Celebrating Tea Rituals with Steve Schwartz

Steve Schwartz is a Master Tea Blender and the Founder of Art of Tea, a hand-crafted tea purveyor based in Los Angeles. At Art of Tea, Steve applies his background in ayurveda, initially cultivated during his time studying at the Ayurvedic Institute in New Mexico, to the creation of award-winning blends that showcase his passion for the alchemy of combining herbs and botanicals.

Schwartz was originally drawn to the field after his mom died of cancer when he was 19-years-old. He became fascinated with Eastern and preventative medicine as an alternative to the Western medicine that failed to save his mom. Following his tenure at the Ayurvedic Institute, Schwartz traveled the world to meet with farmers in Asia, India, Africa and the Middle East to broaden his knowledge of tea, and learn how climate and terroir impacts its expression and flavor. While he didn’t initially plan to start a tea company, after settling back in his hometown of Los Angeles, he began experimenting with blending different teas and botanicals in his living room. He developed an underground following and started making custom formulations for chefs such as Wolfgang Puck while also teaching others the art of blending.

As enthusiasm for his blends continued to grow, Schwartz began honing in on a vision for the company that would become Art of Tea. He immersed himself in learning about entrepreneurship, initially through CD’s on marketing & business strategy that he would listen to while traveling and driving to and from tastings. He took the leap to found Art of Tea in 2004 and has since grown the company from a small-scale operation in his living room to a world-renowned brand with a warehouse in Monterey Park, just outside of Downtown Los Angeles.


Image by Audrey Ma

Tea, like skincare, can have healing properties. What are the biggest healing benefits of tea?
The biggest healing benefits of tea revolve around ritual. The intention that goes into slowing down and taking the time to select the leaves, teaware, calling the water to the right temperature, etc., supports mental health and well-being. Developing a tea ritual allows us to find peace and restoration through the motions of preparing and savoring tea.

How does Art of Tea ensure it produces the highest quality tea with the least amount of waste?
Steeping loose leaf tea is as simple as using high-quality, fresh leaves and clean water. At Art of Tea, our commitment to organic and sustainable products has been foundational to our company since the beginning when I was hand-blending teas in my living room. Beyond our sourcing methods, we are increasingly conscious of our carbon footprint, transitioning to a paperless order production process and always using tea bags that are derived from corn and are microplastic free.

How does Art of Tea work to source the best ingredients from all over the world?
We are vertically integrated, meaning we source teas and botanicals directly from farmers around the world. We’ve built lasting relationships with our farmers, many of whom we’ve worked with for over 17 years, to bring in the top 2% of all teas produced in the world in order to deliver the most delicious teas available.

Image by Audrey Ma

Which tea is best for helping you wind down and prepare for a restful night of sleep?
Tea has always been the original supplement for sleep, so we created a sleep blend based on Ayurvedic principles. Our Sleep Tea features chamomile, spearmint and valerian teas, resulting in a calming, smooth and minty cup when brewed.

Which blend can best help you start your morning routine off right?
Matcha Plus. The blend is a balance of ceremonial grade matcha and shade grown sencha green tea. It gives me clean energy that helps me stay positive and focused in the morning, setting the tone for the rest of my day.

What are your favorite ingredients to use in tea? Why?
Clean water. A simple, clean filtration system opens up the subtle flavors within the leaves and allows for deeper penetration of the essences within the tea.

What is the secret to brewing the perfect cup of tea?
Water temperature. If you focus on water temperature for the right tea you can meet your perfect cup at its peak brewing moment. Each of our teas include a recommended temperature for brewing the optimal cup, but for some general guidelines, when filling your kettle, alway start with cold water from the tap. Once the water begins to boil, you’ll want to consider the temperature for each type of tea. Black tea should be brewed somewhere between 95-98 degrees Celsius, but green tea is best with water that is between 80-85 degrees Celsius. Each tea releases its flavor at a different temperature.

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