Steeping it real: Recently launched Asheville Tea Co. sources local ingredients

A LEADER IN HER FIELD: Asheville Tea Co. owner Jessie Dean stands in a field of pineapple sage at Rayburn Farm in Barnardsville. Dean, who focuses on using locally grown components for her line of loose-leaf and packaged teas, will include the pineapple-scented herb in an upcoming fall and winter seasonal blend. Photo by Cindy Kunst

“I’m on a mission to turn Asheville into a town of craft tea drinkers,” says Jessie Dean, owner of recently launched Asheville Tea Co. “People love their craft beverages here, and it’s really hard to find a local craft tea.” Asheville Tea Co. uses fresh ingredients from local farms, tossing in green or black tea with certain blends, to create unique and flavorful concoctions.

Dean is optimistic that in the near future, every element of her formulations — even the green and black teas, which are not native to the United States — will be sourced locally. “I have been working with Table Rock Tea Co. in South Carolina, and they are growing camellia sinensis,” she says. “So, within the next few years, I am hopeful that we will be able to have local green and black tea even.”

For now, she is crafting caffeinated blends with an imported Kenyan black tea she sources from Table Rock Tea Co. and green tea from Mountain Rose Herbs. But “those blends are still infused with local products,” she adds.

In addition to Table Rock Tea Co., Dean is working with a growing list of Asheville-area farms to procure her other ingredients, including Rayburn Farm, Epling Farm, Hoopers Creek Botanicals, Pangaea Plants, A Way of Life Farm, Franny’s Farm and Gentle Harmony Farm. She’s also sourcing yaupon, a wild-harvested, caffeinated holly leaf native to North America, from the Georgia-based ASI Yaupon Tea.

“The thing that is unique about Asheville Tea Co. is that we are focused on local sourcing,” she says. “So, we are really working hard to support local farms and local business.”

The first seasonal blend Asheville Tea Co. rolled out is known as G & T, inspired by the gin and tonic cocktail. It combines locally grown lime basil from Rayburn Farm in Barnardsville with local rosemary, juniper and elderflower and a green tea base.

For her foray into small business, Dean draws on deep entrepreneurial roots. “I was inspired definitely by my family. My mom and her sisters run a candy store, and it’s a third generation family business. My dad runs his own craft business,” she says.

Starting her own business felt like a natural progression for Dean. “I had been in a job for 11 years working in the health-and-wellness and outdoor recreation industry, and, you know, a lot of my role was in operations, so I have a background there,” she explains. “I wanted to shift gears to being a full-time mom and was looking for something that I could do to be able to stay with my kids and also something that I could get really passionate about. So, tea is something that I am really passionate about.”

Dean says her business has also been inspired by the Asheville community. “There is such a great farm-to-table scene and craft beverage scene and foodie scene in Asheville. The local farms are so awesome to work with,” she says.

Asheville Tea Co. offers individually packaged and loose-leaf varieties. For now, both products are available at various local tailgate markets and at The Rhu downtown. Dean plans to partner with other local businesses to expand her distribution in the near future.

For details on where to find Asheville Tea Co. products, visit the company’s Facebook page


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About Jacqui Castle
Jacqui Castle is a freelance writer who began contributing to Mountain Xpress in 2014. When she is not writing, she is living it up in the Fairview mountains with her family of four.

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