TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — Alenka Vrecek grew up in a small town at the foot of the Alps in Slovenia not unlike Tahoe, save for the fact, she said, that “Tahoe doesn’t have a church on every hill.”
Gathering berries, drying herbs and churning butter with her grandparents are memories she has carried with her and shape the life she now leads.
“Drinking tea was part of my childhood — making jams, raspberry juice, currant juice,” she said.
After a day of beekeeping, Alenka’s grandfather would put her on the back of his motorcycle and the two would spend the afternoon in the forest gathering fresh blueberries.
“It takes the whole day to gather a liter!” Alenka remembers.
According to www.tahoeteas.com, Alenka’s vision for Tahoe Teas was born out of an intense, blizzardy Donner Summit drive and a tumultuous life situation. “And then it hit me. The idea literally came out of the blue. Tahoe Teas! I actually pulled over and started writing down the concept for the business. I still have the original notes,” the website reads.
Each Tahoe Tea signature blend represents something special to Alenka, her family, and the Tahoe lifestyle. In honor of her grandparents and their simple way of life, Alenka created Tahoe Blue — an oolong tea with elderberries and blueberries.
Tahoe Green represents the pines. Tahoe Local is for the active lifestyle and Tahoe White embodies “skiing fresh powder on the first day of the year.”
The day Rockstar handed out their caffeinated drinks to kids on the slopes for a promotion was the day Alenka thought to create a sweeter, non-caffeinated blend for children.
“Half of them were sick after lunch,” she said of the aftermath. “I had to create Tahoe Kids.” The blend of organic chamomile, lemongrass, rosehips, fruits and stevia leaf is a naturally sweet herbal tea.
Friend and fellow coach at Squaw Valley Allie Donovan said Alenka is known to bring out a thermos at the top of the lift and share tea with everyone. Alenka brings special tea and special attention to each child she coaches.
“I think it’s the way she connects with kids,” said friend Allie. “She makes every kid feel important. She does that with her business too; she makes it special.”
Four years ago Alenka and Allie started North Tahoe Bike Force — a youth mountain biking team. “I love coaching kids — that’s my way of giving back to the community and to the kids in general,” Alenka said.
Tahoe Teas is about the Tahoe lifestyle, Alenka said. Tahoe Teas’ mission statement includes the following: “We believe the Spirit of Tahoe captures the Spirit of Tahoe Teas. We strive for internal balance, general health, well-being, and a clean environment. We provide a pure, fresh and natural product that is beneficial for the body and the soul.”
Her idea behind the teas is to promote balanced, healthy living.
“Here I see a lot of extremes,” said Alenka of the United States. “A lot of us kind of get caught in the middle, not really knowing how to manage.”
Before Tahoe Teas, Alenka worked as a sales rep for an outdoor company. She traveled frequently, was away from her children, and said it was difficult to balance it all. Her work in starting Tahoe Teas has cemented the beliefs of a healthy, simple living born from her roots in Slovenia.
“I think most of us move here for a Tahoe lifestyle,” she said. “I like to pass that on to the kids and promote it.”
Alenka set up an office for Tahoe Teas at her home in Tahoe Vista. She describes her house as “art deco meets rustic cabin” and said her latest challenge is balancing and separating her home life and business.
The Slovenian woman is soft spoken, with a hint of an accent; her small frame is graceful as she moves through her kitchen. “Tea is so amazing,” Alenka said as she steamed milk to make a chai tea latte. “It pretty much takes you a lifetime to learn.”
Alenka said she is from “the generation of ‘you’re not going to tie me down in the kitchen,’” yet values home-cooked meals and spending time with her family.
“Through food and what I’m doing with my tea — I think those are all very good vehicles to have gatherings,” she said. “In this society a lot of people don’t realize how beneficial that is … Just taking time to sit down and have a cup of tea with a friend is a really big deal and can make a difference in your day.”
Tahoe Teas is sold at various locations, such as Cooking Gallery, New Moon Natural Foods and Gratitudes Gifts and Home Décor in Truckee, Tahoe House and Alpenglow Sports in Tahoe City and Rainbow Doorways in Kings Beach.
The blends are also served at many restaurants and bakeries in Truckee Tahoe.
Tahoe Teas uses organic products and is committed to building a sustainable business.
“Just taking time to sit down and have a cup of tea with a friend is a really big deal and can make a difference in your day.”
Alenka Vrecek, owner and founder of Tahoe Teas