It’s clear from the moment you meet her that Nini Ordoubadi is a born hostess. She exudes a natural warmth and grace that establishes an instant rapport and makes strangers feel welcome. It’s no surprise that her Main Street shop in Andes, Tay Home, was a destination for local residents and visitors looking to commune in the Catskills. The shop— which recently closed as Ordoubadi transitions into a new location—opened in 2005 as a showcase for Tay Tea, a line of hand-blended teas she founded in 2003. For more than a decade it served as a gathering place where customers could taste and buy tea, shop a carefully composed selection of gift items and enjoy a healthy and delicious bite to eat. Most of all, the shop was an extension of Ordoubadi herself, a richly appointed repository of creativity conceived by this former interior designer and stylist.
Ordoubadi was born in Iran, where refined hospitality and tea are both deeply rooted in the culture, and where she lived until moving to the States at age 17 to attend Barnard College. Her family has blended teas for three generations, beginning with her great-grandfather and continuing with her great aunt and muse, Nooshafrin Saad, a celebrated poet, bon vivant and world traveler. Ordoubadi spent summers with her aunt, who held private tea-blending sessions in the garden of her country home on the Caspian Sea. She draws from this well of family knowledge in formulating her own unique blends. One of them, Muse, a soothing mix of lemon verbena, peppermint, lavender and rose petals, is a tribute to Saad.
After nearly six years of being the consummate hostess at Tay Home, Ordoubadi yearned to move in a new direction. Her South African husband of twelve years, Anthony Chase, a skilled artisan who creates traditional Venetian plaster finishes, was eager to spend more time with his wife and she dreamed of traveling and exploring her own craft. So she decided to shutter Tay Home and move her tea-blending business to nearby Delhi. “This next chapter of my tea journey is going to be more personal, more about going within than meeting and greeting,” says Ordoubadi. “It will be a quiet phase of creativity for me, a time for me to replenish myself, to learn and grow.”
The new space, described by Ordoubadi as “a big white box,” is called Tay Tea Studio. It is an atelier and laboratory of sorts, where she will continue to develop her wholesale tea business but also delve into new territory, including collaborating with Catskills colleagues like herbalist Marguerite Ullman, nutritionist Jeanette Bronée and her organic farmer neighbors on a collection of wellness teas made entirely with locally grown and foraged herbs. And because Ordoubadi cannot entirely reinvent her nature, the front half of Tay Tea Studio will be a forum for events, including tea-related workshops and others featuring local artisans and makers.
Ordoubadi’s skill as a blender extends beyond tea to the people she brings together and the environments she curates. It’s perhaps most readily apparent in her own personal style, an original and striking mix of wildly patterned textiles, colorful embroideries and ethnic jewelry, displaying influences from such disparate sources as Namibian tribeswomen and Bedouin nomads. With her russet hair swept up in her signature headwrap and a beguiling smile equal parts Cheshire cat and Persian princess, Ordoubadi is without doubt the bohemian queen of the Catskills. To drink a cup of her tea is to gain entrée to this compelling world, where a deeply personal story continues to evolve.
For more information, visit www.taytea.com.