TEA JOURNEYS OF SERENA RUNDBERG, CEO OF STEEP MOUNTAIN TEA
Growing up in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, some of my earliest memories involve sipping cup after cup of Good Earth iced tea, the sweet cinnamon flavors warming my throat while the ice simultaneously cooled.
Tea followed me to another mountain town, Bozeman, Montana, where I moved in 2005 to open The Nova Café, a breakfast spot that served up a variety of teas, including chai lattes. It was in this café that my love of tea started growing beyond the sense memory of my childhood and into something more.
Fastforward to 2011. Mariah, my girlfriend at the time (now my wife), became so ill while traveling in India she ended up in a local ICU for 12 days. I immediately hopped a plane to be near and help her heal.
At the hospital in Bhopal, India, we ate and drank what the staff did, including glass after glass of chai tea. The spicy concoction of ginger, cardamon, cinnamon, black tea, sugar, and milk was healing and calming to my senses while I waited for my partner to physically heal. Once released from the hospital, our friends in India continued to make us milk tea in their homes while we waited for strength to travel back to the U.S.
We took our time returning home, stopping in various cities for rest along the way. In Brooklyn, New York, we stayed with my cousin who worked in research and development for a tea company. She had samples of some of the best black, green, and herbal teas from around the globe. Whether it was a ginger, lemongrass, coconut milk tea, an amazing oolong or a classic pu-erh, we tasted teas for days while recuperating at her Brooklyn flat.
It was clear through this journey that the simple action of sharing a pot of tea had become an essential part of healing and a vessel of reflection on love, partnership, and community.
We eventually made our way back to Bozeman, and married the following summer. We’ve since welcomed a daughter, opened additional cafés, and are now a partner in Steep Mountain, where we hope to help others build memories and community, one pot of tea at a time.