Women In Wellness: Amy Truong of PARU On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
Stay hydrated and eat well, not just as a one-off treat or punishment to yourself but as a daily practice or ritual. When it comes to adding tea into your routine, I recommend selecting one based on caffeine level. Another way to select your daily teas is through cultural connections. Do certain aromas and flavors make you feel joyful or nostalgic? Ask yourself these questions and use your responses as a guide. That’s also I go about developing blends.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Truong.
Amy Truong is the owner of PARU, a specialty tea company, and is responsible for sourcing, tea education, and blending. She earned a B.A. in International Studies from UC Irvine, studied at Meiji Gakuin University in Yokohama, and worked a decade in food, wellness, and operations management before founding PARU in 2017. She lives in San Diego with her wife and two Pomeranians.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I grew up in Torrance, a city in Southern California with a strong Japanese community and cultural presence. My parents are both from Vietnam, but my mother spent her formative years in Paris, where we still have family. My grandfathers were both entrepreneurs. One owned and operated a donut shop while the other distributed rice cookers internationally and did a lot of business in Japan. I was surrounded by an endless blend of cultures and found that interesting. There were also Japanese businessmen coming in and out of our house or shop, and they’d discuss business over tea, and I thought to myself, “I want to do that one day.” I think I was five or so at the time.
Since then, I knew that I wanted to build something of my own and that it had to be something related to food or tea. My mother introduced me to tea and tisanes, or herbal tea, growing up so it was something I was always around. As I got older, I stuck to tea and never really got into coffee or alcohol. I live in San Diego now where craft coffee and beer culture are strong, and I’d love to see that happen with tea, specifically around loose leaf tea, tea from under-represented countries like Vietnam and Thailand, and freshly milled matcha, which we started offering in our shop.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
The most interesting that happened to me was at the very beginning. In 2017, I was fortunate enough to win a custom travel experience to Japan after entering an Airbnb X Vice contest. I was grouped with four other winners, and we were given an intimate tour of Tokyo’s LGBTQ scene by Ian Daniel and Yuki Keiser. At the time, I hadn’t even explored the LGBTQ scenes in the US so it was a completely new and unforgettable experience for me. I had just left a job and I started to think about starting a tea company. While I was there, I decided to visit Shizuoka, the leading prefecture for tea production in Japan. After speaking with the first farmer that I met, I knew then that I was doing the right thing. It turned into our first official sourcing trip. The main lesson for me is that you’ll never know until you put yourself out there.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The biggest mistake I’ve made was not asking for help when I really needed it. I put a lot of responsibility on myself when I could’ve just raised my hand. Entrepreneurship can be lonely, not just in the beginning, but throughout the journey so it’s important to seek and accept support. Fortunately, I started to do that and have had a lot of smart and caring people to help me along the way.
Let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
My work is first and foremost as a student of tea. You can study tea for years and still know very little about it but that’s part of the fun for me. The learning starts with our relationship with growers around the world, including China, Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam, where my family is from. We work with farmers who specialize in what they do and who are passionate about organic and sustainable methods. We choose to work directly with them to ensure fair pricing all around. It isn’t about placing an order and putting it on the shelf once it arrives, even though that would probably be a lot easier. It’s about listening to their stories, recommendations, and struggles, too.
My work continues with my team. We have a small team, and when we bring someone on, my wife and PARU co-owner, Lani Go Gobaleza, works with me to incorporate “PARU as tea and tea as hospitality” into our team’s training and everyday work. We’re a diverse team, and we’re proud to blend multiple cultures into the way we serve our customers.
The work then extends to the community through demonstrations, workshops, communal tastings, private tastings, collaborations with other local businesses and more. It’s less about teaching and more about sharing and introducing. The best feeling is knowing that we’ve made good tea more accessible to more people.
If I had to sum it up, the work I do is simple. It’s about preserving cultures, creating new traditions, and spreading this idea that we can take care of each other and ourselves through tea.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
- Stay hydrated and eat well, not just as a one-off treat or punishment to yourself but as a daily practice or ritual. When it comes to adding tea into your routine, I recommend selecting one based on caffeine level. Another way to select your daily teas is through cultural connections. Do certain aromas and flavors make you feel joyful or nostalgic? Ask yourself these questions and use your responses as a guide. That’s also I go about developing blends.
- Schedule time to do things that are not work, things that make you feel good. One of these things should be spending time with friends and family. Be careful though not to treat that time like an appointment. Make sure you schedule more than enough time, otherwise your loved ones will feel like you’re not present and like they’re just another meeting in your book.
- Read often. With something as vast as tea, the learning never stops. So, I read as much as possible, not just books but articles and vignettes and journals (or blogs) and reviews. Learning about tea is also about understanding how different people experience tea.
- Adopt a sense of digital minimalism. This isn’t necessarily about banning yourself from social media. It’s about taking the time to understand what you value and using that to drive your digital use. For example, I enjoy using Instagram for the business and for personal use but I avoid using it as a primary way to communicate.
- Don’t feel bad if you need a day to sleep in. Things can wait. I’m mostly sharing this one to plant as a reminder for myself to take my own advice.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I feel like the term “movement” scares a lot of people but I do feel like I’m part of a larger cultural movement in which the world, the community, and the self are equally considered through tea. I can’t take credit for starting it but I’d like to think that the work I do helps sustain and expand it. Sometimes, it’s not about sparking ideas but keeping the fire going in a sustainable way, little by little, person by person, cup by cup. The tea community is very inclusive in that we overlap with so many others, like design and art communities. That’s why we have a miniature art gallery called in our main shop.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- Make sure you’re financially prepared because there are always surprises. Starting a business is a lot like buying a house, and that’s especially true if you have a brick-and-mortar business. Financial preparation isn’t just about money. It’s also about clearly laying out your business plan.
- You’re going to give a lot of yourself so make sure to set boundaries from the start.
- It’s going to feel like a rollercoaster. Some things will go really well and other things will feel overwhelming.
- You’ll never feel like a master of anything, and that’s okay.
- Don’t be afraid to stand your ground. A lot of people will try and tell you how to do things based on their own experiences, and sometimes they’re right and sometimes their experiences have nothing to do with what you’re doing. But you don’t have to be rude if you don’t want to take someone’s advice. Just listen and move on.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Of these topics, mental health is the dearest to me because it’s the one that I wished I prioritized earlier on. Mental health isn’t talked about enough and when it is talked about, it’s taken out of context and not given the care it deserves.
My communication style in general is a lot more subdued than the average person, I think, so that makes it difficult for me to express myself and for others to understand me.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
You can find me on Instagram (@parutea) and at paruteabar.com.
Thank you for these fantastic insights!