How a coffee addiction led to a tea business
Wellington tea maker’s three herbal blends are led by gut instinct, ensuring what’s tasty also nurtures body and mind.
Words Lee-Anne Duncan Photos Nicola Edmonds
That second cup of coffee is so rarely a good idea but what to drink instead? That’s the question Jacqui Wales began asking herself when she moved back to Wellington.
“Living in England, there’s so much to tea. There are some exquisite blends – black, green and herbal blends. But back in Wellington I was drinking coffee again because it’s cool and what you drink in cafés. However, to get pregnant I had to cut down – and was quite aggrieved by that – but thought, ‘fine, what else am I going to drink?’ So I started looking for herbal teas.”
She found plenty of blends she liked the taste of but none New Zealand-made, and none she related to as a brand. So, towards the end of her year of maternity leave (daughter Tennessee is now three), Jacqui started developing Libertine Blends, three organic, caffeine-free herbal teas made from native and imported herbs.
She knew she wanted to create a beautiful brand, with teas that were nurturing and delicious. “My acupuncturist prescribed me treatment teas but those certainly weren’t for your palette. I’m curious and interested in herbs but I’m not about to drink something I won’t enjoy.”
Using the kitchen of a local Berhampore café, Rinsky Korsakov’s, Jacqui started experimenting at night with herbs, flowers and flavours. She focused on natives, always thinking about what she enjoyed and how she wanted it to make her feel.
Her Kapow blend, with kawakawa, lemongrass, cardamom and chilli, came first. “I am so cold-blooded, I want my teas to make me feel warm, and not just from the liquid,” she says.
“Also my digestion has never been great so I instinctively wanted to create a good digestive tea. With the kawakawa and cardamom, Kapow is great to have when you’ve eaten too much. Or you can infuse it overnight and drink all that herb power cold. And it makes a great kombucha.”
Next came Rock Ohm, with manuka, mint, lemon balm and rosemary. “I wanted a twist on a minty tea because I was bored with minty teas. Rock Ohm is really well balanced, and the rosemary is a mild stimulant that gives a sense of focus and clarity without needing to reach for another cup of coffee.”
With the first two blends almost signed off, Jacqui was introduced to naturopath Arihia Latham. “She was able to say, ‘this herb might help you if you feel like this’, or ‘there’s no point putting this herb with that one as they do opposite things’,” says Jacqui.
Arihia also confirmed that, intuitively, Jacqui had created an energizing tea in Kapow and a cooling tea in Rock Ohm. “Manuka is wonderful and was drunk as tea back in colonial days,” says Arihia. “It’s mildly calming and really good at working on the lungs, opening up that breathing space.”
Next on Jacqui’s list was to make something restoring, with rose first on her ingredient list. Together Jacqui and Arihia experimented with different ingredients and infusion times, always looking for improvements. “We wanted something different,” Arihia says.
“So when I tasted, I was really critical. I’d say, ‘I think there’s something we can add to make it more exciting and unique.’ We were careful to make sure each blend was defined and didn’t become too like each other or anything else we’d tried before.”
Libertine Blends’ third offering, Runaway Rose, was the result, with its elderflower, rose, lavender and vanilla. For Arihia it’s the elderflower that sets it apart. “That’s the fullness at the back of my mouth, the full floral taste. Rose is beautiful to smell but it doesn’t have the fullness without the elderflower. And it tastes different when it’s warm from when it’s cold. So when I have it as an iced tea, I put some mint leaves in it and it’s transformed again.”
Says Jacqui, “I remember Arihia saying, ‘This is so good I want to suck the tea bag.’”
With demand growing, Jacqui and her four helpers share a commercial kitchen at Baron Hasselhoff’s chocolate boutique in Berhampore, blending and bagging to their favourite podcasts. Her three blends – a fourth is in development – are available in (roomy non-bleached) tea bags or loose leaf, and can be drunk in cafés around the country or bought retail.
Jacqui knows her tea is often given as gifts but as people opt for more caffeine-free options, she hopes tea lovers will see it as their daily cup. “Lots of people buy tea for special occasions but that’s like buying a nice dress and thinking, ‘I couldn’t wear that on a Thursday’. I’m like, ‘just wear it and enjoy it’. It’s about educating people so they see the lifestyle alongside the tea.” libertineblends.co.nz
PREPARE THE PERFECT HERBAL CUPPA
To extract the maximum benefit from the powerful properties of herbs and spices it’s best to use freshly boiled water, so the water is well oxygenated. First, warm the pot. Read the instructions for the steeping time as they’re different for different blends. Most need five minutes or more, but blends with herbs high in essential oils should be steeped for less time. Don’t add milk. You can add a little honey, but Libertine Blends are created to have a natural sweetness that will hopefully satisfy a sweet craving. Herbal teas can be drunk hot, at room temperature or iced. After infusing, a herbal tea should be stored in the fridge, where it will keep for two days.
TEA OR TISANE?
Black and green teas originate from the same plant – camellia sinensis. The difference in the tea and flavours are related to how oxidized they are, how they are processed and the age of the leaves when they are harvested. Camellia sinensis contains caffeine, so these teas are caffeinated unless processing has removed it.
Herbal teas or tisanes are restorative and balancing. Using herbs and herbal combinations, the properties of herbal teas are often considered therapeutic.
RUNAWAY ROSE AT COCKTAIL HOUR
This twist on a gin and tonic is a nice way to ease into the evening, especially in summer.
In a glass jar with an airtight lid, combine four bags or 4 flat tablespoons of runaway rose tea and 500ml of gin and infuse overnight in the fridge. Twelve to 20 hours later, strain or remove the bags to complete the flavour-infusion process.
Select four glasses and add a generous double of the cool gin and Runaway Rose infusion. Add ice and top up with something a little sparkling, such as tonic or Goodbuzz Booch (Origins) probiotic soft drink. Garnish with something pretty from the garden.
Makes 4 cocktails