Adulting can be rough, but it does not always have to be. With full-leaf blends, infused sweeteners and hip branding, Ivy’s Tea Company encourages tea drinkers to embrace the lit side of being a grown-up.
Herbalist Achieves Sweet Success with Booming Tea Business
The e-commerce tea company, which was officially launched on Nov. 22, 2016, is owned and solely operated by herbalist-activist Shanae Jones. Her site, IvysTea.com, boasts a selection of full-leaf teas, infused honey sweeteners and tea accessories. Ivy’s Tea Co. prides itself on creating all-natural, organic, local and fair-trade ingredients in every product.
Jones’ commitment to Black wellness and social justice are at the root of Ivy’s Tea Co., which aims to change the perception of holistic health in the community through herbal teas.
“Our mission is ‘supporting ourselves, supporting one another, and building a community because we all want the same thing,’” Jones states.
Black millennials like Jones have increasingly become engaged in human rights activism and healthy living. In many ways, these two interests are interrelated, transforming the health of both the individual and the community.
Sometimes, individuals reach out to Ivy’s Tea Co. for help with ailments that Africans in America are predisposed to, including high blood pressure. As a holistic herbalist, Jones looks at the entire person — their cultural background, environment, activity level, emotions and diet — before making a recommendation. She cautions, however, that herbal remedies are meant to supplement a healthy lifestyle. The brand’s motto, “Drink Like an Adult,” reinforces that wellness is cultivated with healthy, mature choices.
“You have to do things for your body every single day,” Jones says. “You have to drink half of your weight in ounces of water daily. You have to go outside.
“If you want the herbs to work, give the herbs the ideal conditions to work.”
For Jones, it’s important to change the way people of color view holistic health and include underrepresented people in an industry where they are often ignored.
In order to make a communal impact, Ivy’s Tea launched Philanthropy Fridays, an initiative where the company donates a portion of every Friday’s sales to great causes. Since March 2017, Ivy’s Tea Co. has served six charitable organizations, including L.O.M. Help, a nonprofit organization founded by hip hop activist Hollow Da Don.
“Most of my customers are Black millennials. They are very woke,” Jones laughs.
Ivy’s Tea Co.’s branding reflects this fact with punchy references to hip hop culture. C.R.E.A.M. is both a refreshing blend of peppermint and spearmint tea leaves and a nod to the beloved Wu Tang Clan. There’s also the hot and tempting Side Piece, a cinnamon and clove-infused raw honey produced in Virginia. Incorporating pop culture terms into her business model was a strategic way to engage her client base and infuse African healing methods into an industry dominated by white professionals.
Still, it took some time for Jones to pull up a seat at the table. The District of Columbia native envisioned the company while working as a lobbyist. Jones was forced to take the leap of faith and go into business after realizing that her values just were not aligned with her job.
“I can’t be a social activist and be down for the people without creating jobs for them. I can’t call myself an activist if I am not empowering others in my community in ways that I was not empowered,” she states.
Thinking of her great-grandmother Nana Ivy, who relocated from Jamaica to England alone in her youth, the herbalist committed to her vision. After diving head-first into the world of herbs, Jones sought out a mentor and began an intensive internship that lasted over a year and still continues informally today.
The tea startup has experienced steady growth in the past few months and shows no signs of slowing down. Since its first full month of business, Ivy’s Tea Co. has increased orders by 400 percent. Just since March, sales have increased by another 62 percent. There’s a new online commercial, visual advertisement on the way and pop-up shops planned for the coming months.
Jones has already graced the Brooklyn Coffee & Tea Festival in New York with fresh cups of hot, herbal tea and infused honey blends. Eventually, the herbal maven would like to have a more permanent location. “My vision is to become the No. 1 Black tea brand in America and open a community tea house for artists, like myself and my friends, to create and just be,” she says.
For now, Ivy’s Tea Co. is available online for anyone navigating the bittersweet pains of growing up.