We interviewed Shelby Kroach, owner of The Honest Leaf. We found out why all tea is not created equal, what’s important in a successful business collaboration, and the common mistake you might be making when you pour yourself a cup a tea.
Sipping a cup of tea is so calming and peaceful. Can the same be said for running a tea business?
To be honest, running any kind of business is definitely not calming and peaceful (in my opinion). There are highs and lows, stressful days and rewarding days. The one thing I can say is that it’s calming and peaceful to know that I am doing something that I truly love!
Why did you decide to get into the tea business?
I have loved tea since I was a little girl. When loose leaf tea started to become more mainstream and companies were coming out with some pretty crazy flavours, I found it difficult to find blends that tasted great without all the additives. So I decided to combine my two passions, tea and nutrition, and create a product of my own that not only tasted great, but also supported a healthy mind and body.
There are endless choices when it comes to tea. But they are not all created equal. Many teas have artificial flavours, preservatives and sugars in them but our customers can be assured that we do not use these “ingredients.” We pride ourselves on using the best quality tea leaves with organic and all natural spices and herbs. Our teas are made with your health in mind, and we like to keep things simple!
Do you drink tea more for health or pleasure?
Is loose leaf better than tea bags in pouches?
It depends. Some companies (like ourselves) actually package up the same loose leaf tea into individual tea bags. This is merely for convenience for those that don’t want to purchase accessories to steep their tea. However, many tea bags are actually made up of dustings, tiny particles of tea that are left over from the production of loose leaf tea. So, I personally opt for loose leaf tea or loose leaf tea bags because I know I’m getting the best quality whole leaf tea.
So many don’t realize how toxic a bleached tea bag is soaking in a mug they are about to drink, what is the solution?
There are so many clean, non-toxic options for steeping tea. My preference is to use a non-bleached paper filter bag. There are also stainless steel tea infusers of all shapes and sizes that work really well!
Is your tea certified organic?
Mostly all of our ingredients are certified organic. However, because our facility hasn’t been certified, we are unable to put the certification logo on our packaging.
Does buying fair-trade tea matter?
In my opinion, yes. It is always important to work with suppliers that practice fair-trade. Everyone deserves to be paid and treated appropriately for the production of their goods. (We totally agree – Fair Trade matters greatly!)
What is the one thing tea-drinkers can do to make their teas taste even better?
Let your water sit for a minute or two after boiling. You don’t want to shock the leaves with piping hot water. It’s also important to use the appropriate temperature for the type of tea you’re consuming. A lot of people don’t realize this!
Your blog (called Honestly Speaking – which we love) features food recipes too – why should we cook with tea?
It adds another dimension to your food. There is so much flavour in tea, so why not?!
What advice would you give to someone picking out tea as a gift?
If you don’t know exactly what your recipient likes, don’t go for anything too obscure. You could always stick with flavours of the season. For example, in the winter you may choose more spiced/warming blends whereas in the summer you may opt for a more fruity/light blend. Have fun with it!
What are your favourite blends to put together for the holiday months?
Your Instagram account is so pretty! Do you take your own photos or do you invest in a good photographer?
We take 95% of our own photos (sometimes we repost other awesome photos from accounts we love). But it’s always tempting to seek out a professional photographer who can take things to the next level!
What is it like collaborating with a chef like Doug McNish on tea blends?
Collaborating with Doug has been amazing. He has such a vast knowledge of food, flavour profiles and recipe development that it makes my tea blending experience that much more exciting.
What makes a collaboration a good fit?
I like to work with people that have similar values as I do. The key is to be on the same page from the start, which makes working together seamless.
How do you know when a collaboration has been successful?
When I hear from customers how much they loved a tea we worked on with another brand/business, it means we have done our job.
Who is your biggest cheerleader?
I’d have to say my husband Ben. He’s there for every event, milestone and hardship. He keeps me moving forward and is one of the biggest reasons why The Honest Leaf is what it is.