Building is what Venus Tsui does best.
The Tocha Organics Tea founder and Hong Kong transplant moved to the United States in 2003 to earn her master’s degree in architecture from the University of Oregon. From there she spent seven years as an associate at Seattle’s Callison architecture firm, building buildings and constructing a life with her husband, Ricky Chan, in Bellevue.
When the couple decided to add an addition to family, she quickly found out pregnancy was exhausting. “And then after my daughter was born, I didn’t sleep much, as all moms know,” Tsui said. “Sleep deprivation had a tremendous effect on my body and brain. I was a walking zombie.”
Hoping to bring Tsui back from the land of the undead, her mother gave her a couple of time-tested Chinese remedy books that focused on natural ways to improve her health. In one of the books, Tsui came across Longan, a dried fruit from Southeast Asia known for its calming effect on the body and its power to bring about sleep. Tsui added ginseng to the Longan brew and thankfully sleep steadily eased back into her routine. “It was a simple thing that really helped.”
That’s when the new mom got the idea to build something else — her own business. “After I gave birth to my daughter I needed to try something new that helps me and helps others, and things fell into place,” Tsui said. She left her architect job and dove into the world of business and tea. As a Hong Kong native, tea had always been a part of her culture, but now it was becoming the cornerstone of her professional life. The name, (pronounced toll-cha), meaning “happy tea,” symbolized the effect that tea (and her new baby, Kyra!) had on her life, and she wanted to share her experience with others.
She started out researching which kinds of tea she wanted to offer customers. “At first I chose to use organic teas so I could have a positive impact on the Earth. It’s more responsible to the farmers and drinkers and good to the land,” Tsui said.
Next Tsui had to decide how she wanted to present her tea. Tins full of loose leaf tea, while providing a better flavor tea, were time-consuming to make and, as a busy mom, she didn’t have time to scoop, filter, and strain her tea and figured other people would have the same dilemma. “I chose teabags, because as a busy mom who doesn’t have the luxury of time, I wanted the convenience of a teabag.” The pyramid-shaped bags let the teas remain full leafed and full of flavor while also being a manageable seeping method.
“I don’t add artificial flavors to my teas. It’s very honest. There are enough good things in nature that I don’t have to. If I want a stronger ‘rose’ flavor, I add more rose petals, not two drops of rose flavoring,” Tsui said.
The teas in the line include Green Defense, which has pleasant, unexpected notes of chrysanthemum, known for promoting a healthy well-being. The Rose Garden Pu-erh is woodsy tea for the adventurous sipper looking for something new, and the Morning Pick-Me-Up is a great way to start the day, and is Tsui’s favorite. The Eden Oolong tea is said to help keep waists trim. She also offers two herbals, which are caffeine-free. Honeybush Heaven is a sweet and fruity blend, and Serenity Lullaby is a chamomile blend with a hint of mint, a perfect ending to a long day.
“When you learn about tea, you learn about other cultures. How they prepare their teas and how they drink it, and then you get to learn about them,” Tsui said. Now that she has built a family and a tea business, she is working on building a better world. Two percent of Tocha sales support clean water projects through UNICEF and World Vision.
“The Earth has a lot of resources. If we learn to share better, no one needs to be hungry or thirsty.”