Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, August 26, 2016

Wild about tea

River City Roundabout

Tea is, inarguably, a healing balm for the soul. - Photograph by David Laprad

Wildflower Tea Shop helping people navigate the path to wellness, one cup at a time

Hillary Libby, proprietor of Wildflower Tea Shop & Apothecary, doesn’t ask her customers how she can help them. Instead, she asks, “How are you feeling?” It’s a direct question, and an honest answer gives Libby the information she needs to make her patron feel better.

Help might begin with a cup of hot tea. Wildflower Tea Shop, which opened in August on Market Street across from the Choo-Choo Hotel, offers around 80 blends of black, oolong, green, white, and herbal blends – all organic. My hands are curled around a steaming cup of Sunshine Peach, despite the sweltering mid-August heat outside.

Libby is sitting with me at one of her tables, sipping iced Women’s Balancing Blend (a mixture of nettle, peppermint, and raspberry leaf) from a mason jar. “We can ice any of our teas,” she says, smiling. I wish I’d asked her to chill mine.

Then I notice I’m not alone in drinking something hot. Near the front of the shop, a father, mother, and toddler are seated on a couch, sharing a pot of something warm, and elsewhere, a young man is one-handing a cup as he stares at his laptop. I relax – not because others have done as I did, but because my tea is delicious.

Libby tells me it’s also good for me. Sunshine Peach is a black tea with orange peel and calendula, a medicinal herb. The latter is said to boost a person’s immune system, ease menstrual pains, and promote healthy skin. “Two out of three is pretty good,” I think as I gaze into my cup.

Libby says the benefits of her tea blends don’t end there. If you have an ailment, she has a tea custom-made to deal with it. “We have teas that support different moods,” Libby says. “If you’re stressed out and need to chill, we have teas for that, and if you need a burst of energy, we have teas for that.”

Wildflower Tea Shop also sells blends designed to tackle allergies, help a person sleep, and support general wellness.

Although I appreciated the advantages of the tea I was drinking, I was more excited about its flavor. It’s more than good, I thought; it’s better. Imagine the difference between a glass of processed orange juice from a carton and juice from organic oranges picked at their prime and pressed in the grove. That’s the difference between the tea in my kitchen cabinet at home, which I purchased at a grocery store, and the cup of brew Libby served me at Wildflower Tea Shop.

And I didn’t even add honey, or a tincture. For 50 cents, Wildflower Tea Shop will boost any tea with a tincture blend made by Wooden Spoon Herbs, a local herbalist. Patrons can choose from Allergy Assist, Anxiety Ally, Brain Tonic, Immuno Zoom, Moontime Magic, and Mushroom ImmUNITY. I suggested adding one for newspaper reporters called Deadline Dash.

In addition to offering tea by the cup and the pot, Wildflower Tea Shop sells its loose leaf teas by the ounce. Libby also has the accessories one needs to make tea at home, including a variety of tea ball infusers.

When Libby was coming up with her product line, she didn’t stop at tea; she also included bulk herbs, which she also sells by the ounce, essential oils, and other herb products. These items make up the “Apothecary” portion of Wildflower Tea Shop and Apothecary.

“Some people like to create their own home apothecary,” Libby says. “They want to have an arsenal of herbs on hand for customizing their own tea blends. You can come here and buy an ounce of what you need without having to purchase a pound of it online and then wait for it to arrive.”

Libby says her essential oils – the lifeblood of the plant from which they come – can be used in a number of ways. “I like to use them for aroma therapy,” Libby says. “I’ll diffuse them in the air or put a few drops in my bath and let the steam bring out the aroma.”

Wildflower Tea Shop also sells essential oil blends that roll onto a person’s skin, including a Dream Blend said to help a person sleep, a focus blend, and a blend for tight muscles. “You can put them in your purse or pocket and carry them with you,” Libby says.

Libby isn’t just a tea shop entrepreneur; she’s also a holistic health coach and yoga instructor. All three endeavors grew out of her life-long love for wellness and making people feel better. “The natural world gives us many things we can use to heal ourselves. A walk, or yoga, or deep breaths can do wonders,” she says. “I love the simplicity of that. It takes us back to our roots.”

Wildflower Tea Shop began as a dream Libby had while she worked in corporate sales. As a holistic health coach, people often came to her for advice, and she often found herself recommending curatives to people. But there was nowhere in Chattanooga to purchase the items.

Libby saw this as an opportunity. “People are gravitating toward natural health and wellness, and incorporating these things into their lives, so there needs to be a place where they can buy what they want,” she says.

When the time was right, Libby escaped the corporate world and opened Wildflower Tea Shop, which itself offers a welcome escape from the hectic, chaotic bits of day-to-day life.

The very walls of the building and the thoughtfully selected decor express Libby’s passion for returning to one’s roots. Exposed brick runs the length of the long room, and is decorated with macramé and other ornamental flairs. An old, worn-down hutch stocked with product is placed against one wall, while shelves containing jars of herbs line another. A large shadowbox containing tiny compartments for vials of essential oil sits next to the herbs, while the silver tins containing the loose-leaf teas are stored on shelves behind the order counter. Soothing background music acts as a healing balm in and of itself.

As a physical space, Wildflower Tea Shop expresses the old world sensibilities of the apothecary. Even the cups themselves are unassuming. Hand-made at Annie Hanks Ceramic Studio on Main Street, the unadorned mugs warm instantly when filled with hot tea, and hold the heat of the liquid long after a normal tea cup would allow it to cool.

It’s remarkably comforting. “I wanted this place to feel like a throwback to a simpler time,” Libby says.

While Libby’s thoughts might reside in the past, she doesn’t have her head in the sand when it comes to modern conveniences. Like any other tea shop, she offers Wi-Fi for her working customers – and her patrons who would rather read a Kindle than a book. “We aren’t totally old school,” she says. “I do live in the real world.”

As do I, so as much as I would like to sit in the comforting embrace of Wildflower Tea Shop, sipping hot Sunshine Peach and talking with Libby about her inspired idea for a business, deadlines are calling. So I grab an ounce each of the Happy Man blend and the Coconut Vanilla Chai – the shop’s most popular tea – and prepare to step back into the intemperate August heat.

Before I leave, Libby tells me about her plans for a grand opening celebration on Saturday, Sept. 3 starting at 10 a.m. There will be live music, product samples, meet-and-greets with some of the shop’s vendors, and door prizes. Also, in the upcoming months, Wildflower Tea Shop will begin to expand its services with workshops, healing services, and private events.

Libby hopes all of this will lead to the day when she asks a customer how he or she is feeling, and the person says, “Great!”

“You’ll discover there’s a lot of wisdom in you if you start listening to your body,” she says. “We can support you on that journey.” 

To see more photos, pick up a copy of the Hamilton County Herald.