When South Carolina native, now New Yorker, Charmaine Bee, of Gullah Girl Tea reached out to MyLifeRunsOnFood.com about her Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for equipment and supplies to accommodate her growing business, I instantly became one of her many cheerleaders. Bee’s healing tea blends have whimsical names in tribute to her childhood memories in South Carolina. In the interview below, Bee reminisces about her family and Gullah culture, discusses health concerns in our community and talks about her Kickstarter campaign. Make a pot of tea and read below to learn more about Gullah Girl Tea.
How does your Gullah culture contribute to creating tea blends?
I began making tea blends to learn about alternative healing methods to address diabetes. A lot of my family members are diabetic, and when I learned that people of African descent are disproportionately impacted by diabetes, I wanted to learn more about what this was about and how to address it through tea. After my grandmother’s passing when I was at home working on an art project, I learned that my grandmother used herbs from her backyard to make healing teas for my mother and her siblings. So that history and that culture really informs my desire to know more about healing through herbs and reclaiming that practice.
A lot of the tea blends are named after places that are significant to my and my family’s history in Beaufort South, Carolina. For instance, “Stroll down Waddell Road,” is significant to me because, before moving to South Carolina from New York, where I was born, I was sent to spend the summers with my grandmother. Her house was on Waddell Road and she had a huge pecan tree in front of her home. A lot of getting to know my grandmother, cousins and our families’ land took place on Waddell Road. Port Royal Breeze is kind of about walking culture. The close proximity in which most families live/lived as well as the encounters you’d have stopping by to say hello to people while walking to get food or run errands.
What was your Grandmother’s favorite herbs to use when nursing your mother, aunts/uncles when they had the flu and other ailments?
My Aunt Alice told me a story about how whenever my mother and her siblings came down with the flu my grandmother would go in the back yard and collect “Life Everlasting” and boil it into a tea and give it to them. It would knock the flu right out.
When your Kickstarter campaign ends and the additional supplies are ordered, what’s your next goal?
Once the Kickstarter campaign ends and my additional supplies are ordered some of my short term goals include:
- increasing my production power. I still want to make teas in small batches and want to be able to create more of my existing blends to supply to a larger customer base of coffeshops, specialty stores, spas, and online markets.
- looking forward to expanding my line of blends and offering more herbal based teas and fruit blends.
- traveling to China, Japan and India in 2016 to directly connect with farms in order to be even more intentional about the way in which I source my teas.
What is your favorite recipe to use with one of your teas?
I think my current favorite recipe to use with one of my teas is the Chai Tea float. I just started working with that recipe and it is so much fun. I love it because the creaminess of the ice: Cream (whether dairy or dairy free) really compliments and balances out the bold, full, spicy flavor of my chai tea blend.
What’s your favorite food pairings with one of your tea blends?
One of my favorite pairings of tea with food is the “Stroll down Waddell Road” (a mint lemongrass blend) after a flavor packed solid meal, like shrimp and grits. Shrimp and grits is my favorite and my mother makes it for me every time I visit home in Beaufort, SC. You have all of these amazing flavors of the shrimp, brown gravy, onion and the weight of the grits. After letting a meal like that settle, mint lemongrass is really clearing of the palette, helpful for digestion and super refreshing, so it brings this lightness to balance everything out.
This is a frigid cold winter we’re having, which Gullah Girl tea blend helps someone stay warm?
I really enjoy my blends which include coconut during this time of the year as well as chai! I really love the chai because the ginger really warms you up from the inside out and I love the way all of the spices come together and are in conversation with one another. I love the coconut blends such as “A Trip Across the Pond” (a Vanilla Coconut Rooibos blend) and “Full Moon at the Sands” (a Black Vanilla Coconut blend), because the warm, toasty flavor of the coconut is super comforting to sip while warming up.
A special thank you to charming Charmaine Bee for introducing me to her Gullah Girl Tea blends. Please support her Kickstarter campaign, which ends January 18th, 2015 at midnight EST.
Leave a comment below to share your favorite, warming tea blend this winter.