daniel Wellington Classic Black Silver Cuff PatriciaParisienne

Hello, hello! Hope you are all well and enjoying the first chocolate of your Advent calendar! T – 24 days until Christmas…bring on the hot cocoa and Christmas music!

One of the things I’ve learned since becoming a mom is that being organized is imperative. I took advantage of Black Friday sales and amazingly am nearly finished with my Christmas shopping. This is the first time I haven’t been scrambling around on the 23rd and 24th for last-minute presents!

What I have underneath my Drew tree in the photo are two of the latest additions, the new Daniel Wellington silver cuff and Classic Black watch. The cuff is an elegant accessory that George can’t break, so of course it’s been added to my daily wardrobe.

Both items make excellent gifts and come in lovely packaging, plus shipping is free worldwide (a nice perk). I’d recommend ordering a small in the cuff unless you have a wide wrist and a 36 mm watch for most women. For the men in your life, a 40 mm watch will do nicely. It is a lightweight and elegant alternative to the heavier metal watches. John loves his!

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season. Watch this space for new articles, reviews, and interviews!

Happy shopping,

PatriciaParisienne xx

If you fancy a new watch or cuff, you can use the code PATRICIAPARISIENNE for a 15% discount, which is good through December 31. It’s compatible with their 10% off Christmas offer, so you get a total of 25% off!

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David Peters | Cosmetic Acupuncture

“Need to look your best but better? Try David Peters.” – The Mail

With a recommendation like that, who wouldn’t want to have a treatment done by David Peters, the award-winning cosmetic acupuncturist at the stunning Bulgari Hotel in Knightsbridge?

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Christmas in July | Fortnum & Mason

Fortnum & Mason does everything to perfection, from tea to their press day. When I received the invitation (a package containing special Fortnum’s marmalade vodka with the event details on the tag!), I couldn’t contain my excitement. “Christmas in July” is the best press event!

So, last Wednesday, my amazing mother-in-law Cheryl, baby George, and I hopped on the train and went for an adventure in London. We arrived into Marylebone and enjoyed a beautiful walk to Piccadilly. Char, Phoebe, and the rest of the amazing Seven Dials PR team were on-hand to walk us through the many delights for the upcoming Fortnum & Mason Christmas 2016 season. I’m so excited to share them with you! As we get closer to the holidays, I’ll be including several of the goodies in my gift guides, but for now, here is a sneak peek:

FM4

These balloons – and that table! So festive.FM7

The salted peanut butter yule log was one of the tastiest treats I’ve ever had. I may have to order an entire one as a present to myself…hamper fortnums

Here’s a shot of this year’s incredible Imperial Hamper. It will set you back a cool £6000 but it contains everything you’ll need for the holiday season in the suite of wickers!collage fm

Artisan baker Nila Holden baked this little gingerbread sensation. How cute is it? The pottery to the right is Fortnum’s own line for every day use. I love the elegant Scandi-inspired design. I can imagine myself pouring a delicious coffee in one of the Eau de Nil mugs!

santa fortnums

So, the six-person blue star cracker you see on the tree took over a year to engineer – so cool. You’d need a very calm countdown to make sure everyone pulled at precisely the right time but it’d be so much fun to do! Also, those customizable Santa sacks are just gorgeous. George’s first Christmas will include one of those with his name on it – I cannot wait! Speaking of customization, the colorful holiday scene above the bag can be ordered with your mini loved one’s name on it. As always, the Fortnum & Mason ornaments are just about the prettiest things you could hang on your tree. I’m eyeing the one with the Fortnum’s mini tea set!FMMen

They haven’t overlooked gifts for the men in your life. How elegant is that shaving kit on the left?

beautiful tea set fortnum and mason  This tea-for-two set (£325) will one day be mine. Inspired by the wallpaper in that room on the fourth floor, as well as by camellia sinensis (the plant from which tea originates), the design is subtle yet symbolic.FM5Such beautiful accessories!  turned4

Those Christmas jumper cookies! For the foodies in your life, you’ll need to purchase the sparkling spiced rum butter to slather on a slice of the Drunken Panettone or Stollen. To be enjoyed with a cup of the Christmas spiced tea. IMG_8792Emma Bridgewater’s Fortnum & Mason Christmas set  FM1

More wonderful gifts and stocking stuffersIMG_8797IMG_8782

Halcyon Days make these gorgeous bangles especially for Fortnum’s. The perfect Christmas gift for the jewelry lover in your life.

Hope you enjoyed this little preview of Fortnum & Mason’s Christmas 2016 collection. The Christmas store opens next month at their Piccadilly store. Hope to see you there!

Merry Christmas (in July!),

PatriciaParisienne xx

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Luxury Tea Company Nelson & George | Interview, Part II

Happy Friday! As promised, we have part two of our interview with the incredible co-founders of Nelson & George, Olivia and Sheila Kahler. The spectacular mother-daughter duo and business partners of the luxury tea company has more to share about entrepreneurship, their advice to aspiring business owners, and, of course, tea. (In case you missed it, here’s Part I!) Have you poured yourself a cup of tea? We’re diving right back in.

Nelson and George

Another question for Sheila – can you tell us a bit about tea and what differentiates one type of tea from the next? Also, what is a “mother bush?”

To be called “tea”, the leaf used in brewing must technically come from the Camillia sinensis plant (considered a bush, though it is technical a tree if left to grow and can reach up to 17 meters or 55 feet high). There are three main cultivars: camellia sinensis sinensis, camellia sinensis assamica, and camellia sinensis cambodiensis. All other plant material not used from this main plant species should technically be considered a tisane or herbal tea.  It is in the processing of the camellia sinensis leaf as dictated by a tea master, that determines which type of tea will be produced. All types of tea, be it black, green, white, oolong or pu ehr, start off from the same species, one of the three listed above. Producing a superior type of tea – a superior black, etc. – reflects on the skill primarily of the tea master’s guidelines, though, of course, the growing conditions, including type of soil, and the care given it during the growing season, as well as plucking skill play varying roles. I know it may seem difficult to understand that those varieties of teas I mentioned all start out from the same leaf…maybe it helps to relate it to wine.  All wine is made from wine grapes, but where the wine is grown, and the processing and aging of the wine account for a widely different experience for the wine drinker.  The same goes for tea!

Until relatively recently, all tea was planted from seed and this took about 10 years before it became a viable tea plant. In the 1970’s however, “cloning” (or “vegetative propagation”) became popular.  In order to ensure a quality tea, to afford more control in general over the tea, growers would select strong branches from an established tea bush – a “mother bush” – cut it into short lengths of twig and single leaf, root it, and plant it.   By cloning, one could more readily control taste of the tea, disease resistance and increased hardiness, and, in some cases, increased yield. Control over quality and yield as well as for expediency, cloning from a mature “mother bush” became more the norm.

Olivia Kahler Nelson & George

Olivia, you’ve done an incredible job with the packaging and branding. Everything is so beautiful! How did you go about choosing this particular aesthetic?

Thank you!  The visual aspects of the company were very important to me, and I put a lot of thought and effort into creating a look that I felt conveyed what Nelson and George represents.  I am always tweaking – there is so much more I want to add!

While I put a lot of work into the visual aspects, I was lucky to have Rachelle at Saevil Row (http://saevilrow.co) came up with our logo, and initial branding colors and fonts.  She did a great job translating my initial ideas onto paper, and encapsulating our brand in our logo.  I especially love the ampersand horse. 🙂  I then expanding upon her foundation, creating my own mood boards, Pinterest boards, and paying a lot more attention to branding and packaging than I had in the past!

I want our aesthetic to convey a sense of a contemporary classic.  A sense of elegance that is updated, and elevated yet approachable, with an American influence.  I work every day to refine and get closer to conveying this aesthetic in all of our online visuals.

Nelson & George

What are your favorite teas and why?

Olivia: My favorite thing about tea, now that I have become familiar with the great variety there is available, is choosing a tea the matches my mood and the experience I want to have.  I feel like I can go on a taste adventure just by brewing a cup of tea.  While wine shares similar characteristics in terms of variety and depth and richness of flavors, one of the aspects that I so enjoy about tea is that you can drink it almost any time of day, hot or iced, and the effects are either energizing or calming.  My top five teas are:

  • The Maria –  (Tie Guan Yin) I love floral notes, and this tea has delicate yet prominent orchid notes with a refreshing finish.  It feels as though you are sipping the sent of a flower!  As this tea is one of my favorites, I named it after one of the most incredible opera singers of all time – Maria Callas.
  • The Balto – (Hoji Cha) This is my go-to tea for after dinner/being cozy.  I love the roasted taste, and it reminds me of Japan, where this is one of the most popular teas, and is served either after a meal, or to children due to its low caffeine content.  I would love to bring this tea camping for sipping around the fire.  While most Hoji Chas are made from Bancha leaves (as this is cheaper), ours is made from organically grown young green tea shoots.  I loved the story of Balto growing up, and even named one of our dogs after this brave sled dog.
  • The Tara – (White Bud Pu erh)  Before we started this tea company, I had never had a pu eh tea.  As this tea is both white, and yet a pu erh, it provides an interesting mix between light and refreshing yet with additional depth on the palate due to the pu erh processing.  I love sipping this while working, and it keeps me refreshed a focused the whole morning.  I named it after one of the rescue dogs who worked at the World Trade Center site after the 9/11 attacks.
  • The Portland – (Chai) I love having this tea when I am in the mood for a treat, or substitute it for dessert. I have always loved chai tea lattes, and I have to say that our chai is my favorite (or else I suppose I would have requested we keep searching….!)  While most chais are black tea based, ours has a green tea base.  In my opinion, this preserves all the yummy-ness of a chai tea latte, while making it less heavy.  The whole spices (such as cardamom pods) result in a tea bursting with a variety of flavors, that reminds me a bit of spiced cookies at the holidays.  Organic, whole, cow’s milk is delicious, chilled with coconut milk adds a tropical flair, or hemp milk is lighter.  I suggest adding some sugar to bring out the flavor of the spices.
  • The James – (Earl Grey)  I had been more of a black tea drinker, and Earl Grey was always one of my favorites.  While the characteristic Bergamot flavoring was originally added to cover up the taste of a lower quality black, our Earl Grey’s base is an organically grown, high quality black, and our Bergamot is a real essential oil, rather than artificially produced.  This makes all the difference, and our Earl Grey, names after James Maddison, takes the Earl Grey experience to a whole new level!  It amplifies the characteristic flavors of an Earl Grey and eliminates the sometimes-bitter aftertaste.  I love drinking this tea on a chilly winter morning, iced with lemon and honey, or as my afternoon pick me up.

Sheila: A tea that is of very high quality is my favorite tea! I know that I can not only drink our tea then enjoying the exquisite flavor and aroma, but do so with a clear conscience knowing that it is free of chemicals and generally has small tea garden/family provenance. Having spent most of my adult life living an “organic” lifestyle, studying and working clinically and socially in the holistic health field, I have developed a palate which can instantly detect “foul play” as I would term it, with that which I am at the moment ingesting. Most people could determine a truly organic food stuff given the choice: the flavor is usually outstanding and real. My eating/drinking pleasure then extends to a knowing that the natural world, the planet, is sustained, not negatively impacted through the production of this tea. Yet, if I must chose, then I feel most at home with a Dragonwell (like our “The Abigail“) or a high quality Sen Cha (green) (like our “The Sacagawea“), or Tie Guan Yin (like our “The Maria“) or Dancong Honey Orchid (like our “The Benjamin“) – both oolongs, and perhaps a Cream of Puerh (like our “The Harvey“), or our Arya Darjeeling, “The Mark” – black. But really, it is just too hard to chose: it often just depends on mood and weather, believe it or not!

Xmas SF-22

When do you most love to enjoy a cup of tea?

Sheila: There is a saying in the tea world – a phrase, if you will – by William Ewart Gladstone, which can sum up the answer to this question:

“If you cold, tea will warm you;

If you are too heated, it will cool you;

If you are depressed, it will cheer you;

If you are excited, it will calm you…

Is it in the end, the warmth of the tea beverage or actually the much studied and documented health benefits tea imparts that support the sentiment above? Perhaps both…”

Personally, I look forward to my morning cup of tea, most often a green, but not always, depending on my mood, and to an afternoon cup.

Olivia:  I love starting my morning with tea and a cup of fruit.  It has been such an adventure to become familiar with all of our teas, and I look forward to my morning ritual of sipping a cup of tea, while reading that tea’s story.  Several of our teas are suitable for multiple brewings, so I will often sip one tea until lunch.  I also love having iced tea in the fridge.  Before bed, I love drinking a cup of tea while reading, or these days, often finishing up some work on Nelson and George!

How do you see Nelson and George developing in the near future? What are your goals for your business?

Sheila:  I think that as the population – even speaking worldwide, not just in the U.S. -becomes more and aware of healthful eating and sustainability, which is well ingrained now, we can count on the tea marketplace continuing the healthy/sustainable trend, where the consumer makes his/her purchases very consciously.  One who, too, will ask for those teas, which are produced in a sustainable way. This awareness, this shall I say, “demand” will not go away in my opinion, but grow to be more commonplace rather than just a “niche market.”  We also tout ourselves to be “luxury”: this is niche at the moment that is ready to jump into full bore trend when people, the consumer really understands what “luxury” really means.  Luxury as we intend it is saying that “I will pause today, and take time away from the hectic pace, from perhaps the IT world and just be “, and/or “I will care about my buying choices and support my body, the planet, other people by choosing, say, organic first.”  We are attempting to bring awareness to the public at large that it is OK to choose “luxury” when coined in that fashion. It is simply a question of self-respect.  Our goal is to be a leader in this direction, to help create awareness on the two levels – health/sustainability and luxury, taking time -mentioned.  We need to pause more and just be, or reflect on life. Doing so over a warming cup of excellent tea is the perfect setting!

Olivia:  Our overall goal is to introduce Americans to the world of fine and rare teas, and as Mom said, to introduce moments of luxury into the busy lives of Americans.  Time is our biggest luxury, and setting some of that aside for ourselves or to share with friends is a luxury that certainly makes our lives richer.  We feel that taking the time to properly brew and enjoy a cup of tea creates an atmosphere and somewhat of a structure for these moments – and as a bonus tea is both healthy and suitable for all age groups and times of day.

While our tea is currently only sold online, we plan on experimenting with expanding into both retail boutiques and cafes, as well as restaurants and hotels that match with our aesthetic and values. (We are definitely open to suggestions!)  We also might open up a Nelson and George tearoom within the next five years.

Our current tea collection has largely been named after prominent Americans present at America’s birth.  As we add more teas, we plan on expanding chronologically into other areas of American history.  We also have plans to expand our selection of tisanes to include teas specifically designed to support expecting and new mothers, and young children.

We are also looking forward to collaborating with various artists to add to our accessories collection, and do capsule tea collections.

For me, one of the hardest aspects at the moment is remembering to take it a step at a time, as I have big plans for the future of Nelson and George!

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Can you leave us with some words of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Olivia:  Keeping a clear focus by writing down your goals, and then working backwards to break them down into actionable steps I have found effective.  Action is so important.  Just start…even if it is just a small step.  As this world of business is new to me, I have been enjoying learning about all the different aspects involved in running a business.  Podcasts, reading articles online, and chatting with fellow entrepreneurs has been enormously helpful.  My favorite podcasts are: Smart Passive Income, Online Marketing Made Easy with Amy Porterfield, Shopify Masters, The Jess Lively Show (for inspiration and work/life balance), and I love Marie Forleo!

Sheila:  Keep aspiring! Don’t give up too readily if things at first don’t go the way you intended, yet…be willing to take a new task, create new opportunities, if necessary! Above all, be happy and excited about your business. This ensures success.


Many thanks to Sheila and Olivia Kahler for this fantastic interview and insight into their business. You can order your Nelson & George teas online. Be sure to follow the N&G adventures via InstagramTwitter, and Facebook!

PatriciaParisienne xx

Images compliments of Nelson & George

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Nelson & George | American Purveyors of Fine Tea

Stories of entrepreneurship, startups, and small businesses are some of my favorite things to read. There are a few common denominators to these stories. Usually, it starts with a desk tucked away in tiny corner of someone’s house, a laptop, and, most importantly, a big idea. Often, the decision to start a new business comes at a crossroads in the person’s life, and the concept is something that they’ve been thinking about for years. What I admire most about entrepreneurs is their bravery – you have to be so courageous to leave a steady, stable way of life to leap into the unknown. What draws me back to these stories time and time again is the unique circumstances under which the business came to life; no two are ever the same.

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Sheila and Olivia Kahler, the co-founders of the luxury tea company Nelson & George, are two of the most interesting people I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing. This multi-talented mother-daughter duo is just fascinating! They’ve lived all over the world, speak several languages, and have an incredible variety of interests, apart from their passion for tea. Their dreamy Instagram feed reflects their love for tea, as well as their international lifestyles spanning from Paris to their headquarters in Kittery, Maine, and beyond! – it is one of my favorite accounts to follow. “American Purveyors of Fine Tea,” the Kahler women have a lot to say about tea, owning a business, and how their paths brought them to this exciting venture.

his interview has been divided into two parts. Tune in next Friday for part 2!

NB: This interview is to be enjoyed with your favorite cup of tea. 

PatriciaParisienne xx

I love the name of your company! How did you decide on Nelson & George?

Olivia:  We wanted to create a specifically American brand of tea – a tea company that is a contemporary classic yet celebrates America’s story.  George Washington and the founding fathers came to mind first, but we also wanted to celebrate stories of the lesser known, yet also important, heroes.  We both love animals, so we thought it would be great to celebrate an animal that was an important part of our history.  Nelson was George Washington’s primary horse in the Revolutionary War, and is said to have been very courageous during battles.  Nelson and George felt like a timeless classic that imparts a sense of history, and a name that could work well in the different settings, which we envision our tea will be sold.

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You two are an extraordinary mother-daughter duo to run the company side-by-side with complementary strengths. Sheila, what inspired you to delve into the world of tea? Was it difficult to become a tea sommelier – and can you share with us exactly what it means to be one?

First, let me just state what a privilege it is to be able to be in business with my daughter! How fortunate that we found common ground on the topic of tea to explore and share with the world.

Frankly, I believe I really first became aware of tea when I studied herbalism years ago. Then, I was brewing and drinking – and recommending! – various herbal teas for various health benefits.  Somehow later on, while living in Germany, I developed a love for green tea in particular, though I occasionally drink black:  I never looked back since! I had become known in my family for my love of green tea (and consequently received a lot of it and tea accoutrements as birthday and mother’s day gifts! It is my nature to study those topics that interest me, especially relative to health and food, so I dove into the topic of tea by reading many books on it. Just coincidentally last year while on vacation, I saw an ad in the local paper offering a course leading to a Tea Sommelier designation, given by a super knowledgeable Tea Master, Frankee Muller from the ITMA (the International Tea Masters Association, the gold standard in the industry). I saw this as a “meant -to- be” kind of circumstance as it was really so random! So, I grabbed the chance since I thought it would be good to have an official recognition for my studies. The timing of setting up a business with my daughter Olivia was perfect, as Olivia was at that point in her life where she wanted to venture out a little bit and as she states, start a sideline business of her own. The course was very comprehensive and gave me a solid foundation for my understanding of all facets of tea, though I see it unofficially as “just opening the door” to this most fascinating and very relevant world of tea!

Xmas SF-34Olivia, you are an incredibly talented professional opera singer. I can imagine you’ve enjoyed several cups of tea (possibly with lemon and honey!) for your voice but what drew you to tea as a professional venture?

Thank you!  Opera was my first passion, and I feel very blessed that I have been able to have it in my life, and have the outlet for my own artistic expression.  And you are right, even before my mom became a tea sommelier, I have always enjoyed a cup of tea.  I decided last year that I would like to start my own business, and as my mom and I work very well together, she was my first choice as a business partner.  I love discovering fine food and drink, and when mom got her Tea Sommelier certification, I became very interested in the world of tea.  Although I have always loved tea, I had no idea how vast and fascinating the world of tea was.  The complexity of the flavors, the variety, and the health benefits motivated me to want to introduce the tea to my friends and family.  Last year as a precursor to my business, I started a blog on coffee shops, as I travel often for opera and enjoyed finding a cozy spot for tea, coffee and people watch.  I noticed that often – and especially in the US – coffee was given full attention, while tea was often somewhat of an afterthought.  The coffeehouses that I was visiting could tell me which farm the coffee came from, the specific flavor profile, where the coffee was roasted, etc…but teas were not shown the same attention.  Perhaps because our relationship with tea started off with some difficulty (during the Revolutionary War), I felt that America was especially limited in our scope of knowledge of tea, specifically of tea in the true sense of the word as in from the tea plant from which comes black, green, white….

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Let’s talk about your teas. How do you decide which blends to include in your collections? From where are they sourced?

When deciding what teas we wanted to include in our initial collection of 36 teas, we set the following criteria, as we wanted to provide the highest grade premium teas while ensuring that our company matched our values:

  • A focus on rare teas

While most people have heard of Earl Grey and English Breakfast, as we mentioned earlier, we want to specifically introduce teas that are relatively unknown, and/or very rare…while carry the best version of some of the well-known classics.

  • Highest grade

We wanted the absolute top quality of each tea so that our customers can enjoy the best   version of the tea they are about to enjoy.  As with other fine foods, the different grades greatly affect the taste.  Our teas come from the best farms we have found, and a tea master monitors the processing of most of our teas.

  • Organic and Fair Trade

Both for the benefit of our health and the health of the planet, we personally consume an almost exclusively organic diet, and as we wanted our values reflected in our company, this was an important aspect we wanted to include at Nelson and George.  We also care about the quality of life that the producers of our tea have.  While we have not been able to personally visit all of the farms which supply our tea, we source our tea from either small farms where the workers are paid fair wages and work in acceptable conditions, or we purchase our tea from farms which are fair trade certified.

We also emphasize pure teas, rather than blends, as we think that the pure expression of a certain method of processing creates a fascinating cup of tea, and we often do not want to change the pure expression that the tea master has carefully crafted.  Sadly, blends are often created to mask or ameliorate a tea that is lower quality and therefore less enjoyable in its pure form.  The blends that we do carry are all made from exceptional quality tea, or herbs.  Higher-grade teas have also been found to have more health benefits when compared to a lower quality version of the same type of tea…so both our bodies and our palate are equally satisfied.

Our teas are sourced from the area my Mom has decided produces the best expression of that tea.

This equates to our teas being sourced primarily sourced from our trusted buyers and tea masters in Asia.  Tea was born there, and it continues to set the standard – especially when referring to specific processing methods.  A few of our teas – such as our Rooibos, “The Summer,” – come from Africa.  We are currently testing a few teas, which come from America tea farms (yes, a few exist!), and hope that we can find one which matches our taste and quality standards.

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One of the things I most admire about your company is that you focus on “organically grown, ethically sourced and environmentally friendly grown, processed and packaged products.” Why was it important to you that your company concentrates on these elements, and how do you go about making sure that your teas fit these criteria?

Olivia: We wanted to create a company that reflects both our values and we hope the values of our consumers.  We place importance on being informed consumers, and being aware the impact our wallet is having on the health of others and the planet.  A lot the destruction caused by larger companies would end, and does end, when consumers demand it by speaking with their wallets.  While it might mean a decrease in our profits, and a higher price tag at times for the consumer, it was only logical to us to create a company from which we would want to buy our tea.  We also emphasize slowing down and taking time to enjoy each cup of tea…and we don’t think it would be as enjoyable knowing the tea was having a negative impact on either the earth or the people who pick and process it!

We ensure these criteria are met by adhering to our guidelines mentioned in question three when selecting our teas.  At our HQ in Kittery, Maine, we do our best to reduce our environmental impact in our office by reducing, recycling or re-using any of our waste.  Our focus is on selling teas in tins and bamboo boxes, which we hope our consumers will refill from our compostable bags.  All of our packing material and boxes are sourced from EcoEnclose (http://www.ecoenclose.com/), a company also run by a fellow female entrepreneur out of Colorado. Her packing materials are recycled and compostable!  At every step of the way, we strive to find the most earth friendly way of conducting our business, while maintaining a luxury experience, and ensuring the tea is delivered and stored in the ideal conditions.

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The names of your different teas are so fun! Can you tell us about some of the names and why you’ve chosen them?

Sheila: We are so glad you find the names fun and interesting! Thank you!  It was Olivia’s invention, and ultimately her decision which names would go with which teas, although, of course, I had to first select the kinds of teas we would carry then discuss the tea with Olivia before she was “inspired” to attach a certain name to it. I find it actually intriguing and educational having our teas associated with a particular American personality, historical figure or hero, including animals, as it causes one to pause and contemplate who that person/animal is, and why we chose he/she/it. People have always loved stories since the beginning of time: why not have a story with tea time? It causes us to pause perhaps a little longer, and in some cases, give silent homage to the person/animal who might have had such a heroic or just positive influence on our history, indeed in some cases, influence on the world at large. It fosters awareness in general and respect in particular.  Attaching certain figures to certain teas, Olivia tried to make a correlation between the personal attributes of the person/animal and the tea’s own profile: as relates to the leaf, the aroma and the taste. She did a great job!

Olivia:  I also wanted to attach American names to our teas to make them more accessible to an American audience without diminishing their inherent value or history.  Most of our teas come from Asia, and I didn’t want their names to be a point of alienation or hindrance.  Naming them after Americans we admired seemed to perfect fit – it preserves a sense of respect for the tea, while combining it with a sense of respect for America.  I chose first names as I also wanted tea to become part of each person’s story. You might initially be attracted to “The George” because it reminds you of George Washington, or because your son is named George.  I would love it if every time you took the time to make a cup of The George it reminded you of happy memories with your son.  🙂 (Editor’s note: Absolutely! Will do!)

Xmas SF-22

People may not know that part of the profits from the tea sales go to different charities. Which charities are they, and how did you decide to support those three in particular? How can we learn more about them?

Olivia:  Building charity into our business model from the start was important to us!  Again, we wanted to build a company that matched our values.  We have not yet finalized the list of charities we will donate to, and it will most likely vary from year to year.  In general, we would like to support charities which we support women, animals, veterans and the earth.

Some of the charities we plan on supporting at the end of this fiscal year include:

Mr. Bones and Co. is an animal rescue charity based in NYC, and founded by my former boss.  With this personal contact, I am sure that they money receive is put to good use, and they have already done amazing work in the NYC area.

Kiva, a company that provides micro loans to entrepreneurs in the developing world, is one of the charities we have worked with on a personal level before, and love their concept.

Greenpeace has done amazing environmental work, and continues to be a great watch dog to ensure companies are not creating irreversible damage to the planet.

My ultimate dream is to build the Nelson and George animal rescue center with an animal based program for Veterans with PTSD.

There is a huge tea market. What sets you apart from the rest of the tea companies (besides your beautiful packaging and imagery)?

Sheila: Yes! You are right, the tea market is quite large now, though in the grand scheme of things, when one considers:

1) Quality – highest grade, small family farms, sustainability

2) American market (the potential per capita tea consumption) and, just for instance

3) The quickly growing tea trend at the moment

Then one can imagine that there is a great deal of “room” for say, our brand!  Those three points, as well as the mother-daughter aspect, as well as the “honoring” if you will the American story from its inception to current time as well as heroic animals and their stories, lets us think that there is indeed a niche for our business…while there may quite a few tea businesses out there, not many can boast very high quality and resourcing from small tea gardens, just to use point number one as an example.

Olivia: Yes, I agree with Mom, and also would add that, as I have mentioned before, we did not find a brand of tea that provided specifically a luxury American experience that met all of our standards.  When I would buy tea for Mom for her birthday or Christmas, I would often buy it months ahead of time in either London or Paris, as the brands available there matched the quality and tea experience Mom so adored.

Stay tuned for Part 2 next Friday! In the meantime, you can follow Nelson & George on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. For those of you in the US, you can order your tea via the Nelson & George site. International shipping to come soon!

 

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Life is…an afternoon in the sunshine | Hush Puppies

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Ahhh…springtime! This year, the season has never been sweeter. Spring began with the last few weeks of my pregnancy.

Getting ready for bebe was thrilling. The building anticipation of what our baby would be like and how it would feel to be parents grew every day as we neared the due date. We were advised to enjoy our time together as a twosome before our little human arrived. So, that’s exactly what John and I did, starting with long strolls around town.

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