The latest interview in our series is from Michaelle McLean, creator of an amazingly stylish line of tea cosies which you can find at flockofteacosy.com. She’s also a certified tea sommelier and shares a little bit about how her cosies get made!
image source: flockofteacosy.com
1. Hi Michaelle! Tell me a little bit about yourself and what makes you tick.
I live in downtown Toronto and love it here. Have some arts and the love of making things in my background. If I can’t find what I’m looking for I’ll start making it. In this world it seems the monolithic life (one career, one income source) is rarer and the internet offers interesting possibilities for artisans, designers, etc. To stretch my brain in a different way I recently went back to school and have become a Certified Tea Sommelier and write a (rather) intermittent blog about tea at “A Tasting A Day“.
2. Congratulations on the new launch of flockofteacosy.com! Tell me about your business and how it all got started.
It’s really one of those things that sprang from a personal need. I’ve been a tea drinker forever and was surprised that I couldn’t find a tea cosy that looked modern to my eye. I never found one I liked, and it became an itch. Started with some back of napkin sketches that sat on my bulletin board for a year.
3. What’s the inspiration behind your lovely tea cozies?
I’ve always been drawn to the simple and the functional. Things made for industrial applications with no original decorative intention have great appeal. They’re pared down to their essential function — like Shaker furniture too. I’m not alone in this, I realise, and “industrial” now has its own decorative appeal.
image: Michaelle’s worktable, showing cosies in progress
The first tea cosy I made used a fluffy felt yardage designed for ironing board covers. It was too limp but since that felt was all about preventing heat from seeping through I knew I was getting closer. Then when I saw the thick, dense, European felt at my local fabric store – and in such gorgeous colours – I knew I’d found my tea cosy material. Felt’s an ancient material and a natural insulator. It’s too thick to sew in a traditional way and the pinked edges (used in the textile industry) on an exposed, exterior seam allowance were just too delicious to not use. The buttons came from a desire to hide the stitch attaching the tab – decorative but driven by a function.
The second tea cosy design, the ‘shorn’, well, I just woke up with it in my head one morning. I’m not sure where the design came from but I love the kind of cartoon of a tassle it has on top.
4. What does tea mean to you? Describe a meaningful tea moment.
In my 20s I shared a house with a group of women and we’d make a big pot of tea at a moment’s notice – to chat over, to commiserate over, to laugh over, and to cry over. A pot of tea was part of pretty much everything we shared in that house — a wonderfully social thing. Since I’ve become a Certified Tea Sommelier (strictly for fun) tea now means a whole new world of taste to discover. I had no idea that tea could be made to taste so differently. It’s like wine that way and is a world of flavour that should be similarly explored. One can’t imagine having the same wine every night can we?
image: Michaelle’s tea drawer, showing mostly black tea
5. If there’s one tea you could recommend to everyone, what would it be and why?
Oy. Can I recommend two? The first would be Golden Monkey – it’s a high-end black tea from China made entirely of young tea leaf buds and has wonderful caramel flavour notes. The second would be Japanese Gyokuro green tea. It’s a high-end, shade-grown, softly flavoured tea that must be steeped for only about a minute with quite cool water in order to draw out its rich, satiny texture and slightly sweet flavour without it becoming bitter. But boy does it reward! Gyokuro is also brilliant with fine, very dark chocolate. The chocolate’s earthy texture and taste is a wonderful complement to the tea.
Visit Michaelle’s tea cosy creations at http://www.flockofteacosy.com