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Gordon Davis fondly recalls his first brush with Irish tea and the sweet notes it brought to his life as a youngster in Michigan. That powerful moment has since bloomed into a full-fledged passion for tea and served as a catalyst to open Whimsy Tea Company in Springfield.

The beautiful part about tea is it forces you to take a meditative moment to have some mindfulness while you’re creating your tea. It’s not anything that you can just push a button and wake up, it’s there. You actually have to go through the process and that process gives us a chance to center ourselves and then we’re fully in the moment when we’re drinking our tea,” explained Davis.

The whimsy of his business is that it got its sea legs during a long family road trip.

Oh, I don’t think we ever had the thought that we were going to make it into a successful business,” Davis stated. We were coming back from South Padre Island with a van load of kids and we were talking about the death of Teavana (the defunct tea chain that once had retail stores nationwide). They were bought out by somebody, that somebody shut them down, and so there was no option for tea in Springfield. And so, we decided we should do that. We should make tea. We should start a tea company.”

By the time Davis arrived home to Springfield from Texas, he recalled with a smile, there were 17 boxes of tea on the front porch that the family had ordered, and so the business was born.

Whimsy Tea Company first spread its wings at the Old Capitol Farmer’s Market in downtown Springfield before transitioning to a brick and mortar during the pandemic.

“We just sort of leaped into it without expectation. We would launch our brick and mortar October 1st of 2020. So, right in the middle of COVID. The one thing we had going for us is we didn’t have expectations for what business was supposed to look like,” Davis stated.

Whimsy Tea Company launched with a commitment as bold as some of its varieties. The business sources more than 900 ingredients from 147 nations.

There are 150 different teas in the shop right now that we’ve created. We can tell you the original story of all the ingredients. We know our product intimately.”

“We do the research. We get the recipes and the ratios down, and then we send those to our blender and they blend them. The sourcing process is a lot of trial and error, because we’re not buying from one of the giant tea conglomerates. We have to find a source, and sometimes it’s using Google Translate in a chat bar with some farmer in the middle of China trying to figure out if they have what we’re looking for and knowing when we get a sample how to tell whether it’s quality or not,” Davis explained.

It is very clear from your first cup at Whimsy, whether that be a green tea, or a cup of jasmine or white tea, that the status quo is not a word in the Davis dictionary.

We do tea because there are infinite possibilities. You can make any flavor. You can do practically anything with it,” Davis said. I wanted a bourbon tea, so I could make Manhattan without alcohol. It took 18 months, but we got there. We’ve got a blend that provided that flavor profile, just using tea and natural flavors.”

For Davis, the creation of unique tea blends has been a true family affair.

One of the more pungent blends in the store, Tavern Keeper’s Tea, was developed by Davis’ daughter, Amberlee, who was inspired by her love of Dungeons & Dragons, the wildly popular, fantasy tabletop role-playing game. Amberlee conceived of the entire tea line herself including the blends and label design.

Our youngest, Evie, created her own dragon inspired tea blend because she really loves the “Wings of Fire” books. It has an edible glitter in there, so they’re sparkly and pretty.  She came up with what flavors she wanted for each of the types of dragons,” Davis explained.

Whimsy Tea Company also takes pride in its creation of exclusive tea blends for customers in central Illinois including an Earl Gray Blend for National Public Radio Illinois and a special collaboration for the birthday of a young customer who loves cats.

“It was her 11th birthday, and we came up with a custom tea for her. She even had little tins with her face on it and her cat. It was Gail’s favorite kit-TEA,” Davis revealed.

At the foundation of this business, the mission is intertwined with a passion for community. There is art for sale on nearly all the walls of Whimsy, covering almost every inch of free space not committed to tea. The coffee at Whimsy comes from Elm City, a roastery located in the central Illinois city of Jacksonville.

The community has really, really gone above and beyond to help support us. I think the community, just as part of its core being, supports local,” Davis asserted. “I don’t know if it’s statewide, but it’s certainly very prevalent here in Springfield. Because building community is the one thing that we can do to make the world a better place.”

And the family is front and center helping Davis on the journey. On any given day, you’re likely to see any number of the five Davis children behind the counter fixing a tea for a customer.

This is something that we’re doing together,” Davis said. “Were trying to build a future for them, so that they can write their own future, and we are showing them that it can be done.

“For the younger two (children), it’s part of their home school curriculum. It’s business management. It’s inventory. It’s all the things that it takes to run a business written into their curriculum.” Davis explained.

One ingredient to my secret sauce that I want to share is customer service,” Davis stated. “I want to make sure the customer feels like they are important. You’ve got to keep your ego as far away from your business as you possibly can. The customer is the focus.”

I love being a retailer because it gives me the opportunity to meet my community and reach out and connect with them and build a larger community for myself and for the people I love and care about,” Davis said.

If I could give advice to a new retailer it would be to do it. To jump. Waiting for the perfect amount of financing, the perfect location, the perfect everything is never going to happen. So, I think it’s better to have that idea, that passion project, and launch it rather than waiting for perfection.”

Whimsy is an unpredictable thing after all. Playful and unusual, and now on full display, in a quaint and cozy spot for tea in downtown Springfield.

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