Rebecca Domorev and her husband Alexei met in Russia in September 2001. It was supposed to be Rebecca’s year to focus, study music and learn the language because “you can’t beat the Russians when it comes to the arts”. Instead, she fell in love.
The pair married in 2003. They had two beautiful sons, Peter and Paul, and founded a blossoming fairtrade, organic online tea business, based out of Melbourne. Rebecca concedes their story “looked like a fairytale”, but she was physically and mentally exhausted. They were in the red financially and living with her parents.
After pushing out Tielka Tea’s biggest ever order to 50 bookstores across Australia, the Domorev family took a short holiday to Agnes Water. They made an offer on a house, and within a few short months they’d relocated their family and business from Victoria to the Discovery Coast.
On Valentine’s Day 2018, they welcomed a third son to their family. Unexpectedly, baby Andrew had Down Syndrome and had to be flown from Bundaberg to Brisbane for lifesaving surgery.
Rebecca is a firm believer in silver linings, and pinches herself at how relaxed their life is now in Agnes Water. The trained mezzo soprano opera singer modestly claims her voice is only good for “singing back-up in church” nowadays.
Crush Magazine recently enjoyed an afternoon cup of tea with Rebecca, Alexei and their son, Andrew at their kitchen table in Agnes Water. A refined and gracious host, Rebecca shared her thoughts on family, faith and finery.
What’s your pick me up?
Lady Betty (pictured below) – a high grade, hand-picked black tea with natural Italian bergamot oil. It’s a Tielka spin on a French Earl Grey with sweet orange peel and rose petals. I take it black, first thing in the morning, under the umbrella on our deck, definitely served in a pretty teacup.
Most cafes you go to; it’s all about the coffee and the latte art. Tea is an afterthought. The range and variety is far greater with tea. When tea is done well, coffee takes a back seat. It’s not just about the tea. It’s also the experience – the teaware and how it’s prepared. You can ruin a cup of tea just by putting it in a nasty mug.
Beautiful tea aromas can evoke strong memories and emotions. I remember the first time I gave my mum the Tielka Breakfast Black tea. The look on her face as she poured it and took the first sip. She was back with her Aunty, as a little girl.
Why and how did Tielka Tea start?
Alexei and I went to a fancy café in a little town in Poland in 2002. I hated coffee and tea. They gave me this massive, impressive tea menu, listing their origins. I didn’t know what I was doing. I ordered a very fruity tea; nothing sophisticated. It came out with the teapot sitting on top of the cup and it just looked amazing. I loved it and I hadn’t even tried it yet. It blew me away. The underdog was making this beautiful cameo appearance and became the star of the show.
In 2008, I decided I wanted to start a business and change the world, as you do! An online business was the obvious choice for a stay-at-home mum. I had this crazy logic and thought process running through my head: ‘I hate paying for postage so what’s something that doesn’t weigh much that I can send without charging much postage’. The seed had been planted in Poland and then a conversation with my sister-in-law sparked that interest again. We were talking about Fairtrade coffee and the fact that there was next to nothing in the way of Fairtrade tea. All she could get were stale tea bags from England or old, substandard loose leaf. There was a gap in the market.
From there I did months of research. I came across these growers who produce Fairtrade certified tea. I got samples and I did a focus group tastings for all these teas. The group were completely mind blown, particularly by the white tea. No one knew what white tea was. Most people think it’s black tea with milk in it, but white tea is the least processed of all the leaves. It’s really like art, you see the whole bud and all the leaves. The buds are really downy with this fury covering. They sit suspended in the teapot and the flavours are out of this world. You’ve got this mix of cashew meal and flowers and a bit of sweetness. Most people don’t realise tea can be like that.
Where to from here? What is next for Tielka Tea?
We are working on our own Tielka teaware range and a tea collection for luxury accommodation. Our tea collection is the most highly-awarded organic tea in Australia, so it’s the perfect setting for our tea. We have more than 150 stockists around Australia and Singapore; corporate customers, retailers, gift basket businesses, cafes, salons and spas. We’re exploring export opportunities. And in the long term we’ve always had a heart to create a retreat space for people who are experiencing burnout – what a beautiful place to do it!
Why Agnes Water?
It was the obvious next step that I never saw coming. I really feel like God placed our steps in front of us, it was very serendipitous how it all fell together. We were at church in Melbourne and I overhead Alexei say to a friend: ‘keep us in the loop, we might move to Queensland with you’. It had never been something we’d considered in the past. I knew nothing about Agnes Water, except that it was in the middle of nowhere because one of our very first Tielka stockists was based there. The seed had been planted and I started googling.
We went to Agnes for a little break. I hadn’t been sleeping, I had anxiety from the exhaustion. I remember thinking: ‘how am I going to keep going, this isn’t sustainable’. After two days there, I actually started to relax for the first time in a really long time. It was therapeutic just being there.
I messaged a real estate agent, but wasn’t expecting to hear back from anyone. Alexei was not impressed. He didn’t want a sales agent following us around for the next six months. But he was one of the most casual agents you could possibly imagine. He turned up in his ute, wearing a t-shirt and shorts. We pulled up out the front of a little blue Queenslander. I couldn’t hold it – I gasped. I don’t have a poker face. It was so pretty. The inside needed a lot of work, but it was all of my childhood imaginings of where I wanted to raise a family.
Life now in Agnes Water is really nice and easy. Sometimes we have to pinch ourselves. We have a three minute drive for school pick up and drop off. We have a seven minute walk to the beach. Life is very simple. In Melbourne I spent 10 hours a week in traffic just doing school pick up and drop off. You don’t realise how much energy and life that saps out of you. Our middle boy, Paul, he loves playing outside with the neighbours and I tell him he has to be home when the street lights come on. They go out on their scooters. The neighbours’ kids play on the trampoline in our front yard. It’s very picturesque.
Where do you draw your strength and inspiration to run a successful online home business and raise three boys?
Our youngest, Andrew is a little superstar. I went down to Bundy for a caesarean. The instant he was born, I knew he had Down Syndrome. I had an older brother with Down Syndrome who died when he was four months old, so I thought Andrew was going to die. He had a blockage in his duodenum, which was not ‘compatible with life’. They transferred us both down to Brisbane. Alexei and our two older boys drove down in the car. He underwent lifesaving surgery when he was just three-days-old. It was so surreal. They had to put him in this space capsule thing; his tiny little body with wires and buttons attached. Our eldest son, Peter was 11-years-old. He lost it and just sat in the corner sobbing. I called him over and just held him. That was a watershed moment for me because I had been scared to bond with Andrew. Instinct kicked in. I was protecting myself because I couldn’t bear to lose him. But I knew it would destroy Peter if we’d lost Andrew. So I had to put aside my fear, for the sake of my family. I had to embrace Andrew. I had to love him.
I asked people in our network to pray for Andrew and our family. I was a desperate mum, asking people to please pray for my son. Andrew was at the Mater Hospital in Brisbane for four weeks and needed oxygen for a year after he came home. Andrew’s story was covered in the Gladstone newspaper. The response and support was overwhelming. A lady I didn’t know in Bundaberg came up to me and said her prayer group had prayed for Andrew. People I didn’t know in Brisbane were praying for him. It was truly amazing and I will always be grateful for that support.
Words to live by?
There are all these outdated views that someone with Down syndrome is a burden. Yet here I am having a cuddle with this divine child; it’s beautiful. We can step out of the perception of doom and gloom and realise life is just a sequence of moments strung together.
I always say, treasure the little moments. The ones that take your breath away, that bring joy. They give life that is not bound by circumstance and are there for the taking through life’s ups and downs.
Local Tielka stockists
- Indulge Cafe
- Water St Kitchen
- Street Bean Coffee Bar
- The Pocket Storehouse
- One Little Farm
- 1770 Marina Cafe
- Cafe Discovery
- Agnes Water FoodWorks
- DC Blooms & Co
- Little Bloom Room
www.tielka.com. Free shipping on orders over $40