Brooklyn: Bellocq Tea Atelier
Words by Katie Searle-Williams & Photographs by Gentl & Hyers
A conversation with co-founder Heidi Johannsen Stewart from Bellocq Tea Atelier of Brooklyn, New York.
Where did the idea to start Bellocq Tea Atelier come from?
The idea started as two separate projects. Michael (Shannon, co-founder along with Scott Stewart) was very interested in designing an extraordinary tabletop experience. I had a deep appreciation for fine teas—the teas that you find, and fall in love with, when you’re traveling. I originally envisioned sharing my love of the poetic tea experience in the form of a book. After about nine months of consideration, Bellocq was the offspring from these two projects.
What are the inspirations for your blends?
Bellocq Blends are often inspired by two elements: our rich selection of pure teas and poetics. When we source teas, we purchase the teas we love, the ones that excite and surprise us, the teas that have a richness and depth of flavor. We have great respect for the teas and their natural flavors. The flavor profiles of these pure teas often tell us what they want to become. But sometimes I am driven to blend a tea inspired by riding horses in the snow-covered mountains.
There is something deeper and more poignant about your approach to Bellocq than just a tea shop; what would you say that it is?
We know the essence of Bellocq exists but we don’t know quite what it is. We have many ideas and these ideas help us understand the essence of Bellocq—what Bellocq is like—but these ideas have never indicated exactly what Bellocq is. We all see Bellocq as having a spirit of it’s own. In terms of taste and style it doesn’t belong to any one of us, but we understand what it needs (experience) and what it wants (romance).
What sets any business apart is their story. Can you briefly outline your journey from the beginning to where you are now?
Bellocq was initially envisioned opening somewhere in New York City. We were searching for spaces in New York City, however Scott found the perfect space…in London. So we were surprisingly and excitedly off to Great Britain. London is a great city; we love the restrained romance, the structure of their elegance, the richness and layering of their culture. Bellocq has a rigor that was a great fit with London. It felt like we had always been there and could somehow always remain there. While in London we found a second, larger space in Brooklyn where we would be able to create our blends. After a year in London, we lost our space and could not spare the resources to relocate and rebuild. So here we are, loving Brooklyn but deeply desiring the next adventure.
There is obviously a great deal of innovation involved in the decisions for and operations of your team. What would you say is the inspiration and driving force for the decisions you ultimately make?
On the operations side we believe all good decisions are the product of inspiration paired with appropriate timing. This does not mean waiting, since we believe inspired ideas often require immediate effort.
What experience do you intend and hope for your customers to have when encountering Bellocq?
Our clients are our guests. We are here to graciously share extraordinary teas. We want each client to love the teas they select and to enjoy the process.
Do you have a manifesto or mission statement that you operate by and transmit through your daily actions?
I’ll make one up for you: “Don’t forget love.”
What do you foresee for Bellocq in the future?
Bellocq will be enjoyed by the best clients, regardless of their geographic location.
104 West Street
Greenpoint, New York 11222