We had the good fortune of connecting with Robin E. Durfee and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Robin E., can you tell us about what you are most excited or proud of in terms of the business you’ve built?
I am most proud of the tea business I’ve built as it was built totally from scratch. I do not have a background in tea so it’s literally been a labor of love and expression of my passion and creativity. From learning to wholesale, retail, package, packaging design, create a well curated menu selection of over 50 teas and herbs to setting up a jaw dropping retail space that is unique and welcoming.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
We offer a line of over 50 gourmet quality teas of all classes; black, oolong, green, white, pu-erh, as well as herbals, rooibos and yerba mate blends. In addition, we offer a selection of healing herbs such as black cohosh, burdock, dandelion, echinacea, hawthorn, lavender, nettle and more and a selection of tea steeping and brewing accessories. What sets my business apart is my Tea Sommelier training which has helped me expand my business beyond retail by offering tea classes, tea tastings, tea flights and menu pairings for restaurants, cafes and workshops. I am proud of this certification offered by the Canada Tea and Herbal association as it gives me a unique niche in the market. I am proud to be only person in South Florida who holds this certification. How did I get to where I am today? Determination, grit, creativity, ingenuity and willingness to take risks and step out into the unknown. No, it was not easy, there were many challenges along the way as this is a new endeavor for me in every regard. I grew up in Panama, Central America which is known for its excellent coffee lands. Tea was definitely not part of my culture nor background so basically, I started everything from scratch. From educating myself about the tea plant; Camelia Sinensis, to how to run the business side, to begin to build a recognizable, trustworthy brand, from finding the right suppliers, to curating a tea program for my particular demographic and trying to live up to my business mission which is to ‘Foster Tea Culture in our Community” – this has not been easy as coffee dominates our culture. Nevertheless, I am encouraged and see progress in that, the specialty tea market is becoming more trendy and the niche is growing. Along the way, I’ve learned to not be afraid of taking risks nor of failure. Failure for me only means this: get up, learn from your mistakes, integrate those lessons and begin again! Tea is the second most consumed beverage after water in the world but in our culture coffee still dominates…I would like to introduce our community to the amazing world of tea…..there is so much to learn, enjoy and appreciate.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I am obsessed with parks and gardens so I would enjoy bringing my friend to visit some of the many beautiful parks and gardens in our area: Flamingo Gardens in Davie, Morikami Japanese Botanical Gardens in Delray Beach and Patch of Heaven Sanctuary in Homestead to name a few. My favorite local restaurant is located on Las Olas in Fort Lauderdale; Chima Brazilian Steakhouse – so we’ll definitely be stopping there after a long day walking through the gardens. We’ll be enjoying an authentic Brazilian caipirinha cocktail, the beyond amazing salad bar and many rounds of rodizio beef and fish served table side on skewars by gaucho waiters. For dessert? Their passion fruit mousse with warm chocolate on the side is to die for.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My shout out goes to my life partner, Anne Bogen who has supported my dream in every way and put her heart and soul into building my three locations. From painting, to installing, to buildouts, to hanging shelves, to repairing, every inch and detail was done by her own to hands and reflects her dedication, ingenuity and commitment.
Eric Lieux Now it’s Forever Photography Nowitsforever.com