Subject #22: Penney Balmes
Filmed December 22, 2007
Penney Balmes is the owner/operator of 11:11 Teahouse, a teahouse/venue in Atlanta, Georgia. Before I arrived at 11:11, I suspected that this "teahouse," like many so-called "teahouses," would really be a generic coffeeshop in a hippieish, new-age disguise. I am happy to report that America's ubiquitous bourgeois coffee culture has not polluted 11:11, which, is it turns out, is truly tea-focused. I spent four hours at 11:11 on December 22, 2007 and, if this Teahouse does furtively play host to lattes, Americanos, cappuccinos, or cups of Joe, I did not see them. There wasn't even a coffeemaker!
I suspect Balmes' influence has prevented 11:11 from deteriorating into a generic urban coffee-klatch where self-employed individuals in search of caffeine fixes and wireless connections bustle about wielding Macintosh laptops and mugs emblazoned with pseudo anti-capitalist slogans like "Fuck Work." A trained herbalist, Balmes moved from the Northwest to Atlanta to bring the benefits of camellia sinesis, a.k.a. tea, to ATL's stressed-out citizens, most of whom are employed by a corporation that peddles super-caffeinated high-fructose corn syrup sludge (Coca-Cola) or a corporation that invented the 24-7 news cycle with the aid of severe computer graphics (CNN). Perhaps due to the influence of her own herbal recipes, Balmes seemed particularly un-stressed when I filmed her in the Teahouse's "green room" next to a stack of guitar amps.