For many years, Andrea and Mark Riesenfeld’s lives have revolved around their love for food, an interest they’ve expressed in various ways — from creating an all-organic farmers’ market in Port Reyes Station, the small northern California town they used to call home, to starting an artisan chocolate business, or blogging about cheese. In 2015, a trip to Paris sparked a new passion that they’re now cultivating in their new home on the North Fork, and sharing with the community.
Mr. and Ms. Riesenfeld opened their Leaves In A Bowl tea shop in Greenport on November 15, the result of their newfound passion for tea and the culture of tea drinking around the world. The 370-square-foot shop is located at 213 East Front Street in Greenport and sells primarily single origin teas from around the world, including Taiwan, Japan, China, India and Africa, with selections that change with the seasons. Mr. and Ms. Riesenfeld will also conduct several workshops and host events related to tea.
It all began with a trip to a specialty Japanese tea room while they were on vacation in Paris. They were drawn not only to the taste and quality of the tea, but the culture surrounding it. Before long, they were planning other trips to enhance their knowledge — taking a tea sommelier course in London in 2016, and later returning for more master classes; visiting the Japanese tea gardens in Uji; going on an Oolong study tour in Taiwan and visiting tea factories there to learn about the process of making tea.
For the couple, tea became an obsession for several reasons.
“We got more involved with tea because we appreciated not just the taste of the tea but also the ritual around tea, and the energetic connection between tea and people,” Ms. Riesenfeld said. “We learned that in many cultures, it’s an integral part of the social interaction between people, at home and at work.”
The role of tea as a facilitator of human connection has been particularly alluring, Ms. Riesenfeld said, and it’s something she and her husband relished during their travels.
“One thing we found was an expression called ‘tea friend,’” she said. “We shared tea in London, Paris, Taipei, Tokyo and other places, and met the most lovely people who have been generous and hospitable with a lot of wisdom and understanding about tea and the culture and community around tea. It’s been a learning experience, and the personal experience has been really beautiful.”
That symbiotic relationship between tea and connection is behind the inspiration for the name of the Riesenfelds’ tea shop, Ms. Riesenfeld said, explaining that in Taiwan, loose leaf tea is typically consumed from a bowl rather than a cup.
“It’s a casual but elegant way to do it, and it creates more energetic connection between the tea and the person drinking it,” she said. “People in China have been drinking team out of bowls for thousands of years.”
Paying homage to the traditions and rituals around tea is a big part of what the Riesenfelds will do with their business. It is obvious from the care with which they select, source and brew their teas, and in the presentation as well, with the use of carefully selected, handmade teaware from artisans around the country and the world. They are also eager to pass on the knowledge they acquired over the years, and have planned several community events. The first is a “Tea 101” course at the Southold Library on January 29 from 2 to 3 p.m., and a “Tea and Conversation” event at 8 Hands Farm in Cutchogue on February 29 from 4 to 5 p.m.
“In many cultures, [tea is] an integral part of the social interaction between people, at home and at work.”Andrea Reisenfeld, co-owner
It’s all part of an effort to connect the community with their new business, and to connect personally with the community as well. The Riesenfelds moved to the east coast last year, desiring to be closer to their two adult sons, one who lives in Washington D.C., the other in Queens. They weren’t seeking an urban environment, however, and ultimately settled on a home in Orient.
“We’ve always lived in the country, and we just loved it here,” Ms. Riesenfeld said. “It’s an agricultural area, and we were used to being near wineries in Napa and Sonoma. The people are so nice and friendly and welcoming, and we haven’t looked back.”
The Riesenfelds had decided not to bring their chocolate business with them when they moved, and so they arrived on the North Fork unencumbered, but with a recently acquired trove of knowledge about and passion for tea.
“We had all this interest and experience in tea, and we wanted to find a way to share it,” Ms. Riesenfeld said. “It took some time to find a location, but when this opportunity came up, it was exactly the right spot.”
They have clear goals about what they want the shop to become for those who enter.
“We have really high quality tea, and are focused on loose leaf tea and educating people about tea,” Ms. Riesenfeld said. “We designed [the shop] so people can come in and feel relaxed and comfortable. I want people to walk through the doors and their shoulders can drop, and they can focus on the one thing they know they’re there for.”
Ms. Riesenfeld said that in the short time they’ve been in business, the feedback has been positive, and added that she and her husband are excited to expand their reach as the months pass, opening more than three days once the weather warms, and offering cold brew teas, and hosting more events.
For more information, visit leavesinabowl.com.