Babette and James Norwood Pratt at the Northwest Tea Festival

Even after more than 20 years, it’s difficult to explain my work in the specialty tea industry. Once a Spanish translator offered a suggestion; a paladin. A champion of a cause. I have come to think of myself as a tea paladin because I believe it is much more than a beverage. But, to explain . . . 

Babette Donaldson


More Than A Beverage

Even though I’ve been a lifelong tea drinker, my fascination with tea actually began as a ceramic art major at San Francisco State University. Forced to take art history, I was confronted with the question, “Why?”. What was it about tea that inspired art, artists, writers, philosophers, spiritualists, politicians, entrepreneurs and warriors? Everything that I have done in the world of tea has been in pursuit of that question. I am convinced that there is something about Camellia sinensis that is beyond words or images. It is an experience that makes it more than just a beverage.

Tea Suite – My first endeavor was a fundraising program for music programs in schools. Feeling the connection between tea and art, I created a line of tea blends that could be sold by students (instead of candy bars) to raise money for their instrument and travel expenses.

The Emma Lea Books – A few years later, I began writing the Emma Lea stories based on the value of teatime traditions in family life. There are four hardbound picture books; Emma Lea’s First Tea Party, Emma Lea’s Magic Teapot, Emma Lea’s Tea With Daddy, Emma Lea’s First Tea Ceremony. (Published by Blue Gate Books)

The Everything Healthy Tea Book – I was asked to write a tea book for the “Everything” series that explained tea in a simple way with an emphasis on the health benefits.  (Published by Adams Media)

Educator and Speaker – I have developed many different tea presentation topics. Tea Basics, Fun With Tea, Tea & Health, Starting a Tea Business, Marketing Your Tea Business, Creating Tea Events.

San Francisco International Tea Festival – Working with Roy Fong, I helped organize the first and second tea festivals.

International Tea Sippers Society – United by a newsletter, I created a community of tea lovers with varied interests. (Subscribe)

Sip for Peace – Of all my projects, I am most proud of Sip For Peace. Using tea as a meditation practice, we use the wisdom of centuries of peacemakers to imagine our world without war. 

Tea Tourist – Almost everyone working in the tea industry dreams of traveling to various countries of origin. I have had the good fortune to visit tea farms, to meet farmers and to experience tea in ways that are nearly possible to explain. But I will probably spend the rest of my life trying. 

What inspired . . .

The Emma Lea Books?

I’m often asked if the Emma Lea Books are autobiographical. In some small ways, the answer is yes. I wasn’t the little girl who celebrated family tea traditions. It wasn’t until I was an adult that my grandmother gathered the women of the family together for afternoon tea at a local tearoom. But it impressed me then that this was a precious and memorable experience. We talked in ways that we had not before. We created a memory, even if it didn’t become a tradition. But that day most certainly informed my commitment to my work.

Contact Babette