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ArtfulTea Shows Visitors that Life is Better with a Good Cuppa Tea

By Elisha Neubauer

Karen Gardiner is not your usual small business owner. She's a kind soul, with an eclectic taste and a passion for the business she now calls home. Referring to herself as a devoted tea drinker, occasional artist, novice knitter, and recovering attorney, Gardiner got her feet wet in the small business world back in 2000 when she and a friend decided to join forces and launch a quaint bookstore and tea shop in Key West, Florida.

With the popularity of digital books and the slowing of the economy, sadly, the business came to a close, prompting Gardiner to pack up and move to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2006. During her time dabbling in the tea industry, she had begun to visit the World Tea Expo annually, an event at which she was able to meet with tea growers from around the world, take classes, and sample new and exciting teas. The unique, hard-to-find teas that Gardiner had been stocking in the combination bookstore and tea shop became fan favorites.

As Gardiner began to settle into her new home, scores of emails and phone calls from former customers flooded in, with requests for information on how they could order these teas that they had become so enamored with. Soon, Gardiner realized she could fill a niche, and ArtfulTea was launched as an online business in 2007.

Looking to expand her love of the popular drink, Gardiner began taking her product to local markets around the Santa Fe area and, in 2010 she joined the Railyard Artisan Market. Two short years later, she opened her first brick and mortar location in the Santa Fe Farmers' Market Shops in the Railyard District of downtown Santa Fe.

Today, ArtfulTea offers more than 85 different teas, including black, green, white, oolong, herbal, rooibos, mate, and pu-erh. "I personally blend about 30 of the teas we offer," says Gardiner. The teas she acquires for the shop come from all over the world, places such as China, Japan, India, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, and South Africa. "There is very little tea commercially grown in the United States, and none in New Mexico, so it's not possible to offer 'local' teas here," she explains.

For those looking to purchase only organic products, Gardiner states that approximately 40% of teas in-stock at ArtfulTea have been classified as organic. "Over the past few years, as I've added new teas to our inventory, I've tried to choose only organic teas, mostly because our customers request organic more and more," she explains.

While she makes an attempt to purchase mostly organic products, she does state that, due to the nature of the tea crop, it generally does not require pesticides as the caffeine in tea naturally repels pests. According to Gardiner, most small tea gardens use no chemicals but find that going through the organic certifying process isn't an easy task due to their sheer size and location (most are located in rural Asia, she details).

"Where you often find chemicals being used are in the large 'agri-business' tea plantations, like those owned by multi-national corporations," she states. "So, I feel that even those teas on our shelves that aren't specifically labeled 'organic' are still a good, healthful option for our customers."

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9/15/2016

Karen Gardiner

Thanks so much for the thoughtful article about ArtfulTea! Feel free to stop by our shop on Galisteo Street to say "hello" and try a complimentary sample of tea!

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About The Author

Elisha Neubauer is a freelance editor, ghostwriter, book reviewer, and author. She is...

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