Kim Jack Riley, ITMA Certified Tea Master™, was born and raised in England where tea was an integral part of daily life. As a teenager, she helped out after school and on weekends in her neighbor’s tea shop in Hornsey. This area of North London is now a chic hamlet, and it’s there that Kim learned the foundation of preparing and serving tea to both locals and travelers.
“In England, we do not necessarily differentiate between Afternoon, Cream and High Tea,” says Kim, “we just call it Tea, and it can cover a wide range from pairings from tea cakes, scones and finger sandwiches, to a full blown fish or meat entrée.”
Whichever kind of ‘Tea,’ rituals were all the same and the peak serving time for the shop was between 3 and 5pm. “No matter where I am in the world today,” says Kim, “around 3 o’clock I always fancy a cup of tea!”
By the time Kim relocated to New York with her parents, she was an expert in all Black teas. Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Kenyan, Ceylon and Darjeeling were all favorites and readily accessible in the UK, as well as Oolongs and Greens.
Tea culture in the US was unfortunately not so popular back then. “I soon found myself drinking coffee,” says Kim, “and lived in constant search of finding a good loose leaf tea. Mostly I would shop for tea in England and bring it back to the US in my suitcase.”
Times changed, and as tea awareness grew in the US, Kim had the opportunity to study under Chas Kroll and earn her Tea Master Certificate. Local area interest in Kim’s certification grew quickly; already knowing that she had a steady personal import of great British loose leafs people came from far and wide to experience her tastings which are often colored with mediation and music.
In 2012, Kim travelled to Indonesia where her epiphany occurred. “It was in Bali that everything came together for me,” says Kim. “I realized that the future of tea in the US did not lie in Victorian tea parties; instead I grasped a clear vision and upon my return to America I developed my own company which I named TeArt (The Art of Tea).”
Through TeArt International, Kim’s tea tastings are in popular demand. Her unique trademark is the her deep knowledge of tea growing from the fields of the exotics isles deliciously combined with traditional English etiquette — all impeccably presented in a trendy and contemporary London Tea Lounge serving style.
Kim conducts tea workshops and tastings in the New York area, and in between, travels the globe as a marketing executive in the Travel & Hospitality industry. “I’m always bringing a news sense of style and fashion to my tea tastings. My students can be assured that they will learn not just the history but also the vibrant and living world experience of tea as it celebrated in real time around the world today!”