In 2002, the couple seized an opportunity to spend some months in Europe and discovered they liked to skip pubs and bars and visit the local teahouses. As Heather recalls, “It was in Granada, Spain, at La Tetería del Bañuelo, a former Moorish bathhouse that had been turned into a Moroccan-style teahouse located in the shadow of the Alhambra, when Chuck dreamed out loud ‘We should start a shop like this,’ and I replied, ‘I was just thinking that!’ and that moment, our fate was sealed.”
The next several months, they spent their time in Internet cafés and European teahouses preparing for more intensive tea studies. Back home in Portland, they began cupping teas by the hundreds, seeking out tea mentors, attending tea expos, and doing as much reading about tea as possible. They worked their regular jobs by day and planned their business at night. In just two years, they had sourced a selection of fine teas, created their own unique blends, and turned their Northeast Portland basement into a USDA-approved food-processing facility. In November 2004, The Jasmine Pearl Tea Company opened for business as an online retailer and wholesaler of fine teas and tea wares. Slowly and methodically, the business developed a strong base of wholesale customers in the Pacific Northwest and Northern California. Then in 2006, they quit their day jobs, got married, and committed full-time to a life of purchasing, blending, and selling tea to fellow tea lovers.
This happy and successful pair make a somewhat unusual couple. Chuck Bauman grew up on a Washington farm—orchard, actually—the son of independent-minded, spiritually alive parents who went on to devote their lives to working with the worldwide Habitat for Humanity movement. Heather Agosta is a descendant of Sicilians and Moroccan Sephardic Jews. Her Moroccan grandmother made mint tea with lots of sugar, which she always served with sweet fennel and orange galette cookies. A mystically inclined seeker, Heather seems to have inherited an affinity with the tarot. Her warm and happy disposition, however, seems like a gift from on high, and her work ethic simply astounds. Three years after The Jasmine Pearl opened, she hired their first employee, and by 2009, they were needing to expand. Having won acceptance to the Small Business Administration’s Emerging Small Business program, Chuck and Heather then spent nine months completing a curriculum that filled out their business education and prepared them to move the business out of their basement. In 2010, they hired two more employees and relocated to a 3,500-square-foot facility.