A Tea Entrepreneur's Log by John-Paul Lee

the best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up

i was invited to be interviewed for farnoosh torabi’s new book “Psych Yourself Rich”  this morning.   the interview was for a digitally-enhanced version of the book which comes out in October.  farnoosh is a good friend of mine who i have known for 4 years now and met her when she initially interviewed me for an article(http://tavalon.com/press-48-Making-tea-the-next-big-thing.aspx)  in AM New York back in 2006.  she’s an amazing person and brilliant both on/off cam.  i’m still gathering my thoughts for the publication of my book one day, need to get tips from her…  on camera interviews are always nerve-wracking no matter how many times you do them.  its also amazing how much make up is involved and applied in the process (i have a new-found respect for women and their ability to walk around with make up on all day).  i got foundation all over my shirt and it wasn’t pretty, cake face is not my thing…

here’s a segment from the interview:

Interview for Psych Yourself Rich

Interview for Psych Yourself Rich

*** this is a retro blog from 11/5/2006 – i didn’t really keep a blog back then but kept a brief digital diary in my phone which i just recently discovered.

i picked up a new hobby a few days ago- learning how to spin. my office space at Tavalon Tea Bar is directly next to our DJ booth. I’ve always wanted to learn how to spin but never had the opportunity. now that we have 68 DJ’s on the team it is about time to get a few of them to give me some lessons. So i’m on the turntables(translation: playing my ipod but nobody has to know that) and this gorgeous girl walks in. you could spot her from a mile away. I look closer and its Adriana Lima, the Victoria Secret Model. so dash down the stairs to introduce myself. it was truly pathetic but i couldn’t stop giggling in front of her. i busted out the camera only to find the memory card FULL. i couldn’t believe it! so i’m asking her to hold a pose while i delete some pictures on the card. i finally managed to get my act together and took a few shots. i present to you the brazilian bombshell, Adriana Lima at Tavalon Tea Bar.

Epoch Times Article


The Epoch Times just did a feature on me recently and the paper published today.  The writer, Diana Hubert, did a great job and was very professional.  We met at the Ace Hotel for the interview and everything went pretty smooth.  Pretty cool because the paper is supposedly printed in 20 plus languages.  Its actually quite amazing how fast news spreads throughout the city…  I was actually in line at Argo Tea in Chelsea and this random girl walks over and says, “Did you know that you’re in the Epoch Times today?”

Here it is.   http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/content/view/38840/

Our show finally went up today.  I think we filmed this show back in November of last year.  A good friend of mine, Ceslie Armstrong, invited us on to her show to showcase Tavalon and our products.  We had a blast filming and show turned out very well.  Chris, our Tea Sommelier, had a full section dedicated to making tea cocktails.  He got so nervous that he spilled all over the place with shaky hands.  I couldn’t focus on anything because I was trying to hold back from rolling on the floor laughing..  Check it out.

Tavalon Tea on You Better

tavalon @ harry cipriani


i’ve been working on getting into the cipriani chain of restaurants for a while now.  we’re now in 3 locations; cipriani dolci, le specialita, & harry cipriani.  everyone over there is great and its amazing to find a group that truly appreciates your products and proud to offer your products.  i went by there tonight for dinner and to “ghost shop” to make sure everything was being served/presented up to the tavalon standards and all was picture perfect.  can’t wait to get into the rest of the cipriani empire.

*** this is a retro blog from 12/28/2005 – i didn’t really keep a blog back then but kept a brief digital diary in my phone which i just recently discovered.

i just signed on Anurag Nema of ANYK Design as our interior designer today. he’s an ex-Rockwell guy, co-founder of studio gaia, and here’s a few of his previous projects; W Hotel Mexico City, W Hotel Seoul, Bond Street Sushi, Jay Z 40/40 club, Cafeteria, Republic, etc… pretty bad ass. he agreed to design our space at a fairly reasonable price but still expensive. many may ask why do you need a designer of that caliber… we’re trying to create an experience and a brand and it must be reflected across all facets of the business. we have a very limited amount of real estate to work with and must be creative to maximize its utilization. we need the WOW factor and its not going to happen with any designer off the street. so i think its worth it.   very excited to see what he comes up with.

Outstanding 50 Award Dinner


Just got back from the award dinner and heading straight to the airport for the world tea expo in vegas.  i’ve never traveled in my tuxedo before but i guess there’s always a first for everything.  the dinner was awesome but i wish i had the opportunity to meet with more of the award recipients.  there were some big hitters out there and the highlight was Tony Hsieh’s (the pinnacle award recipient) speech.  it was a black tie event but this guy strolled up in tshirt/jeans, pretty bold…  but then again billionaires don’t become billionaires by conforming and going with with grain…  you could just feel the energy and brain power from this guy.  i was also paired up with some interesting people at my table.  it was a very humbling experience and glad i had the opportunity to participate and honored amongst these great visionaries. ok now i’m ready for the forbes list! just kidding but not really.
Outstanding 50 Asian Americans in Business Award

May of 2010 definitely left its mark on my life’s journey and it will be a month that is going to be very hard to forget…

1)  May 8th- i lost a very close friend of mine of 14 years to a tragic boating accident.  (RIP Scooter)

2) May 27th- broke up with my girlfriend of 5 years.  (will only remember the good times)

3) the biz revenue for May was horrendous

4) Suffered from the worst allergies (pollen) in my entire life during the whole month of May

5) May 31st – lost the best tenants that I had in my VA condo

they say when it rains it pours.  well, i feel like i just got hit by a tsunami…  its almost like i’m being tested but i guarantee that i will pass with flying colors.  june is here and it is time to unfold a new chapter in my life.  a stronger, matured, focused, and optimistic ME will be unleashed and great things will happen.

dear May of 2010, I will remember you and I am glad that we will never cross paths again.

sending off a friend…


i lost one of my dearest of friends today.  i got the call from another close friend of mine while i was on the road.  i couldn’t believe it and still can’t believe that he’s gone…  i’ve known chris “scooter” smith since high school and remained close friends for 14 years.  scooter had a very free spirit and always had a way to make every situation more enjoyable.  we lived together for a while in college and i have never gotten into so much trouble, EVER…  we always joked about how if one of us were to die today that he would’ve lived a more meaningful life because i spend the majority of my time planning for the future while he was busy indulging in the moment…

life is just way too short so live and love life.

scooter, we got arrested together in college, almost got beat down by massive jamaicans for crashing their jet skis, nearly died from alcohol poisoning on the cruise, but the best is knowing that i could call you a friend.  you were a great friend and a brother to me.  thanks for the memories and see you on the flip side.    now you can call me jake all you want, i promise not to get mad…  btw, remember that yacht we promised to buy together before we hit 40?  i’ll buy it and name it after you.  love you kid.

Your Bro,


life is full of unexpected surprises.  i just recently got honored with the Outstanding 50 Asian Americans in Business Award 2010.  not sure if i really deserve this great honor but i’m definitely not complaining about it…  i was baffled when america.gov featured us on the list of 9 entrepreneurs who successfully started businesses in their teens and 20’s(http://www.america.gov/multimedia/photogallery.html#/4110/teen_entrep/)  alongside the likes of Bill Gates, Russell Simmons, Sergey Brin/Larry Page, Michael Dell, etc…) but this award takes it to another level…  one step closer to getting on the forbes list :)

the award ceremony is held on the 10th of June and i’m really looking forward to the event.

outstanding 50 asian americans award