Seattleite Spotlight: Jeannie Liu of Miro Tea

Jeannie Liu, photo by Charlie Ainslie.

Seattle’s other hot beverage scene, according to a homegrown expert.

In 2007, Jeannie Liu decided to open her own teashop. Her family already owned and operated a pair of teen-friendly bubble tea hangouts, and she wanted to strike out on her own. So she and her husband found some property in downtown Ballard–and five years later, Miro Tea is one of the most popular teashops in Seattle.

I recently joined Jeannie for a cup of tea at her store, where we discussed motherhood, tea palates and how to brew the perfect cup (hint: it’s the water).

Jeannie Liu of Miro Tea, photo by Charlie Ainslie.

Seattleite: Why is tea such a hot trend these days?

Jeannie Liu: There’s a huge push for refocusing on personal health and the slowing down of our culture. And I think tea embodies that.

S: When did you realize you were passionate about tea?

JL: [In] the part of China where my family is from, tea is drunk often times for medicinal reasons. It was very bitter. It wasn’t until college that I really discovered [how to] hone your own understanding and appreciation of this product that’s so vast. As I got older, I explored [its] complexity and developed a fascination for it.

S: What would you recommend for someone who is not very familiar with tea?

JL: I always recommend people to start with white tea. It’s the least processed of all teas, and builds a great foundation of what the pure plant is supposed to taste like. From, there, you build up to green teas, oolongs, black teas and such. Most of our customers are actually ex-coffee drinkers. For them, I recommend a lot of smoky oolongs, roasted oolongs or smoky black teas. [They have] the roast of a coffee, and are rich and satisfying.

S: What about tea experts?

JL: The range of teas we carry here is quite varied. I’m really proud of our high-end teas that I source myself, [such as] our Taiwanese oolongs [and] Chinese green teas. We source all of our teas very carefully and take special care in making sure the teas are organically and authentically grown.

Jeannie Liu and Miro’s wide variety of tea in their Ballard shop. Photo by Charlie Ainslie.

S: Are there a lot of people with tea palates?

JL: Yeah! Seattle has quite a nice healthy group of tea connoisseurs… who have that nuance of palate that wine drinkers have. But tea drinkers have been doing that for thousands of years.

S: Describe Miro Tea’s water filtration process.

JL: We have a massive filtration system to make sure the water is at the proper cleanliness, mineral content and softness. You don’t want chlorine [or] sediment in there… all of those things contribute to the flavor of your tea.

S: Any big plans for your five-year anniversary (in August)?

JL: I’m not a big events person… but five years is a big hallmark for a business owner. It’s been a huge accomplishment for me personally because I had my daughter right after I opened this business. I’m thinking about doing a month-long celebration… thanking our regulars for supporting us through those years. Eighty percent of our people that you see day-to-day are regulars. If it was not for them, we would not be here.

Liu hosts regular tastings at the store, where customers can ask tea-related questions as they sip from the world’s finest leaves. When she’s not managing Miro, she enjoys time with her husband, a venture capitalist named Thong Le, and her daughter, Maya. In addition to the flagship Ballard Ave. location, Miro Tea can be found in a number of Seattle eateries, including Victrola Coffee Roasters, Volterra, Tougo Coffee Co. and Hiroki, as well as Sweet Lily Salon and Spa, Liberte’ Skin Wellness and citywide Whole Foods Market locations.

Miro Tea | 5450 N.W. Ballard Ave., Seattle | (206) 782-6832