Lauren Purvis is a tea connoisseur. This simple beverage that she drank every morning when she was in Middle School has turned into a ministry and business after college. Lauren visited Japan her senior year of college and after talking with a Matcha Tea farmer, decided to make her love for tea into a business. At its beginning stages, Lauren is learning and growing through this business, and Wonderfully Made wanted to highlight her trust in Jesus and how she gives back to a church in Japan called “Living Water” which is the translation for “Mizuba.”
When did you first discover a love for tea?
My mom gave me Bigelow’s Constant Comment every morning during Middle School. Then, in High School, I was very blessed to travel often with my family. I began noticing that collecting tea was an amazing way to commemorate travels, and just became infatuated with how many varieties, flavors, and experiences there were around tea. I started collecting tea pretty seriously in high school, just for fun and researching tea became a hobby!
What inspired your business for Matcha tea in particular?
I learned something my senior year of college- the Lord blesses people with passion, and if you are intentional, praying in gratitude about how to give back your passion or gifts unto Him, He does wonderful things. I’m not saying God will automatically grant you a business in whatever you love (but hey, I guess it happens!), but He brings you places that both encourage AND challenge you to grow deeper in the plans He has for you.
A long story short, I went to Japan to visit a friend my senior year spring break. I found myself in Uji, Japan – the birthplace of the Japanese tea industry, and also the iconic Tea Ceremony. I met a tea farmer who specializes in Matcha tea. It’s considered the pearl of Japanese green tea. Matcha comes from the same plants all green tea comes from, but it’s shade-grown (concentrating all the nutrients) and stone-ground into a beautiful, fine and vibrant green powder!
Have there been any hurdles in starting a company, distributing tea and tea-ware from Japan and how has your faith in God impacted getting through those hurdles?
Oh my stars, yes. Basically take a new college graduate, straight out of the Publishing grad school she was going to, and tell her she needs to learn FDA, customs, importing guidelines, bookkeeping, wholesaling, sales, taxes, labeling, designing, packaging… you name it. The biggest hurdle is the feeling of doing six careers in one.
God has everything to do with absolutely leaping over those hurdles (and yes, also falling flat on your face after them). The knowledge that God brought me to Mizuba keeps Him with me through it. Mizuba truly is a gift, and so again, continually turning everything about it over to Him in prayer. We also tithe to the church Mizuba in Tokyo, and so that helps working toward that as a goal. I also think it’s very important to always realize your identity is in Christ — the world makes it so easy to get wrapped up in your identity by what you “do” (to so many people, I’m “the tea lady” or “matcha maven”). But we are blessed with things and always need to be prepared when God changes those blessings or takes them away, always for His plans. So, I honestly couldn’t do this without God; He knows where Mizuba is going and I only know what’s in front of me each day.
What have been your best “success” moments so far in getting Mizuba Tea’s name out in the community?
I have to say I was SO excited when Bi-Rite Market and Creamery in San Francisco took on Mizuba. It’s the most wonderful gourmet market I’ve ever been, but they’re more nationally known for arguably some of the best ice cream in the world. So I definitely did a huge celebratory dance when they decided to not only just carry Mizuba, but also make an ice cream out of it!
How do you see your tea company growing in the future?
I work from a home-office now, so I’d like to have a commercial one, filled with good people excited about tea and a small tasting room that I can host any passerby in. I’d love more community involvement, with Mizuba hosting workshops. I’d love to see Mizuba in magazines like Bon Appetìt or Saveur someday! It’ll take some time.
Many of our readers are young Christian women with their own dreams and ambitions. What advice would you give about following their passions?
Definitely the bit about continually giving over your gifts and passions and recognizing Christ in the midst of everything you do. I want to meet other women who dream! I’m still dreaming. I would also say pursuing these gifts can be FEARFUL. It can be terrifying when you find yourself in a 5-star hotel in Tokyo, talking to the executive about carrying your tea in the hotel chain; probably the biggest meeting of my life so far. But KNOWING God is with you and that no matter what He’ll be there for you. Know Him in your heart and cling to that.
Looking back to your time in college, just two years ago, would you ever have thought you would start a business upon graduating? And did you choose your major based on business?
Absolutely not. To both questions. I’m the most accidental business-owner there is, but I wouldn’t change a thing!
I really have to credit it to my friends at Westmont College! I was hosting tea parties regularly- Tuesday and Thursday evenings, I would spread a big picnic blanket on the floor of my dorm room and open my tea collection to all my friends. Week after week, people began telling me, “Lauren, this is what you NEED to do with your life.” At that point, the thought of tea as a career or vocation was so far off to me. I was an English/Journalism major – definitely not business or numbers minded.
As a newlywed, what other advice could you give our readers about business and balancing that with family?
Well, in all my wise-few-weeks of being married — ALWAYS make time for your loves. There are times when you feel your e-mail and responding to someone can’t wait at all, but more often than not it totally can. Also, involve them. Talk to those around you about what you do, and never assume that they won’t understand. It’s important to talk through your day and what’s on your mind with them, but don’t overwhelm them – balance in everything.
I owe everything Mizuba is to my amazing parents and husband — they’ve supported me in more ways that I can count, and Mizuba truly, truly couldn’t have made it this far without them.
Watch this video to see how to make Matcha tea!