Joan & Jim Harron: The Love Story Behind Simpson & Vail

Joan & Jim Harron: The Love Story Behind Simpson & Vail

“You asked me about my happiest day in the company,” he says to an interviewer. “It was when Jim and Cyndi joined the business.” 

In the years since that day, Cyndi has gained recognition as an herbalist. She was introduced to South African rooibos by David and was probably the first to import and popularize it, as she was also first with tulsi, India’s “Holy Basil.” Both now rank as America’s best-selling herbals and count among the 150 or so Cyndi buys and blends for Simpson & Vail. She and her brother, Jim Jr., are co-presidents today. Besides running day-to-day operations, Jim has long since been responsible for all the tasting, buying, and blending for which he is justly famous. As part of his wizardry, he maintains the firm’s J.P. Morgan blend to taste just the same as it has since Lester Vail created it to suit the great man’s taste almost a century ago. The family business is in good hands.

To my regret, I’ve never visited Joan and Jim in their lair overlooking a limestone quarry and fish-filled pond in Brookfield, Connecticut, where they relocated years ago. It has been years since we lunched in Manhattan and I last saw Joan’s Keeley Smith bangs and warm smile. We have always remained friends, however, because we are friends of tea. Their contribution to our nation’s “tea life” was born of love, and it is incalculable. 

TeaTime Contributing Editor James Norwood Pratt is quite possibly the world’s most widely read authority on tea and its lore. Since his classic The Tea Lover’s Treasury first appeared in 1982, he has been an inspiring presence on the international tea scene. For more about him, go to

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  1. Love the Simpson & Vail article. I absolutely love the huge breakfast cup that Jim is holding in the picture. My grandson gave me a 24 oz cup for Christmas and I use it a few times every morning. Thanks for the great article. Ritatea


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