The arts and small business scenes collide in Los Angeles, making it one of the most exciting places to explore a wide spectrum of ideas and products; not only the brand new variety, but innovative takes on traditional forms as well. A perfect example of the latter can be found in August Uncommon Tea, an organic tea company based in the arts district of downtown Los Angeles and the focus of our latest brand partnership here in our West Coast studio.
Since establishing their business in 2013, cofounders Aaron Shinn and Gina Zupsich have set the bar for quality blends. As world travelers, the pair was first inspired by the aromas and flavors found abroad. Eager to continue their passion for tea, they returned stateside only to be disappointed with the limited selection on store shelves. Aaron and Gina set out for another journey – this time in their own kitchen – to promote rich and potent blends that work to elevate the culture of tea drinking in the States.
Drawing upon their pioneering approach to the ancient practice, Aaron and Gina designed an exclusive blend for The Mill: Windmill Lane. A smoky, savory black tea with marigold petals, its name is a nod to our British roots as a company.
Photo by The Mill's Patrick Dirks
We spoke with Aaron and Gina to learn more about their passion in their own words.
What inspired you to start your business?
We saw a huge opportunity to reinvent tea in the United States as a modern experience, to be enjoyed for beauty and pleasure, rather than health or the recreation of a foreign ritual.
How did your travels influence your vision for August Uncommon?
Before starting August, Gina was a French professor and lived in Paris. Aaron, as a design consultant, spent lots of time in Asia. In our travels we often smuggled some tea in our luggage when we came back to the US. When we settled in Los Angeles, we ran out of our smuggled tea and decided to try some domestic brands. We were disappointed by what we tasted. Although tea is the second-most popular beverage in the world (behind water), tea is still not popular in the US. We hope to change that.
Photo courtesy of august.la
What makes August Uncommon unique?
Our approach to tea seeks to enliven each of our five senses, from the beauty of the raw ingredients to the alluring aroma. We only release original blends and single origin teas of unique and exciting flavor. It's also worth noting that our approach to flavor owes much to the nuance and sophistication of the cocktail world.
What was the process behind creating the Windmill Lane blend?
British tea is predominantly black tea. Gina, who leads flavor development at August, wanted to create an elevated modern take on a strong black tea. In order to do that, she started with a strong black tea base and blended in the smokiness of lapsang souchong, a smoked Chinese tea. Then she layered on the aroma of walnut to add depth and sweetness, and finished it with marigold petals. Aaron created the custom glass jar in collaboration with The Mill's talented Chloe Skinner, who designed the brick pattern based on the facade of the original Mill office on Windmill Lane.
Photo by The Mill's Patrick Dirks
The lavish ingredients of August Uncommon paired with the innovative elements of The Mill creates a unique blend—one that reflects The Mill’s British heritage as well as its modernity. The sublime flavor and robust fragrance of Windmill Lane leaves you in a blissfully relaxed state that endures long after the first sip.