Jessie Dean & Asheville Tea Company (March 2017)
With Asheville Tea Company, Jessie Dean is proving there’s a market for artisanal teas.
Western North Carolina is awash in craft beers and premium coffees; why not teas with a special twist as well? In 2015 Jessie Dean decided to address that question by handcrafting teas that blend organic herbs, botanicals, and small-batch artisanal offerings.
“I started the company,” recalls Dean, “because I realized that I could never find any locally-sourced teas on menus or in shops around Asheville. I also have traveled quite a bit and enjoy the every day tea culture in many countries in the world, and wanted to bring that experience to my own town. I was inspired by our area’s strong farm-to-table and craft beverage culture and became very interested in partnering with local farms and proprietors to create something local, beneficial to our community, healthy, and delicious.”
Dean, who lives in West Asheville with her husband and two children, launched Asheville Tea Company via area tailgate markets this past September. The response was uniformly positive, so she began getting her teas into local shops and seeking local cafes to partner with—among them, The Rhu and Ivory Road Café & Kitchen. At the latter they hold “Afternoon Tea Talks” for sampling new teas like Ginger Turmeric, Lemon Yaupon, Chamomile Lavender, and Wild Earl. Customers can also learn about locally-sourced teas and their benefits while enjoying a full “proper afternoon tea service” complete with scones, shortbreads, homemade pastries, jams, and jellies.
“Many, or most, tea and tisane companies source ingredients from Asia, Europe, and other countries. We are sourcing everything we can from our region.”
Dean additionally credits support from regional farmers as being key to her company’s success to date. “Finding local products and creating wonderful relationships with farmers in this area has been so influential in getting the business off the ground—and finding a way to keep the focus on locally-sourced ingredients has its challenges [because] many of these products are available from a plethora of international or online sources for much less money. We feel so fortunate to work with amazing local businesses and farms.” Her current partnerships include Rayburn Farm, Epling Farm, Franny’s Farm, Pangea Plants, ASI Yaupon Tea, Table Rock Tea Company, Hoopers Creek Botanicals, GentleHarmony Farm, and Way of Life Farm. Dean is quick to insist that “locally sourced” is far more than just a buzzword.
Dean is quick to insist that “locally sourced” is far more than just a buzzword. “Many, or most, tea and tisane companies source ingredients from Asia, Europe, and other countries. We are sourcing everything we can from our region. Not everything is grown or available in this area, but many, many amazing botanicals are, and the locally-grown herbs and botanicals have largely influenced our recipes and blends. For the teas that we cannot find locally yet—green and black tea—we infuse them with local ingredients. We believe that local sourcing has benefits for our local economy, for the environment, and for the healthfulness, freshness, and deliciousness of the teas themselves.”
Dean’s flagship blends include “Wild Earl,” a classic Earl Grey blended with wild bergamot flower; “Minted,” a blend of three types of Asheville-grown mint leaves; the “Relax” and “Wellness” blends, which feature an array of health-conscious locally grown herbs; a gin and tonic inspired blend, “G & Tea,” made with juniper berries and local lime basil; and two Yaupon blends (America’s only native tea plant and the only edible caffeinated plant indigenous to the Southeast), a traditional Lemon Yaupon and Yaupon with local elderberry. More flavors will be added as other seasonal herbs and spices are ready for harvest.
“Figuring out how to keep our business afloat and successful financially while also staying true to our mission and values is a balancing act,” admits Dean. “We plan to continue to build relationships with local sources to continue to increase the amount of area ingredients we use, and to focus on developing relationships with other businesses and cafes who may wish to carry our products.
“Ultimately, seeing the vision for this company come to fruition has been one of the most amazing experiences.”
More details, including where to find the teas locally, at www.AshevilleTeaCompany.com.
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