Your vast tea knowledge? Leaf it all behind

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Tai Ping Hou Kui leaves

by CHRISTOPHER WYNN | photographs by CARTER ROSE

Call it foreshadowing. In 2006, FD Luxe featured Janeil Engelstad’s and Pamela Miller’s bohemian-chic Turtle Creek apartment. On photo-shoot day, the women served us exotic tea from a clay pot. Fast-forward to now and the life partners have become business partners by launching a new tea company, ZAKTI. The name? “Zakti means positive feminine energy in Sanskrit,” says Engelstad, an artist, educator and photographer. That’s appropriate for this female-owned startup. Miller, a former Neiman Marcus executive turned leadership coach, says “tea is the antithesis of grab-and go coffee; it’s about steeping a pot,” and sharing it with friends and enjoying great conversation.

Zakti founders Janeil Engelstad (left) and Pamela Miller

The women travel everywhere from China to Sri Lanka to study and obtain the most unique organic loose-leaf teas from mostly small, family owned farms. “The flavor of the tea leaf comes a lot from the terra,” says the silver-haired Miller. “It’s also the people, how they process it — what’s in the water, how moist the air is.” Small batches of leaves are brought back to be prepped and packaged in the duo’s small Dallas warehouse. Prices range from $5 to $32 an ounce, everything from Monkey-Picked Tikuanyin Oolong — not really picked by monkeys, mind you, but inspired by legend and now denoting top-quality wild leaves — to Avongrove Estate Darjeeling. Oak Cliff’s Bolsa Mercado will stock the tea starting this month and orders can be placed through the women’s website, zakti.com.

Engelstad says they’re planning a pop-up shop in Dallas next year and one in the Bay Area, where they keep a second home. A line of artisan-crafted teapots and cups is also in the works. The partners will use part of their proceeds to help give back, including a program to provide shoes for growers’ children in Sri Lanka. Until then, there’s the thrill of the hunt: “In China, there’s a yellow tea that’s very, very rare,” Miller says, handing over a steaming cup of Xi Hu Long Jing green tea.

“I’m trying to get my hands on that now.”

 

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