Have you ever wondered which tea Bilbo would prefer with elevenses, or which tea would be perfect to sip while watching Downtown Abbey? Find out at GeekCraft Expo PDX May 12-13 at the Oregon Convention Center and stop by The Fancy Accent Tea Company, run by real-life Britisher Claire Hollenbaugh.
We chatted with Claire about how she got her start, the five essential British TV shows everyone should watch (see her answers below), and what she's bringing to the show this year!
GeekCraft Expo: How did The Fancy Accent Tea Company get its start?
Claire Hollenbaugh: I moved to the US (Indiana) through marriage as the recession hit. I met another British lady who wanted to start a tearoom and needed help. The tearoom was an instant success. When I got the opportunity to move to the best coast I briefly thought about starting my own tearoom but realized that it was too seasonal to have a brick and mortar so I decided to take my teas on the road.
GCE: Can you explain the name for us?
CH: I get numerous comments on my accent every day. When I talked through my fledgling business idea with a good friend he said I had the perfect “Fancy Accent” to pull it off.
GCE: What aspects of British culture are you most interested in sharing?
CH: I do tea party talks about tea traditions, history, and etiquette at libraries and private events, and enjoy connecting with people’s personal histories—my grandmother always took tea at 4:00 pm, etc.
I bring a literary connection to the shows and festivals I do by theming all of my mixed packs—Harry Potter, Hobbit, As Seen on Tea-B, Mad Hatter. These elaborate themes enable me to give plenty of essential information about each tea that I couldn’t possibly fit on the tiny teabag label and provide a fun way for people to sample lots of flavors without breaking the bank or stuffing their cupboards. It’s fun for me to figure out which tea Bilbo has with elevenses, is Dumbledore’s favorite, is best served while watching Downton Abbey, etc.
GCE: How do you create your teas?
CH: I source the absolute best ingredients I can find from across the world and then blend (where applicable), make teabags, and package.
GCE: What are the five essential British TV shows all Americans should watch?
Downton Abbey for a fabulous in depth look at our change from an agricultural society into the 20th century.
The Vicar of Dibley or Doc Martin for hilarious glimpses into village life.
Call the Midwife for a charming understanding of social change in the East End of London. Or Peaky Blinders for a much more hard hitting insight into early 20th-century working class life. Only Fools and Horses for a very funny glimpse into later 20th-century working class London and to understand a lot of British catchphrases and slang.
Sherlock for excellent historical crime drama.
Spooks, Luther, Broadchurch for good modern day crime thrillers.
GCE: What’s your favorite convention snack?
CH: Anything at all. I am mostly vegetarian, can’t eat potatoes, and often forget to pack my lunch, so often go home very hungry.
GCE: What are you bringing to the show this year?
CH: 26 amazing teas in loose leaf and teabags plus six fun themed mixed packs, my decorated infusers, and my own invention for teabags. Also, Harry Potter style wizard wands for stirring your tea, coffee, or cocktail, cute tea party invitations, my hangover prevention tea, and some beautiful mugs and tumblers created by Blake Miner. I’ll also be offering tea samples.
Our thanks to Claire for the wonderful interview (and TV recommendations). Make sure to stop by her space May 12-13 at the Oregon Convention Center at GeekCraft Expo PDX--we're free and family friendly!