Dr. Oolong–Jeffrey LorienNov 11th, 2011 | By Cecilia | Category: guest bio, the show
It was after hours on a gorgeous spring day when I stopped by the Zhi Tea Gallery in Austin, Texas. I was there to meet with company Founder and CEO, Jeffrey Lorien, a.k.a. Dr. Oolong, to talk about…well…tea.
I had to smile when I first saw him.
He sauntered into the room sporting a respectable growth of beard, wayward hair, and dressed in a t-shirt and shorts. He looked like he was on vacation–or just woke up from a nap.
In any event, I liked him right away.
Jeffrey Lorien is easy to like, because he’s happy and it shows. It’s the kind of zen that comes from loving what you do. And he loves tea.
Before Jeffrey found tea–he found music. He spent the better part of the 80s and 90s in the burgeoning Seattle music scene as a musician, audio engineer, and producer.
“After about ten years of that rather grueling lifestyle, I decided that for me to be healthy and happy, I needed a change,” he told me.
At about the time he extracted himself from the music business, he discovered and immersed himself in a small online book business called Amazon.com.
“People didn’t even know what a dot com was at the time,” he said with a laugh.
Jeffrey started as a temp in the Amazon warehouse with all his band buddies. Because the company was ramping up so quickly, he was able to move up fast. He ended up opening up distribution centers around the country, managing inventory and doing supply chain work–all of which created the foundation he needed to start his own business.
He told me he eventually left Amazon and started a company that “sold widgets” which he admitted wasn’t very exciting. But once he stopped drinking coffee for health reasons and became obsessed with tea–everything changed.
“At some point it was like, why don’t I combine my passion for tea and my knowledge and experience and joy of running a business?”
He and his business partner, who has since gone on to another venture, moved from New York to Austin in 2006 once they decided to create the business. Jeffrey said that a central distribution point was critical; besides, they both liked the town.
As it turns out–the feeling has been mutual. Now, how’s about a cuppa tea?