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Taste of Tea co-owner Donna Tokugawa dies at 65

Donna Tokugawa, the co-owner of Healdsburg’s Taste of Tea and much-loved host of the Japanese tea bar and restaurant, died unexpectedly on May 31. She was 65.

Her family said that Tokugawa had been suffering some health problems the last year, but suddenly became ill on Saturday and was airlifted to UCSF Parnassus, where she died.

She and her husband, Nozomu “Nez” Tokugawa, opened the business in 2015 and spent the last seven years building it into a well-loved spot for tranquil moments in the midst of a chaotic world.

Focused on hospitality, the North Street restaurant offers dozens of hand-selected teas alongside Nez’s Japanese homestyle cooking, extending that graciousness with luxurious tea-based foot soaks in a quiet backroom. They also own an online tea import business run by Nez’s daughter, Tai Ericson.

“Donna truly did work tirelessly to think of ways to support our business, the community and her family. She was a wealth of knowledge and always sought to learn more. She was mentor, counselor/consultant to so many of our employees and customers. She really did genuinely care. Every interaction stuck with her. We’re feeling a great loss,” said Ericson.

Her marriage to Nez and journey into restaurant hospitality was a second act for Tokugawa, who was born Nov. 22, 1955, in New Jersey, grew up in Southern California and graduated from Walnut High School just east of Los Angeles.

Working in banking for much of her life, Tokugawa worked her way up from a customer service representative to chief operating officer of large regional banks including Chino Valley Bank and Foothill Independent Bank.

It was at Foothill Bank that Donna and Nez met and started dating in 1999. The two retired from banking in 2003 with plans for a tea business. The couple were married in San Francisco in 2005, as their tea company, Edo-Chen, expanded online.

Tokugawa loved traveling the world but spent much of her time giving back to her community through her board service at nonprofits including the Ronald McDonald House, Casa Colina Hospital, the Green Spa Network and the Ceres Community Project.

“Donna was a warm and welcoming presence at the restaurant for many years. She was loved by her customers, her co-workers and, of course, her family. She will be greatly missed,” said Healdsburg Mayor Evelyn Mitchell, who offered a moment of silence at the City Council meeting on Monday in honor of Tokugawa.

“My father and I greatly appreciate the outpouring of support from the community. We know she will live on through all people she touched,” said Ericson, adding that Tokugawa considered the restaurant staff as part of her family.

Tokugawa is survived by her husband, Nez.

Donations in honor of Tokugawa may be made to the Healdsburg Senior Center.

You can reach Staff Writer Heather Irwin at heather.irwin@pressdemocrat.com.

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