So it begins, my first serious business venture, and it is in the world of tea. I first began appreciating tea as a JET ALT in Nankoku, Japan, in 2007. I was looking for a Japanese cultural activity to do, and I thought studying Japanese tea ceremony would be cool.

My final tea ceremony lesson.

My final tea ceremony lesson.

Sitting next to my teacher and fellow students.

Sitting next to my teacher and fellow students.

Full moon tea ceremony celebration.

Full moon tea ceremony celebration.

Added to this was my regular reading on NYT and following of then Mayor Bloomberg. In trying to understand why he could do what he did, I realized his power laid in the money his businesses created for him. He took no campaign donations bc he could bank roll his own political campaigns; thus, he had more freedom to serve his follower New Yorkers in the manner he felt correct. Thus, I figured in order to enter local politics (L.A.), I would need to step my biz game up, or more accurately, create a biz game plan. (Note: I’m not a New Yorker, so I understand many people, including friends, did not like Mayor Bloomberg.)

Teaching myself how to make teas via YouTube/Internet.

Teaching myself how to make teas via YouTube/Internet.

Latest recipe: Agua de Jamaica (Hibiscus Tea)

Latest recipe: Agua de Jamaica (Hibiscus Tea)

Upon returning home to lovely L.A. after 8 years abroad, I tried to open my mind to various biz opportunities, by seeing what the needs of my fellow Angelenos were. Urban gardening seemed like a likely option, so I pursued that avenue through community gardening work, backyard gardening, gardening classes and Internet research. So, I decided on a “tea garden and bike rental” shop (combining my joy of urban biking that I developed while living in lovely Seoul). I even took a biz class via the great City of L.A. (although my biz consultant never gave me feedback on my biz tea/bike proposal that I created.)

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But like most things, big dollars are needed to do big things in L.A., really even little things cost dough. So when the Yachay job in Ecuador popped up, I saw an opportunity to save money for my tea & bike spot as well as be part of a social solution to help Ecuadorians help themselves. But life cannot be predicted nor planned and here I sit preparing to make a deposit on the proper door installation for “Cool Cali: A Californian Tea House.”

Caranqui plaza

Caranqui plaza

Main street, across from Caranqui plaza, that leads up to my tea shop.

Main street, across from Caranqui plaza, that leads up to my tea shop.

On Saturday, I was supposed to ask a security guard on campus to call a taxi and take it to catch the first bus from Urcuqui to Ibarra, where I would take a bus across the border to Colombia. (Yeah, a bus day trip to Colombia. I have come a long way from only flying within Colombia and being weary of bus trips within Colombia.) It was supposed to be a “no problem” situation. But I wasn’t able to get a taxi, so I wasn’t able to take the bus to Ibarra, so I didn’t go to Colombia.

View from Church doors.

View from Church doors.

The back of Caranqui's main church is next door to my tea shop.

The back of Caranqui’s main church is next door to my tea shop.

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My friend/coworker, Rebekah, invited me to check out Caranqui, a place featured in tourist books for Inca Ruins. So being down for checking out new places and making life work, I went with her. And I was so thrilled to see a quaint town that was clean and cute.

Main plaza of Caranqui

Main plaza of Caranqui

Street up from my main plaza that leads to the new homes in this suburb of Ibarra, the big city in my area.

Street up from my main plaza that leads to the new homes in this suburb of Ibarra, the big city in my area.

Inca Ruins

Inca Ruins

We passed a new building with a for rent sign in a window. Without missing a beat, Rebekah told me to take down the number for it would be a good spot for a tea shop. (Previously Rebekah told me to try to sell my chai at the store on campus.)

“What?” I said. Caranqui is about 1 hour from Urcuqui, the pueblo near Yachay. But as I looked around the street I thought, “maybe” and snapped a photo of the ad in the window.

Across the street from my tea shop.

Across the street from my tea shop.

my tea shop.

my tea shop. I’m think of putting a canopy with my logo above the window, fresh flowers on the window ledge, and a small bench beneath the window. Maybe hang the Cali flag outside.

My tea shop will be located on the firs floor, where the window is.

My tea shop will be located on the firs floor, where the window is.

The tea shop is up the street from the main plaza of Caranqui. Good location, ne.

The tea shop is up the street from the main plaza of Caranqui. Good location, ne.

As we walked around the town, I could see the potential. In Russell Simmon’s books and a book by the co-creator of Linked-In, these business men said you have to be flexible with your business plans.You have to bend with life and not be so stuck on an idea that you miss an opportunity to grow your business plan. Thus, I was able to see a tea house in Caranqui, with an American and art theme, for suburban Ecuadorian to enjoy. (My original idea was to have a Moroccan theme tea bar. And ojala that I can have a second shop in Urcuqui for the college students and tourists of Yachay.)

On Sunday morning, I asked a security guard on campus to call the Caranqui number (you know, so I wouldn’t get the gringo price straight up.) Sunday afternoon I went to look at the place and the landlord was surprised because they had just placed the ad in the window. We negotiated a price (because the security guards told me $300/month was too much for shop and apt.) She told me she would call me on Monday about installing a sink in the shop. I called her Wednesday and she said she hadn’t heard from the construction worker; but I told her I would take the place and put a deposit down on Friday. She called back in 20 minutes and said someone else was interested, so I said tomorrow morning I would come with a deposit. And Thursday, I put down a deposit and officially became a businesswoman. Crazy!

I’m not 100% sure what I am doing, but I have a vision for a cool tea house with international teas (indian chai, thai ice tea, korean ginseng/honey tea, japanese matcha/matcha latte, ecuadorian horchata, tawainese milk tea w/o bubbles, southern sweet tea, etc.), tea cocktails, and desserts/cookies. I also want to feature monthly art exhibits, live music, book/writing clubs– you know, all the things I like to do at tea/coffee houses. And since there are not any like this kind of tea/coffee houses, I think I can go far with this idea. I just need a strong start upon which to build my foundation for Californian Tea Houses.

So this garage door is common here in Ecuador. But I'm not cool with having it wide open at night and during the monthly live music performance. So I'm paying for a door to be installed. The land lord mention "buying the door" when I leave, pero yo no se. Also I am having a wooden table/bar build in front of this window that will seat five people. I hope to put fresh flowers outside on the window ledge.

So this garage door is common here in Ecuadorian businesses/stores/restaurants. But I’m not cool with having it wide open at night and during the monthly live music performance. So I’m paying for a door to be installed. The land lord mention “buying the door” when I leave, pero yo no se.
Also I am having a wooden table/counter built in front of this window for people to sit at. I hope to put fresh flowers outside on the window ledge.

So this window now shows the side of the church and construction material. But I mentioned to the landlord that maybe I can expand the tea shop out there. And she said, yeah put some tables with umbrellas out there. So maybe I will have my "tea garden" after all. Yo no se.

So this window now shows the side of the church and construction material. But I mentioned to the landlord that maybe I can expand the tea shop out there. And she said, yeah put some tables with umbrellas out there. So maybe I will have my “tea garden” after all. Yo no se. Also, I told the landlord that I would not be installing a flat screen TV bc that’s not how we roll in Cali coffee houses. And she looked amazed and said leave it to a gringa to bring something new here — tea, not coffee, and no TV. LOL.

The door to the left leads to the bathroom. In front, a sink will be installed hopefully. (Landlord is talking with someone about it.) The door to the right, leads to the rest of the complex (my apartment in back, the soon-to-be Colombian restaurant next to me), and the other apartments.

The door to the left leads to the bathroom. In front, a sink will be installed hopefully. (Landlord is talking with someone about it.) The door to the right, leads to the rest of the complex (my apartment in back, the soon-to-be Colombian arepa restaurant next to me), and the other apartments.

a decent restroom for the shop. i just need to buy a fan, since the window opens to the inside of the shop.

a decent restroom for the shop. i just need to buy a fan, since the window opens to the inside of the shop.

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Detached from the tea shop in the back is my apartment. In front is where you can wash your clothes by hand and behind this is an area where you can install a washer/dryer. I told my landlord neither were options and I would just go to a laundry place where I pay someone to wash my clothes in machines. It took several conversations on this topic for her to understand “gringa loca” because paying someone to wash your clothes is not heard of in this pueblo.

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The front door leads into the dining room. The arched entrance leads to the big living room. Not shown, opposite, is the kitchen.

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This is the kitchen. Still under construction. But a proper faucet has been installed and the material put away. I will have to buy a stove and refrigerator, which is normal out here. But I’m cool with it bc I can use these appliances for both my tea shop and personal use.

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Dining room leading to kitchen.

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Living room (entrance to dining room)

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Living room, (leading to straight back to bedroom and bathroom is to the left)

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Bathroom, small but decent. I’m not a fan of the suicide shower, but I’m being flexible. Nothing is perfect when you are first starting off.

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Bedroom (leading to living room/bathroom)

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Bedroom, with a door to the outside. (yes, three doors leading outside.) Lots of natural light.

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Bedroom window, directly in front is the driveway, tea shop, and Colombian restaurant.

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