They’re called flowering or blooming teas. Delicate flowers and leaves carefully tied together and designed to open into an artful display, or bloom, in a cup of water.
It’s a perfect analogy for Cara Swann.
The once-shy Post Falls High School senior has blossomed in confidence to become a leader at her school, mentoring underclassmen, serving on student council and managing the school’s improv club.
Her strong academic performance qualified her for membership in the National Honor Society, and she’s media director for the Key Club, which promotes volunteerism. She also participates in the children’s ministry at Heart of the City Church in Coeur d’Alene.
Her mother describes her as self-driven, a natural learner and a helper.
“Ever since she was little, people described her as an old soul,” Monica Swann, her mother, said. “She just finds friends everywhere.”
One of her favorite things – and a favorite thing to do with friends – is drink tea at Coeur d’Alene’s Gaiwan Tea House. Cara Swann loves tea so much that she hopes to have a tea shop of her own someday.
Swann was introduced to tea by her grandfather. The family lived in Missoula, and her visits to her grandfather’s house, several hours away in Seattle, were always special.
“In the morning, I’d wake up and there’d be a cup of raspberry tea for me,” she said. “I just loved raspberry tea.”
She began drinking more tea, and different varieties.
“It’s just one of my favorite things now,” she said. All of her friends know it. She was even asked to prom outside the tea shop. Her prom date displayed a sign reading, “It’d be tea-riffic if you went to prom with me.”
After graduation she plans to attend University of Idaho and study food chemistry.
“I think food chemistry would work really well because I really want to develop tea ice creams like green tea ice cream and make up new teas,” she said.
She has already picked a name for her tea shop: “Beleaf,” a marriage of her passion and faith. Raised by Christian parents, Swann said she really grew into her faith around age 15.
“I discovered this is a real thing,” she said. “I started developing my own relationship.”
Monica Swann said her family went on a mission trip to a Mexican orphanage at the beginning of the year and her daughter’s soft heart for children was evident.
“I like to lead,” Cara Swann said. “I feel like with kids they’re so easily influenced. I wanted to be one of the influences in their life.”
She said the director of her church’s children’s ministry described the role of helpers in children’s ministry as “shepherds herding sheep.”
“I really like that analogy,” she said.
At Post Falls High, she signed up to mentor freshmen. Mentors are assigned a group of freshmen to, essentially, shepherd. They answer questions, help freshmen find their classes and can connect them with tutors or other help.
“It’s just a good way to get them to be more involved and be more open,” Swann said. “Sometimes kids are really shy. Others want to open up and will say, ‘I’m struggling.’ I help because I was shy.”
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