The Houston coffee and tea community lost one of its most influential leaders, Thia McKann, to heart complications on Christmas Day. McKann and her husband, Chris, owned The Path of Tea, Houston’s only organic tea shop. She was 58.
After years of training, McKann became the first and only certified tea master in the state of Texas, and received formal education from The American Tea Masters Association and The Specialty Tea Institute.
In addition to running The Path of Tea, McKann taught seminars at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, educating medical students, doctors and patients on the health benefits of tea.
Visitors to The Path of Tea, located on West Alabama near Kirby, were likely to be greeted by McKann’s warm smile and eagerness to guide tea selections. Many loyal patrons became close friends of McKann’s, and trusted her wisdom on more than just the health and lifestyle benefits of an age-old beverage.
Many loyal patrons became close friends of McKann’s, and trusted her wisdom on more than just the health and lifestyle benefits of an age-old beverage.
Her personal Facebook profile and The Path of Tea page have been filled with hundreds of comments, photographs and likes from friends, colleagues and family members. Almost all cite her dedication to her craft in addition to profound personal influence.
Sherry Eichberger, owner of One Green Street, an organic lifestyle store located in the Heights, worked with McKann to develop an exclusive tea for her store and quickly cultivated a relationship that proved crucial to Eichberger’s personal and professional life.
“When I was starting One Green Street, and was working on formulating the corporation, I attended a small-business startup seminar,” Eichberger told CultureMap in a phone interview. “It was 2009, and things were still very rough for start-ups. But I remember one of the speakers saying that she had heard of one start-up that was successful right out of the gate, because of one woman’s personality. I immediately knew that I had to meet this woman, and it was Thia McKann from The Path of Tea.”
Eichberger later paid a visit to McKann, and they discussed the possibility of creating a private label tea for her newly opened store. After many conversations, McKann developed the perfect blend that suited both Eichberger’s personality and that of her clients.
“Thia did it with her heart and soul, like everything she did,” Eichberger said.
One Green Street can’t keep the blend in stock, which Eichberger attributes just as much to McKann’s personality and reputation within the community as the quality of the tea. McKann recently began teaching classes at One Green Street, which were rapidly increasing in popularity due to her extensive knowledge and unique penchant for storytelling.
“Beyond her business, my own personal experience was pure amazement at a woman who was put on this earth to do something and did it, and was so knowledgeable, kind and loving."
“Beyond her business, my own personal experience was pure amazement at a woman who was put on this earth to do something and did it, and was so knowledgeable, kind and loving,” Eichberger said.
McKann’s legacy will live on at The Path of Tea, which will reopen for business Thursday, according to a sign posted on its door. When we visited Wednesday morning, Chris McKann’s brother Mike was preparing the door for a wreath that a local artist was constructing to honor Thia.
Details about McKann’s memorial service will be announced in the coming days via The Path of Tea’s e-mail newsletter and Facebook page.