Oceanside tea shop owner plans Juneteenth celebration Saturday
Bliss Tea & Treats will be serving up poetry and African-inspired food for the holiday
Ever since she opened her Bliss Tea & Treats tea room in downtown Oceanside in May of last year, Rushell Gordon has come up with creative ways to keep pandemic-weary customers returning regularly to the shop.
Last fall, she held a “Mad Hatter’s” tea party with costumes and decor. In February, she redecorated the shop with a “Beauty and the Beast” theme, and this spring she gave the store a 1950s sock hop makeover. But on Saturday, she’ll be doing something different: a poetry and food event in honor of Juneteenth.
On June 19, 1865, Texas finally freed its enslaved Black Americans, two and a half years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. That day in Texas — nicknamed Juneteenth — has come to be known nationally as Freedom Day, celebrating the official end of slavery in all of the United States. For many Black families in the U.S., Juneteenth is a day filled with community gatherings.
Gordon hopes to bring together the community on Saturday for an afternoon of poetry readings, as well as an all-day special menu of African and West Indies-inspired foods prepared by her brother, chef Al Gordon.
“I wanted to find a way to celebrate Juneteenth in a fun way,” she said of the free poetry event from 3 to 5 p.m. “We’ll have an open mike for poets and I’ll have someone who’s doing a special piece about the Emancipation Proclamation. We’ll also have some culturally diverse foods.”
Gordon was born in Panama and moved to the U.S. with her family when she was 5 years old, spending most of her life in California. Gordon said tea is the beverage of choice in Panama, and children are sent off to school each morning with a hot drink, such as malted Ovaltine or tea brewed with leaves from the tea bushes in many families’ backyards. Even after moving to the coffee-obsessed United States as a girl, Gordon said she continued drinking only tea. During her 20-year corporate career in customer experience and projects management, she would seek out tea rooms and tea shops wherever she traveled, including Australia, Thailand, Japan and China.
“When it comes to tea, Americans miss out on a core experience that so many cultures around the world have enjoyed for decades,” she said.
Two years ago, Gordon left her corporate job to follow her dream of opening a tea room. She started construction on the shop at 301 Mission Ave. and was planning to open Bliss Tea & Treats in March 2020 when the pandemic hit.
After the stay-at-home orders lifted, she opened the shop in May 2020 for take-home tea parties. Over the next several months, she began offering outdoor and then indoor services, including a full tea party service for $37, or $20 for kids, and an a la carte menu of teas, sandwiches, scones, biscuits and more.
The shop sells more than 40 exotic teas from China, India, South Africa, Rwanda and South America. Gordon also serves boba tea drinks and she makes her own tea blends for medicinal purposes, like easing anxiety or sleep problems, and blends that are just for fun, like the caramel walnut and chunky monkey flavors.
Because it was hard to build a community of regulars with the reduced hours and changing restrictions of the pandemic, Gordon and her brother, Al, started doing Facebook Live videos every day the shop is open, which is Thursdays through Sundays. Together they discuss tea, the shop’s upcoming events and the news of the day.
“We do try to also educate community on tea and how it can help and tie our own experiences into it,” she said. “Lot of customers come in and they feel like they know us because they watch us on social media.”
Gordon said the shop has gradually built a wide base of customers in all age groups and ethnicities.
“It’s all across the board,” Gordon said. “We’ve got Asian customers and older and younger people. Sometimes we get three generations of a family who come in together. The seniors who come in are really enjoying the 1950s theme.”
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