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.
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.”