Monday, October 17, 2011

My Totally Delicious New Taste Discovery: Bellocq

The Best Teas in the World
I love fine tea. It restores, inspires, encourages, and uplifts.

You can imagine how delighted I am to discover the most elegant new tea company, Bellocq.

I’ve traveled the world—Paris, Tokyo, London, remote high-elevation corners of India, St. Petersburg, Colombo and Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka and beyond—in search of the most delicious and fragrant teas. I’m always looking for rare Broken Orange Pekoes, First Flush teas, single estate teas (Margaret’s Hope), velvety Assams, refreshing Moroccan mints, the best-quality tea leaves, the loveliest and most delicate blends, and for breakfast always a fortifying brewed tea.

And now I’ve found the very best tea, in Brooklyn.

It’s the chic new tea company, Bellocq. Such a divine name, and dozens of extraordinary blends and teas. I’ve added a complete listing of Bellocq teas below. One or two will tickle your fancy.

Come and meet the three fabulous and poetic talents who created Bellocq, discover their glorious teas, and then you must taste them yourself. Order a canister. Brew. Instant bliss.

Bellocq founders Michael Shannon and Heidi Johannsen Stewart and their elegant wares.

“We wanted to create something that we couldn't find that represented the kind of integrity that we feel is lacking in the tea market. This was a chance for all of us to use the multitudes of skills we’ve been honing for so long but that might not be needed or appreciated in the corporate/mass-market world.” – Michael Shannon, co-founder of Bellocq

Above, the new Bellocq tea atelier nestled among the extraordinary wares at the Restoration Hardware Gallery in Los Angeles, where I first encountered Heidi Johanssen Stewart and Michael Shannon, and the extravagantly perfumed teas of Bellocq.

Bellocq’s founders, Heidi Johannsen Stewart, Michael Shannon and Scott Stewart joined creative forces a few years ago. They wanted to collaborate on a shared aesthetic vision—an appreciation of traditional artisan work and a passion for tea.

“Tea is an affordable, everyday luxury,” said Heidi, a former Martha Stewart Living editor, stylist and columnist, whose work is featured on the pages of publications including Food and Wine magazine, and the New York Times.

“Bellocq’s approach to flavor and fragrance is tailored to a stylish, well-traveled, and knowledgeable client,” said Heidi. “We are re-imagining the tea business to suit the needs and desires of the modern discerning tea drinker. We want to cultivate a genuine relationship with our clients and provide the highest level of service which is, to some extent, intuitive.”

These are the chicest, most elegant teas on the planet. The Bellocq Breakfast tea (I'm working my way through a canister) is complex, deep, rich. Majorelle Mint (lovely iced) has the most delicate, fresh fragrance.


A toasty full-bodied blend of organic Indian, Chinese and Ceylon black teas. Smooth with a rich honey finish.

A modern blend of China’s finest organic white silver needle tea scented with the essence of Sicilian bergamot. Smooth and seductive.

A fresh organic herbal blend evocative of a summer meadow. ‘Manon of the Spring’ meets Marie Antoinette. Perfect for sipping all day.

A dreamy blend of full-bodied organic Indian black tea, spices, red poppy flowers and marigold petals.

A beguiling blend of organic Japanese sencha with essence of Bulgarian rose and strewn with rose petals.

A blend of full-bodied organic Indian and Chinese teas, juniper berries, Douglas fir tips and wild flowers.

A refined and distinctive blend of organic white peony and lavender with refreshing notes of grapefruit. Also delicious iced.

An exotic caffeine-free blend of bright organic lemongrass and feverish ginger with notes of fresh basil, delicate orange blossom and red mandarin.

The finest organic full leaf black tea delicately scented with the vibrant essence of pure Sicilian bergamot.

A paradise of organic Chinese gunpowder green tea and mint with a refreshing citrus twist. Perfect served hot in the traditional manner, or over ice. Kaftan, optional.

Simply the most gorgeous caffeine-free chai. Rich and smooth organic / fair trade South African rooibos, cardamon, fragrant cassia, and spicy ginger adorned with garlands of rose, jasmine and marigold petals.

Michael Shannon at the new Bellocq tea atelier on the Kings Road, Chelsea, London. (Image via The Accessorator).

Michael Shannon worked in the world of product design for notable companies such as Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, where he contributed to the beloved catalogue Martha-by-Mail. He also contributed his style and savoir-faire to cult favorite clothing and housewares company, Anthropologie.

“I’m fascinated with early techniques so I continue my education in many forms of artistry including blacksmithing, tailoring, glassblowing and carpentry,” said Shannon.

“The craftsmanship of tea is an art-form in itself,” he noted. “Growing and processing leaves requires great skill and sensitivity, I continue to be amazed and humbled.”

Scott Stewart, partner in Bellocq, is co-owner and founder of fabrication firm, SAAW, inc. the firm behind high-end commercial interiors such as Anthropologie and Barney’s New York.

As a sitting member on the board of directors for the pioneering eco-clothing label Stewart+Brown, Scott notes, “There is a choice to be made and we have committed ourselves to working with responsible gardens and merchants to select the finest and freshest organic teas. Teas are a seasonal commodity, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at most of the product available, it’s been on the shelves for a long time. For us, it’s quality over quantity. Furthermore, as a company committed to preserving traditional craft techniques and the communities in which they thrive, it’s not just about the product, but also the process, which includes the health and well-being for all involved. For Bellocq, it’s about providing an incredible product and honoring relationships along the way.”

The trio find themselves traveling, often with children in tow, to far-flung locations in search of traditional techniques to integrate into Bellocq’s modern expression.

The fabulous Bellocq teas

What sets them apart: the leaves are fresh, the leaves and flowers and pods and natural ingredients are of the best quality.

These are incredibly refined and complex flavors, the best of the best. They are sold as loose-leaf teas, though you can make bags from provided sachets.

I love the Bellocq Breakfast tea—and a tea-lover only has to look at the tealeaves, which are twiggy and long, with a bracing bouquet.

Selections from the catalog of Bellocq teas:
{Yunnan Province, China} An elegant and fragrant blossom-strewn compressed four-year old organic tea cake lends itself to multiple cuppings while retaining a smooth mellow brew.

{Yunnan Province, China} Revered in China for it’s medicinal purposes, this organic shou pu-erh cake infuses classic pu-erh flavor with intriguing notes of sarsaparilla.

{Yunnan Province, China} This organic pu-erh produces a strong yet smooth brew. Earthen musky notes predominate rich, coffee-hued liquor.

{Yunnan Province, China} Vintage brick-style five-year old compressed organic pu-erh. Gentle and aromatic, excellent drinking now, or reserve for a few more years.


{Organic Fair Trade, South Africa} Caffeine-free smooth, full bodied African red tisane. Rich with floral honey notes, a sweet lingering finish and rich ochre-hued liquor, rooibos does not become bitter or astringent with prolonged steeping. High in antioxidants.

{Korea} Entirely caffeine free, rich in antioxidants and calcium, Mulberry leaf tea produces a rich, fruity and sweet brew. Unusual and delightful.

{Organic} Indigenous to South America and introduced to Europe in the 17th century. Verveine, as it is also known, possesses a bright, sharp lemon flavor that makes a delicious tea served either hot or over ice. Calming and soothing.

No. 45 MINT
{Organic} Uplifting and bright, mint is a natural digestive aid, contains anti-inflammatory properties and stimulates brain activity.

{Organic} Flor de Jamica, as it is known in Central America, is refreshing, tart, and high in vitamin C. Allegedly, Cleopatra adored hibiscus tea and believed it helped to maintain her legendary beauty.

{Organic} Naturally soothing and relaxing, chamomile is a perfect bedtime (or anytime) elixir. Delicious sweetened with honey.

{Organic Fair Trade, Argentina} Energizing, refreshing mate is an excellent alternative
to “traditional” tea. Indulge your romantic boho side and sip from a traditional gourd and bombilla.

Bellocq teas were introduced in the first tea atelier in London last year. Now the Bellocq teas are selling like…er, hot cakes…at Bergdorf Goodman in New York.
Restoration Hardware in Los Angeles, where I first discovered Bellocq, can’t keep some blends in stock. And the Bellocq team is constantly traveling to find more tea.

“Picture us, traveling through deepest Central Mexico, packed to the rafters in our little rental car—indigenous textiles tucked into every available nook and cranny—our bumper nearly dragging along the highway while the rear window is obscured of vision because of the 20 pounds of tuberoses we didn’t have the heart to leave behind. But we’re loving every minute of it and are so inspired by the wonderful people we’ve met along the way. We’ve been fortunate to be part of an exceptional creative community and wish to share our knowledge and inspiration with each and every customer.” – Michael Shannon

“It is in Brooklyn where it all happens. Our showroom has been a labor of love which makes it all the more enjoyable when we get to entertain others. We are now working on a series of events that will include everything from lectures to intimate musical performances.”

The showroom/tea atelier will also act as a retail store several days a week. It's an opportunity to interact with customers in a way that we feel closest. Customers are able to try any tea they find curious. "We are also beginning to carry teas that are too rare to wholesale. It is important to us that any environment we create touch upon the senses in more than just taste. We create everything here by ourselves right down to the plaster of the walls, building and upholstering of furniture... not to mention the work that goes into creating and producing the teas,”  said Michael Shannon of Bellocq.

Bellocq inside the chic Restoration Hardware Gallery in Los Angeles.

Small-batch tea blends will continue to evolve, reflecting the seasons and Bellocq will be offering bespoke blending opportunities as well.

Heidi said, “Scent and flavor not only bring back forgotten emotions and memories, but envelope us in the present and influences mood. It’s a powerful conduit. I read, somewhere, that tea is, essentially, a journey of water.” That’s a wonderfully poetic sentiment.

Bellocq Teas:
Prices from $15.95 for the vivid yellow Bellocq box of Ceylon OP, to $104 for a large, luxurious silver tea caddy full of Darjeeling Second Flush.

Tea Atelier:
37 Greenpoint Ave. Brooklyn, NY 11222
{entrance at 104 West St.}
open to the public Fridays and Saturdays
T: 1.800.495.5416 
“The Brooklyn Atelier is only open on Friday and Saturdays 12-7 and it is our main focus now. We are hosting events all all kinds and the experience here is the true experience that one would have gotten in London. Customers are able to taste and smell anything they like. We also are carrying teas that are too rare for our wholesale line as well as short run blends that we can't help our selves from creating!” said Michael Shannon.

Where to find Bellocq teas:
The Restoration Hardware Gallery in Los Angeles, as well as Bergdorf Goodman in New York City. Also at Lane Crawford in Hong Kong and Biotop in Tokyo, who have lovely presentations of Bellocq.

All Bellocq teas images and portraits courtesy of Bellocq. Photography of Bellocq products by Anna Williams,

Interiors of Restoration Hardware Los Angeles gallery, courtesy Restoration Hardware.
All photos used with permission.


Joanne Angelina said...

I'm an avid tea drinker and this place is added on my "to visit" list- if only there was one in Toronto! Thank you for sharing!

The enchanted home said...

I like tea but prefer coffee given the choice, however my son and husband are avid tea drinkers so this looks like such an amazing place...thanks for sharing, looks like we are going to have to make a little trip!

ArchitectDesign™ said...

I love the packaging! Tea afficionadom here as well.

vicki archer said...

LIke you Diane, I am in search of the perfect cup...I would love to try these teas and next time I am in New York I will definitely make a visit to their beautiful showroom....What a find....thank you....xv

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Dear Friends-around the world--

I knew you would love this news!

I adore family is English, after all...and Bellocq is such high quality, so beautifully presented.

You can order it would be a wonderful present for yourself.

Every blend, every concept, is so inspired.

Discover them while they are new! You'll become a fan, too.

cheers and best, DIANE

The Devoted Classicist said...

I do not care for coffee, but love tea. I look forward to trying some of these.

Scott Stewart said...

Diane, I love your work and the beautiful perspective you share with the world!

It may very well be time for the return of not only great tea but more importantly a return of a tea culture. Wouldn't it be a lovely step forward for our culture(s) to begin a new period in which refinement, elegance, reflection and consideration are again the foundations of our common existence.

peggy braswell said...

I live in LA so will be able to get this beautiful tea, and did not know about them. Thank you Diane.

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Hello, John, Scott and Peggy-

THANK YOU! I love your messages.
Peggy--be sure to report back when you try your favorite Bellocq from the Resto gallery in LA.
I imagine that Bellocq's phones are ringing off the hook.
Everyone is calling me saying 'I'm ordering some Bellocq tea to serve in my gallery' or 'I'm ordering Bellocq to serve iced' or 'Bellocq by the dozen for me...'.
I'm so thrilled. The founders, Heidi and Michael are so lovely.
I used to buy my teas in Paris--but I believe the Bellocq quality is higher and more refined.
Let me know what you think..
cheers DIANE