“Women empowering women.” Within the first few seconds of jumping on the phone with Naoko Tsunoda, her mission was on the forefront. Women empowerment, aid to refugees, the sharing of culture and fulfilling her life’s passion have driven Naoko since the age of twelve. While her journey has not been a linear one, her positive demeanor and omnipresent intentionality in work have led her to make her dreams become a reality.
Naoko’s story begins before she was born. As a refugee from Vietnam, her mother moved to the United States and believed that the best life she could give Naoko would be in putting her up for adoption. So she was adopted by an expat Japanese couple who gave her unconditional love and support and introduced her Japanese culture. She spent much of her childhood in Japan where her love for Japanese tea and pastries blossomed. It was then, at the young age of twelve, that she knew one day she wanted to own specialty tea café.
Naoko attended Wesleyan University in Connecticut, initially on the pre-med track, but after her freshman year her world was rocked by the sudden passing of her father. She realized that life is far too short not to pursue what one truly loves and pivoted to Fine Art and Art History, but kept her dreams of tea in the back of her mind. Upon graduating, Naoko attended culinary school, and sharpened her skills and understanding of food and beverage traits.
As Naoko progressed into the food industry, she chose to do her part in working towards a more equal world. She purposefully worked with women entrepreneurs, women caterers, and women chefs all along the way.
Now, after a long career in the beverage industry, Naoko has jumped into her dreams. In October of 2020, she founded Key to Teas, a specialty tea and teaware company with a mission to create a modern-day tea culture by delivering the highest quality and innovative teas. Not only are her teas carefully crafted using her in-depth knowledge of culinary skills, but her business has an intention to give back. One percent of her profits goes toward supporting women and children. For Asian American Heritage Month, she is specifically working with the Seattle-based non-profit, ACRS (Asian Counseling and Referral Services) and New York-based non-profit, Womenkind, to help survivors of gender-based violence.
Naoko Tsunoda is a vision of dedication, passion, and empowerment. Using tea as a medium, she teaches others that in doing what you love, you can change the world.
Shop Naoko's collection of tea and tea accessories on TheWMarketplace by clicking the image below: