Welcome to Blue Willow Tea!
"Every tea has a story to tell. If you pay close attention and surrender your senses to the moment, you can witness it unfold." —Ali Roth, Owner, Blue Willow Tea
Blue Willow tea is a one-woman labor of love. Owned and operated by Ali Roth since 2012, Blue Willow is one of the few tea distributors in the United States committed to providing single-origin teas directly from farms dedicated to sustainable practices and humane living conditions for tea workers and their families.
Ali travels directly to farms to witness how the tea is grown and processed, and to cultivate personal relationships with the growers. "The way tea is grown and processed affects much more than the infused result. It impacts the health of the soil, water supplies and surrounding wildlife, which play a huge role in the neighboring communities."
One taste of Blue Willow, and you'll discover what the art of tea is all about. "The patience, craft and attention to detail that goes into producing quality teas is a gift," says Ali, "and Blue Willow is committed to helping people find the beauty in every sip."
Founder Ali Roth
"There is an intimate connection that is achieved when sharing tea; just as the leaves open and reveal their inner truths, so do we."
When she's not busy working at the Blue Willow warehouse or adjacent Teaspot tea house in Berkeley, California, Ali Roth can be seen making wholesale deliveries on her '71 Honda motorcycle, her dog Boris goggled and seated in the sidehack beside her. She also plays drums in a band, collects and repairs vintage motorcycles, grows her own vegetables, and tends to a clutch of chickens—Henrietta, Hans Solo, Thelma, Louise and Goldie Hen. Above all, however, her true passion is tea.
"Tea is to coffee what beer is to wine," says Ali, whose approach to selecting and blending teas is much like that of high-end craft brewers. "All tea comes from the same plant, camellia sinensis, yet there are so many different colors and flavors." She approaches each tea like a sommelier—regarding its aroma, flavor, color and finish—and has trained with tea masters to recognize the nuances of each variety.
To create tables for the Blue Willow Teaspot, Ali reclaimed sheets of plywood from the half-pipe skate ramp that used to be in her backyard, and recently closed the underground record shop in her home, where she hosted punk bands, to focus on her business full-time. Ali's nothing if not industrious, and has essentially been a one-woman show at Blue Willow since she took over Blue Willow Tea in 2011—sourcing, blending, packaging and distributing teas all by herself.
Every year, Ali travels to Asia to meet with tea farmers and search for exciting new teas to bring home and share. As a result, she's developed relationships with the tea pluckers and their families, and remains committed to supporting sustainable and responsible practices.
"I want to be able to offer teas that are really special and make them accessible to everyone, which is why I sell them at such a great value," says Ali. Her aim is to not only offer the most exceptional teas, but also to bring people together. "At tea ceremonies, everyone is treated the same. It's a grounding experience and reminder that we are all equal."