New Carmel Valley business shines spotlight on all things tea

By Rob LeDonne

James Bowman and Jamie Howard want you to know that tea isn’t just about Tetley, Tazo or Celestial Seasonings. In fact, there’s a whole world of tea out there to explore, and thanks to their new business, Leaf & Kettle, the area is about to get an education on everything and anything tea related.

Jamie Howard, Leaf & Kettle co-owner
Jamie Howard, Leaf & Kettle co-owner

“Tea is so important and has been for over 5,000 years,” explains Howard. “It’s been a part of every culture on a daily basis, and Leaf & Kettle is about celebrating the values of tea in today’s society.”

Both Howard and Bowman are self-professed tea-fanatics, and the two of them got together to open Leaf & Kettle, which is part of a continued expansion of new stores at the Del Mar Highlands Town Center, some of which include the recent openings of Towne Bakery and Sunglass Cabana. Leaf & Kettle is a unique kind of business, one of which isn’t common nor available in the area, and they embrace the challenge of shattering people’s notions of tea and expanding area palettes. Part of what makes tea so special is that it’s “something you can drink throughout the day,” explains Howard. “One can have a nice breakfast tea in the morning, and that same person might want an iced tea during lunch, and then have a cup before going to bed. Our approach is to innovate (how people drink tea).”

Customers that walk into Leaf & Kettle are greeted with an interior made of wood and metal constructed and designed by local companies, a nod, says Howard, to the “tradition of tea and its connection to modern culture.”

Says Bowman: “I love the fact that tea is connected to cultures on a global scale. What’s in my cup can be directly traced to the source.”

Leaf & Kettle

The teas Leaf & Kettle sell, which are plentiful, could double as a geography lesson as some are from such faraway place as China, Japan, India, Sri Lanka, and Africa, just to name a few. The United States is also represented, including bottled tea from a small company in Oregon. There are also a wealth of products for sale, most of which focus on making tea as accessible as possible. Their other mission is to demonstrate how healthy tea can be: “I like products that benefit people,” said Howard. “Tea can be transformative to people with health problems.” In addition, it’s also economical: “Unlike coffee, where you use the beans once and have to throw them away, tea can be brewed multiple times.”

Leaf & Kettle’s first week open welcomed “much more traffic” than originally expected, leading to some products being sold out. As such, Howard says there’s no better place to operate their business than in Carmel Valley/Del Mar. “This area is perfect,” he said. “We looked all over San Diego and Orange County, but this is just a great community. I frequent this shopping center often, and it’s a wonderful match for us.” In addition, “Donahue Schriber (the owners of the shopping center) has been nothing but helpful and supportive.”

In the future, Leaf & Kettle plan to stock seasonal teas (like those tied to fall and Christmas), and the duo can’t be more excited to share their status as tea aficionados with the community. Sums up Bowman: “We want to show people what tea can be.”

For more information, call 858-523-9217. The Del Mar Highlands Town Center is located at the corner of Del Mar Heights Road and El Camino Real;