Camellia Teas of Ottawa, founded 2005 by Rebecca Cragg – a history

In the spring of 2005, I repatriated to Ottawa after 7 magical years of teaching English and studying traditional arts in Wakayama City, Japan (first on the Japan Exchange Teaching Programme, and later at the renowned Chiben Gakuen Wakayama designing their elementary curriculum and specialising in entrance exam free composition writing. As a member of the ‘JET’ programme, our mandate was simple: bring our culture to Japan; and then, bring Japanese culture back to our country. I truly believe I am living that mandate of the JET Programme with all that Camellia Teas of Ottawa offers to the National Capital Community through the traditional arts of Japan.

Tea Ceremony Presenter & Teacher
My initial vision for Camellia Teas was to celebrate tea cultures of Japan. But as the years passed, I received more and more requests from members of the Ottawa community to offer Learning in Retirement mini-courses at Carleton University (from 2007 – 2012 I taught 10 courses on Japanese traditional arts and culture). This in turn led to a number of students asking to study more formally, some of the traditional arts of Japan including tea ceremony, painting, ikebana, kimono and calligraphy.

Garden Designer
After moving to Camellia House in 2006, and designing its zen-inspired garden in 2007, many who enjoyed the garden at Camellia House began to request lectures and presentations for local Ottawa garden groups. I started to teach actively and offer workshops in a wide variety of subjects related to zen-inspired garden design. I now offer zenscaping consultations and work with clientele from a wide range of budgets to create beautiful, restful, easy-to-maintain and affordable zen-inspired gardens.

Asian Event Coordinator
I spent much of the 2007 year quietly working on Camellia Teas during my full-time Trillium grant contract as Executive Director of Ottawa’s Asian Heritage Month Society. That year, I developed 75 events for the 31-day festival celebrating Asian culture in Ottawa and building relationships with a number of different groups. Event-planning, added to my background in lesson-planning via teaching comes naturally and Camellia Teas has been coordinating various team-building seminars, corporate events and more at festivals and with clients since then.

Author & Illustrator
From 2008 onwards, I began publishing a series of books, with 5 colouring books in 2015-2016 and the Tea Traveller, coming in late Spring 2017. By working with KADO Ottawa, a Haiku Poetry group and Haiku Canada, I have illustrated over a dozen haiku and tanka books and regularly do commissions for poets.

Community Leader
After extensive fundraising in 2011 (Camellia Teas raised over $10,000 in nearly 30 events) for the terrible earthquake and tsunami which struck northern Japan, I retired from 5 years on the boards of both the Ottawa Japanese Community Center as well as Ikebana International’s Chapter 120 to focus exclusively on my work with Camellia Teas. Around 2011, we started the Camellia Tea Circle which celebrated 5 years in 2016 and has been a weekly staple for those who enjoy learning about brewing tea and enjoying the fellowship of other tea drinkers.

Kimono Club
In 2015 we added the Camellia Kimono Club, a group which meets monthly to celebrate kimono ambassadorship after three Kimono Fashion Shows on behalf of the Embassy of Japan hosted at Canada’s National Museum of History in 2006, 2008 and 2011.

Current Focus: Awaken through Beauty
In 2017, my focus and passion is on small-group and private instruction. After leading dozens and hundreds of community events, workshops and larger scale activities over the past 12 years – I have found that the highest level of outcome and quality is best through individualized sessions.

I enjoy the peace and tranquility of working with smaller groups, customizing unique and special experiences founded in the traditional arts of Japan. My book on Awakening Through Beauty will come in 2018 and feature photography, art and inspiration on how to add elements of Asian culture to our 21st Century life.

2017 books by Rebecca
May 2017: Novella, the Tea Traveller about Furakun, Rebecca’s 8-year old nephew who travels to distant lands, learning important lessons about being The Best Person Ever.
May 2017: colouring book, Spring Dance with inspirational quotes
July 2017: instructional painting booklet on the 9 basic strokes for painting and illustration

Future of Camellia House
Most businesses that survive the 5 and 10 year mark do so because of the great support of clientele, and offering our treasured guests and students an ever-evolving and rich, quality product that they appreciate. Thanks also to the vision and dedication, overcoming fear, risk and doubt, the small-business owner is also in constant creation and development. Camellia Teas and Camellia House is no different: I have short term (year) as well as 5 and 10 year plans for the evolution of the offerings and curriculum.

I want to take the time to thank you, dear reader of the website, and visitor, student and supporter of my work with Camellia Teas to let you know that truly, your support and patronage allows this project to continue. From the bottom of my heart, thank you so very much!