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Alexis Siemons: the Philadelphian whose life is centred on tea

Meet Alexis Siemons – she’s got one of those jobs that’s about as rare as hens teeth, and ridiculously niche-cool. Alexis is a tea enthusiast, consultant and writer. Her tea-totalled adventures are chronicled on her website and blog, teaspoons & petals, and when she’s not busy writing or reading about tea, she teaches culinary classes, and develops recipes for restaurants.

A Day in the Life of Alexis Siemons

Where do you call home?

I live in Haddonfield, New Jersey (right outside Philadelphia). I lived in Philadelphia for ten years, and find myself in the city each week for meetings and gatherings with friends (often centered around delicious bites and sips).

How was teaspoons & petals born?

Teaspoons & petals began as a blog in the spring of 2008. One day, I was walking nearby Rittenhouse Square park in Philadelphia and stumbled upon a tea shop with shelves of large silver tea tins lining the walls. I was overwhelmed with joy and immediately wanted to dive into each tea. So, in an effort to explore the world of tea I created teaspoons & petals.

Within months, companies from around the world started sending me teas that I had never heard of and literature about flavour profiles, steep times, culture, etc. Throughout the past seven or more years, teaspoons & petals has evolved from a blog into a business (and my way of life). I now consult with tea-related companies on product development and marketing, assist with menus for restaurants and cafes, teach a series of classes, and write recipes and stories for various publications.

Any new projects you can tell us about?

I recently launched a series of quarterly journals on cooking with tea.

Tea Journals - Teaspoons and Petals

How do you plan your days and stay focused?

Each day is different depending on if I’m working at my desk, testing recipes in the kitchen or visiting clients in Philadelphia, New York and beyond. I keep a series of to-do lists that keep me on track. I also have started dedicating one day a week just for recipe testing so that I can focus in the kitchen and not be distracted by calls or emails. I also try to take tea breaks in between projects throughout the day to give my mind time to rest and reset before moving in another direction.

Why is the ritual of making a cup of tea important to you?

I believe rituals are an important part of creativity. For me, morning and afternoon tea rituals offer a sense of comfort and excitement. The comfort stems from a sense of consistency, knowing that no matter what happens during the day, I can turn to tea twice a day (at least) to offer a sense of calm. The sense of excitement is steeped in the notion that each day my tea experience will vary. I strongly believe in the Japanese idiom, ichi-go ichi-e, which translates to “one time, one meeting”. This notion allows me to treasure each tea ritual, as each moment is unique and will not be repeated.

Right now, I’m steeping a Japanese hojicha green tea as the fall air is whispering in from a nearby window, and pumpkin muffins are baking in the oven. The experience of the moment around me slightly alters my tea rituals to make them truly unique and forever treasured.

Best Kept Secrets

I khoollect a few… 

I have quite the collection of tea, tea cups, teaspoons, vintage cookbooks, and handkerchiefs.

Alexis Simmons Khoollection

What’s your favourite item in your khoollection? 

My most treasured item in my khoollection would have to be the very first tea set from my childhood. I still remember finding the mini set in a dollhouse store, and love to think that I was choosing my destiny at such a young age.

 What’s your secret ingredient or top tip in the kitchen? 

The easiest way to begin cooking with tea is to swap it for water when cooking rice. Or if you have more of a sweet tooth, infuse milk or cream with tea and use it to make tea whipped creams, lattes, etc.

Giving tea as a gift – where do we start? 

Oh it’s so fun to gift tea to friends and loved ones. If you know their favorite flavors, explore teas that are known for particular taste profiles. For example, if you know a friend truly loves roasted tastes, you might try a medium roasted oolong tea. Most tea companies now offer sets of their best sellers, or sample sizes. I think sharing sample size gift sets with friends is a wonderful way for them to discover which teas excite their taste buds.

Urban Favourites

What inspires you most about your city?

The beauty of nature and the charm of downtown. My home is surrounded by trees, which means I’m lost in views of green leaves changing to deep shades of ruby red, vibrant yellow tones and hues of orange that seem to sparkle under the sunlight. Nature inspires me to be mindful, and to take moments to enjoy the ever-changing beauty beyond my window. The food scene of Philadelphia also inspires me. There are some great farmers markets, countless creative chefs, and neighbourhoods being revived with the opening of new restaurants owned by people who are so passionate about their craft.

What are your must visit boutiques in Philadelphia?

I like to visit the Italian Market section of Philadelphia and visit Di Bruno Bros and Claudio’s. Both offer an incredible selection of local and international cheeses along with Italian specialities (definitely browse the olive oil).

Shane Confectionery is also amazing. It’s the oldest continuously operated candy shop in America. Sweet treats have been made in that shop since 1863.

What to do on a rainy day?

Visit the Rosenbach library and museum, a 19th-century townhouse tucked away on a lovely street. It’s home to a collection of 400,000 rare books, manuscripts and decorative art objects. They often host ‘Hands-Tours’ that allow visitors to have a personal experience with long lost love letters of famous poets, pages of a rare book, and other treasures.

Where to spend a Sunday morning?

At the Headhouse farmers market located in the historic part of the Society Hill neighbourhood.

If you’re looking for an alternative start to your day, try Alexis’ delicious recipe for tea and pear-baked oatmeal.

Do you have a job as interesting as Alexis’? Tell us about it in the comments below.

 

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