In conversation with Love Tea - on healing, nourishing, and sustaining our bodies and the planet
A little while ago I reached out to Emma at Love Tea, a tea company based just outside of Melbourne that designs and sells natural teas inspired by Naturopathy. Love Tea has always been a favourite of mine since my first few days in Melbourne. The first blend I bought was their Raspberry Leaf tea, which I knew would support my cycle - I couldn’t find many other options for cycle support out there and so I kept coming back to Love Tea.
Last year they went through a rebrand and now sell even more blends, including a range specifically designed for women to help support their fertility and hormones. You know how much I love talking about hormones, health and nutrition...
Here’s how Emma and Damien, Love Tea’s founders describe their business: “Emma wanted to create beautiful products that were beneficial for customer’s health. Damien was passionate about organics, and working with tea growers directly, to achieve outcomes which were better for the people involved, and the planet at large. After experimenting with organic teas, aromatic spices and therapeutic herbs for a number of years, Emma and Damien decided to make their tea obsession a full-time project.”
I talked to Emma about Naturopathy and its common misconceptions, the healing power of food, and sustainable practises for both business and life.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What’s your story and your background?
From a young age, I knew I wanted to help people improve their health. To me, Naturopathy was a great way to do this, working with herbs and natural medicine to help improve and optimise people’s health and help them achieve their individual goals. I studied at Endeavour College of Natural health for 5 years and received my Bachelor degree in Health Science, Naturopathy. I started working with herbs and blending teas in my second year of university, and after a lot of trial and error, Love Tea was born. The business grew quickly and my partner Damien Amos jumped on board to help take care of Love Tea, allowing me enough time to complete my course. He had great knowledge of herbs, organics and a desire to create products which had the least amount of negative impact on the environment.
How did your childhood influence where you are today?
Damien’s childhood was the perfect foundation for Love Tea. He was raised on a biodynamic farm in NSW and spent a lot of time in nature. He also studied Naturopathy which was a natural extension of his upbringing.
My mum studied Naturopathy, massage therapy and bought us up vegetarian. I was strongly influenced by this natural upbringing and really wanted to offer other people knowledge, guidance and support, to help improve their health.
Can you share some common misconceptions around the industry?
I think people often get swept up in fad diets, restrictive eating habits and they are easily influenced by the media. Quite often the information they receive is not accurate and is more focussed on pushing supplements or quick fix products, and is not always motivated by an authentic desire to actually improve people’s health. One reason I wanted to study Naturopathy was to be able to empower people with the knowledge and with correct information, for them to be able to change and improve their eating habits and lifestyle.
Another misconception is that Naturopathy has no scientific evidence and that herbal medicine and nutrition can’t improve your health, and that perhaps orthodox medicine offers the most effective outcomes. I believe there is a place and a time for both and often the greatest results will come from an integrative and holistic approach. The person needs to be looked at as an individual rather than a condition or symptoms. A “band aid approach” to disease or to a certain condition will cover symptoms for a period of time, but will rarely correct the underlying issue. If each person’s health was assessed individually, taking into account their personal and family history, and working with natural and preventative medicine using a holistic approach, I think there would be a lot more people achieving optimum health today.
What are some of the health benefits you’ve experienced as a naturopath on yourself, your clients, and people drinking Love Tea?
One that stands out to me was a lady who came to me crying after drinking our Breastfeeding tea. She had previously experienced the flow-on effect of poor lactation, which was poor milk supply and a baby who wasn’t feeding well, and therefore wasn’t sleeping well and so on. She started drinking our Breast Feeding tea, which is based on organic galactogogue herbs, which increase lactation and promote milk production…and the results were amazing. She had ample supply, her baby was well nourished, sleeping well and she was enormously grateful to have found a natural and enjoyable way to maintain her supply.
Another example is very similar to this but with women drinking our Fertility blend. Our Fertility tea is based on herbs which help regulate and balance hormones, support the adrenal glands and support a healthy reproductive cycle. We have had numerous emails from successful pregnancies and women moving on from the Fertility tea to our Pregnancy tea range. It is extremely rewarding to hear these success stories and to know that people achieved the outcome they desired, completely naturally and within a relatively short period of time.
How else do you nourish and heal your bodies?
I am a big believer in nourishing your body as often as you can. I see meal times as an opportunity to nourish, replenish and heal your body.
If you have a particular goal in mind, or something you would like to achieve with your health, you can bring specific foods into your diet and begin the healing process.
This will not only ensure you are making changes immediately that can bring you closer to your goals but also help you feel empowered and in charge of your own health. For example, we drink freshly squeezed lemon in warm water each morning which helps alkalise the body, supports digestive function and cleanses the body.
I often look at foods for their nutritional and mineral content and take into account what my family may be in need of, or what they could benefit most from at a certain time.
What’s your and Damien’s favourite Love Tea blend?
Damien’s’ favourite blend is the Australian Sencha. This is a light green tea, grown in northern Victoria.
Living close to Melbourne where everyone’s into specialty coffee, do you drink coffee at all?
Yes we love a good coffee! Seven Seeds, Campos and Dukes all make pretty sensational coffee. We start the day with tea each morning, then we might have one coffee and then we are back to drinking tea for the rest of the day. We usually start the day with a black tea, and then have a huge range of greens, blacks and herbals through the day and finish with a sleep tea or a calming tea at the end of the day.
How does Damien’s background of growing up on a biodynamic farm still influence parts of the business?
I feel as though Love Tea is a natural extension from his upbringing. He was brought up in nature and developed a sound knowledge of herbs, teas and spices and wholefoods. He has a great passion for the environment and this has helped steer Love Tea into supporting Fair Trade practices, donating 1% of all sales to non for profit environmental organisations around the world, and ensuring we source the highest quality certified organic ingredients.
Have you travelled to many of the tea plantations that you source your ingredients from? How did you find the right fit of plantations to work with when you first started?
Yes, we travel to visit plantations regularly, which helps build relationships with growers and helps us stay connected to the communities and growers we source from. Finding plantations which were right for Love tea was based on a range of factors. The plantations needed to be certified organic, use sustainable practices and certified Fair Trade if possible. Then from there we look at quality and consistency of supply.
You’ve been in business for quite a while now. How did the company grow, and what were some of your main obstacles and challenges you’ve faced so far? How did you overcome them?
I think you have to hold a clear vision of what you want to achieve and how you want to get there. We wanted to grow a sustainable business steadily, without shortcuts and our goal has always been holistic and for the long term.
We have always seen Love Tea as a business that we want to continue to thrive, long after we are gone. As we continue to grow, our focus remains on the ethical, and sustainable practices throughout the entire production process. We always consider the environment and the flow-on effect of decisions we make to try and ensure the least amount of negative impact on the planet.
There have been so many challenges, one of my favourites was in the early days (around 2007), when we were attending local markets where we would sell and serve tea. We were often setting up a stall next to people selling lollies or cakes or whatever at a market and these surrounding stalls would be so busy. Everyone would be in a frenzy for their sugar fix and no one was interested in organic tea. So then we started buying organic fruit loaf and selling organic fruit toast and chai for $5. I know “the cake lady” would have been thinking what are these kids doing! We didn’t sell many boxes of tea at all, but when we got to drink the chai and eat the fruit toast at the end of the day we were always pretty happy. We used to joke after the markets, “look we get this awesome fruit toast for free!” I think that was such a good test for us, the fact that we could have those tough days of setting up a market and not selling many boxes of tea, and still come away happy. I guess that’s when you know you’re onto a winner because you’re doing what you love.
Times have changed a lot since then (thank god!). We spent a great deal of time focusing on product development and using my knowledge of herbs and naturopathy to bring our wellness range to life. These blends are quite niche and unique to Love Tea.
I sometimes think of the business as another child. We have two little girls and sometimes I feel the business is our third, but we have grown with it and learnt so much. The everyday challenges you face in business help you grow and get you ready to jump the next hurdle. The obstacles will always be there, but the more you face, the more experienced and knowledgeable you become.
You’ve recently gone through a rebrand - what was the motivation behind it, what went into the process, and what have you learnt along the way?
The Love Tea rebrand was a very lengthy and in-depth process which we undertook to ensure our packaging accurately reflected the products we create. We wanted packaging which was simple, elegant and authentic, and which honoured the botanicals we use. We also wanted to clearly communicate our brand story and to offer a little calm on a noisy tea shelf. We worked closely with a design studio in Fitzroy to achieve this and the process took around 12 months to complete. I think it was such a beneficial exercise to rebrand and to reevaluate what Love Tea is about, where it sits and where it is going. It took a great deal of time, effort and energy to complete the rebranding process but it was well worth it and we couldn’t be happier with the result.
How do you and Damien balance work tasks? It seems you’re both interested and educated in naturopathy - how do you split tasks, and work to each other’s strengths?
Damien runs the show. Haha! Not really, but he does a great job of making sure all aspects of purchasing ingredients, importing them and the production process runs as smoothly as possible. We work with a great little team who focus on manufacturing and picking packing and dispatching. I design the Wellness teas, work closely with our marketing and design team and also works in sales. We all work to our strengths and focus on what we do best.
How many other people do you work with? Do you still hand blend and taste test most of the teas yourself?
We work with a small team of 6 and we hand blend and taste test every single batch we blend before it’s packed. We do this to ensure we are putting out the greatest tasting tea we can.
What does a usual week look like for you? Have you got any morning and evening routines?
Damien works Monday to Friday and his hours are dependent on how busy we are, but usually from 7am or 8am - 5.30pm to 6pm. My week is a little more of a juggling act, as life is busy with our two little girls, so I am between school drop-offs and pick-ups, and at work 2-3 days per week. We do have an evening ritual which is brewing a Sleep tea each night before bed… it’s such a beautiful way to wind down after a busy day!
What are your tips for living an intentional life and practising mindfulness?
I find it really important to bring some form of practice into our day, even if it is just 5 minutes. I try and get to a yoga class whenever I have free time, and we live near the beach so a beach walk is always very grounding and a wonderful way to connect with nature. Damien is a surfer and loves the water so surfing is grounding for him. We also love meditation and try and find even short opportunities to practice it.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve heard recently?
“Anything is possible, you just have to work hard and persevere.” I feel this can be applied to anything and everything.
When teaching our girls something new, trying to achieve something with the business, or yoga and surfing. If you continue to work hard at it, you will eventually achieve your goal.
What’s next for you in life and business?
2016 has been an enormous year for us. We built a house, purchased a tea bag machine and set it up in Melbourne. We undertook a significant rebrand and launched 10 new products at the same time. I would like to say 2017 will be a calmer year, but I am not sure. We have outgrown our current warehouse and will be relocating early in 2017, and we have just started working with a few new distributors so the calendar is filling up quite quickly. We have also started selling the range through New Zealand and we look forward to watching it grow internationally. We have big plans and big dreams for Love Tea and hope to continue to grow the business (pardon the pun) as organically as possible. We have a few exciting things which will hopefully come to fruition in 2017, but we will have to wait and see!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and knowledge Emma! If you’re keen to try out some of their tea blends, you can find a list of Stockists here, or just order online.
A couple of my favourites are the Fertility Tea for both its taste (love a slight hint of sweet Licorice) and health benefits, as well as their caffeine free Chai, which means I can drink Chai in the evening without the possible downsides of consuming caffeine. :)