We're excited to bring you a series of profiles to introduce you to a few of our artisans coming to the 8th Annual Crafty Mart Holiday Show on Saturday and Sunday, November 26th-27th.  This is just one in a series of Vendor Spotlights in which we let those who will be sharing their wares shine a light on what it is they do.  The following profile is Chris of Tea Dude, and his response to a mini-questionnaire.

1). What's your name and what is it that you make?

My name is Chris Charek, but most of my vendor friends know me as the Tea Dude. My company makes some of the most flavorful hand-blended loose leaf teas in Northeast Ohio. All of our teas are original and all natural. We have over 20-plus blends, so if you are a tea lover, we have something for you!

2). How did you acquire the unique skill set to do what it is you do?

Before my venture into teas, I was a cook in various restaurants for about 15 years, so that helped develop my palate a bit. I have always been a big fan of tea and when I found out how expensive loose leaf was in stores, I started making my own blends for less cost.  After some prodding from family members, I got into my very first Crafty Mart show. Since then, I have been trying to save people some money and expand their idea of tea through sampling and selling my unique blends at shows, online, and through some amazing local shops. I excel at the creation of new blends, that is also the part I enjoy the most. Luckily our vendor community is always amazingly helpful with teaching and helping with the business end of things, which I am and will probably be forever developing.  

Tonberry Tea blend

Tonberry Tea blend

3).  What is your best seller? 

It really depends on the time of year, and what new blends I have available. Lately, my best seller has been my Tonberry Tea, a blend of green and black teas with pomegranate and raspberry flavors. A close second is my Coconut Oolong, a blend of oolong tea with coconut and vanilla. Since the weather is changing, I'm not sure what will take the mantle. It could be my Rose, Vanilla or dirty chai. Those are always big in cold weather. I also have some more interesting blends that sell during the cold seasons too, like Mint Condition, Fireball, or Thai Chi.

Tea Dude with TV anchor Natalie Herbick on FOX 8's New Day Cleveland, earlier this year: http://fox8.com/2016/06/30/tea-with-a-spicy-kick/

Tea Dude with TV anchor Natalie Herbick on FOX 8's New Day Cleveland, earlier this year: http://fox8.com/2016/06/30/tea-with-a-spicy-kick/

4).  How long have you been vending? Have you done a Crafty Mart show before?  

My very first show was the Crafty Mart in May 2014. I showed up with two blends of tea packaged in paper bags. Since then I have been to every Crafty Mart show I could make it to. I vend at shows for many different groups in places that range from Columbus, Pittsburgh, Toledo, Akron, Cleveland, and more, but I feel like Crafty Mart is my home base. That is where I got my start, and that is where I met some of my best friends. Shout out to Sam from SNOW, Pat from The Robot Consortium, and Alex from The ExCB! Love seeing you all at Crafty Mart!

5).  The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? 

I might lose some fans over this, but anyone who knows me well knows I don't particularly care for either. I grew up on grunge like Nirvana, and punk rock like Bad Religion, Social D, and The Queers. If I was forced to choose, though, I would choose The Stones.

Thank you for answering our questions Chris. And, thanks for coming to the 8th Annual Crafty Mart Holiday Show. We'll see everyone on Sat. & Sun. Nov. 26th-27th at Musica, Akron Art Museum, and Summit Artspace.  You'll be able to find Tea Dude at the Akron Art Museum.

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