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Behind the Scenes: Anniversary Tea Towel

The craft of the everyday product holds a special place in our hearts. We feature teas from skilled Taiwanese tea makers and showcase the delicious treats coming out of our own bakery. Our anniversary has always been an excuse for us to feature crafts and artistry outside of our wheelhouse and this year is no exceptions.

For our 8th birthday we want to focus your attention on something that’s tactile and functional for teatime. A tea towel.

Now, we are not talking about the tea towel that's also a kitchen towel you toss around the house. We are talking about the ones you use specifically for tea brewing. For heavy users (you know who you are) a good towel is critical operation for any brewing style. Droplets of water and tea is common routine for brewing. A small towel is just the thing to keep everything neat and dry.

There are great considerations for the perfect tea towel. You want it to be absorbent but not too bulky to wipe down your delicate teaware. The towel should also double as a coaster to protect tabletop from heat and water. Aesthetics of the towel is equally important. Typically, earth tones are preferred to complement your favorite yixing pots or gaiwan without stealing the show. Warm tones for the fabrics can serve as a beautiful backdrop for any tea stains that accumulate overtime to make the towel distinctively yours.

After all, your brewing accoutrements should look as appetizing as the tea.

Textiles and trims are no specialty of ours, so we looked to experts in this tradition. Alas, this tea towel is not from Taiwan. We are actually taking you on a mini vacation (with your pot of tea) to Portugal to get a behind the scenes on this year's anniversary towel.

Historically, Portugal is known for their textile industry especially for cotton and linen. And mostly in small towns is where you find talented seamstresses who can transform beautiful fabrics into functional pieces for daily use. Portugal is the motherland of our co-owner Frederico and his grandmother is one such seamstress. Grandma Clementine has made full outfits, every form of table linens, and even wedding gowns. If you’ve enjoyed the colorful cushions at the tearoom or admired our staff’s linen aprons, there is a good chance you’ve seen Clementine’s work. Clementine gracefully declined making our tea towels because she turned 95 this year and her hands aren't as precise as they were. Luckily, she recommended one of her trusted (and younger) colleague, Emilia, for the job.

To start the project, we needed to do a little field research - sizing of towels, fabric composition and colors of embroidery floss. Then we gathered the supplies for Emilia to test out our designs. Below is a mini photo documentary of our journey. Take a look!

Selecting the fabric

Shopping at Armazém dos Linhos in downtown Porto. They have been around since 1905. Everything is 100% made in Portugal.

Sourcing embroidery floss

We stopped by a few places looking for the best thickness and shades for the trims. Finally, at Casa dos Linhos, we found the right coppery brown. This company started in 1860!.

Casa dos Linhos Wall of floss

Working the details with Emilia

Emilia's workshop is tiny - it only fits 3 people standing. The tiny footprint is filled with beautiful and simple items, table runner, a hat, baby's bib. Emilia did a few embroidery samples for us to pick from, no news here, we picked the simplest one - less is more.

We had purchased a few fabric samples to have her mockup the towels we have in mind. Here Emilia is measuring the fabric and drawing versions of teapot for the sample. We wanted to showcase her embroidery skills but keeping the tea towel requirement. In the world of possibilities, we decided to keep the main panel blank(!) so the fibers of the linen can come through. We then have her hand embroidered the trim around the towel. Then, a small Té monogram (it is our birthday after all), and for the lucky golden ticket winners - a pineapple and a teapot.

This was a very fun project that could have gone on for days or weeks longer, possibilities were endless. Tea leaves icons, tea cups, dusty pink linens, or how about jeweled tones? Endless! We've been using the samples ourselves for tea for a couple weeks and it seems lovely and functional, just the right size. We hope you will enjoy it as much as we do!

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