T he Migdal HaEmek headquarters of Ceremonie Tea is very far, both geographically and aesthetically, from the picturesque tea plantations of the Far East. Instead, the company is located in a rather uninspiring warehouse in an industrial park in the Jezreel Valley.

But as soon as you walk in the door, you may as well be in the tea fields of India or China. From every direction, sacks of aromatic teas attack the senses with the whispers of bergamot, sage, nutmeg, and cardamom — the fragrances of history, comfort, and tradition.

For the past four years, ever since Elli and Efrat Schorr took over the Ceremonie Tea company, they have, Efrat admits, lived, eaten, and dreamed (and presumably, drunk) tea, tea, tea. Yet they both came from a life very far from the world of tea trading. The Schorrs both grew up in observant Zionist homes in Silver Spring, Maryland. They were even classmates in the same grade — in the same Jewish day school.

The couple were married in 1995, and Elli trained as a lawyer while Efrat studied developmental psychology. So how did a lawyer and a developmental psychologist end up running a gourmet tea business?

“It’s a funny story,” says Efrat, sitting at a table in the tastefully appointed Ceremonie Tea office, where tea boxes line the shelves. “We made aliyah in 2005, and in 2012 we decided to try something new, to go into business together.” Originally, the Schorrs considered going into the coffee business. They both enjoyed coffee, and the product has the benefit of growing in remote, exotic places, the kind one might want to visit. “Kind of arbitrary, but a good motivation,” Efrat admits.

On the way, the Schorrs met the Cohen brothers, who had founded Ceremonie Tea in 2003. One thing led to another, and the Schorrs ended partnering with the Cohens until, a year later, the brothers decided they wanted out, leaving the Schorrs in charge of a business with which they found themselves increasingly falling in love.

“We really identify with the meaning of tea — slowing down, relaxing by yourself, or with friends or family,” Efrat says.

Business wasn’t easy for the Schorrs in the beginning. For one thing, they had no previous knowledge of the tea trade. “It was a real experience in sounding stupid,” Efrat admits. “But we have learned so much on the job. There is an incredibly supportive and generous attitude in the tea trade — unusual in business.”

To learn the ropes, the Schorrs made contact with the owners of the tea plantations — known as tea gardens in the trade — in the Far East, as well as with tea experts across the globe. “We learned so much from both owners and experts,” Efrat says. “Professionals shared teas, blends, and knowhow. And we’ve tried to pass on that generous attitude, helping others new to the business whenever we can.” (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 676)