tea design: cristina espinosa of the heated, san francisco

This tea design interview is with Cristina Espinosa of The Heated, a design studio based out of San Francisco.

She has built her business on the philosophy that less is more, and creates neat products with very little waste; designs are printed using water-based, non-toxic ink. Supplies are bought locally whenever possible and packages are shipped in cardboard whenever possible and even the tape is made of kraft paper. You can just toss the whole thing into the recycling.


Tell me a little about what you design and make – what got you into tea, and into designing teaware.

I design and screen print tea towels under the name The Heated. The idea to screen print tea towels came from my wife. What I like about them is that they’re one-size-fits-all and they make great gifts. Everybody has a kitchen, right?As for how I got into tea itself, well, I didn’t get into drinking tea until I was in college.

At home, we were definitely more of a coffee-only family. If we had tea in my house is was garden-variety black tea with a ton of sugar. I didn’t really think of it any other way until a friend of mine introduced me to a cranberry tea in college. I remember being amazed that it could be sweet without adding sugar. My mind was blown.blue teacup

What is your inspiration when designing, are there other designers or external sources that you draw upon, and do you have any design heroes.

My everyday surroundings provide more design inspiration than anything else. Tea cups, tangerines, stories from friends… these are the kinds of things that get me to pick up a pencil and draw. I think I’m still looking for my design heroes. I’m really new to the design world.

Tell me where in the world you are, what do you love about the place you are, and what’s the story behind the journey.

San Francisco! There’s a lot to love here. Great food, beautiful surroundings, vibrant neighborhoods and the weirdest people you’ll ever meet. We’ve got all of that. It’s been in my mind to design a San Francisco-specific tea towel. I’ve got an idea to get palm trees and pine trees in the same picture as a metaphor for the blending of traditions and the latest trends that happens here.

What does tea mean to you.

Tea means warmth to me. I drink tea all year long but during the winter, it’s a necessity. Our apartment is not insulated very well so it stays pretty chilly inside. Endless cups of tea help negate the cold. What I love about tea is how versatile it is. There are bitter teas, sweet teas,
tart teas, teas with all levels of caffeine and without any caffeine at all. There is a tea for every occasion.

What’s your favorite tea related memory or location and why is it special to you.

Well, I totally maligned my own family on the tea front but there is one tea my mother makes that is the most refreshing ever. It’s just iced, Lipton sun tea (steeped in large glass jar that also doubled as a dispenser, of course) but the flavor of that tea really reminds me of my family and of summertime. I haven’t tasted it since I left home. If I ever live in a place that gets enough direct sunlight, I will make my own sun tea, darn it.

Can you tell me about your favorite tea-shop or favorite teaware line, and what makes it totally wonderful.

There are two tea cups that I use nearly every day. One is a plain white, large Emile Henry mug that I use at home. The thick ceramic keeps my drink hot for a long time. The other is a hand made ceramic mug. A friend made it for my wife and I totally stole it to use at work. It’s a lovely
shade of green and it’s very small which makes it the perfect size to enjoy cup after cup of tea at work.

Where can people find your designs or get in touch with you.


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