Meet the Makers: Interview by Craftly Co.
Autumn and Erica are acupuncturists and certified herbalists who run Autumn Bear Herbals, creating hand-crafted blends in small batches. The organic herbs they use are carefully selected to create balanced, flavorful teas. Here at Craftly, we’re happy and lucky to have received the Prevention Tea in time for this season. What started as a door prize idea blossomed into the idea to make flavorful tea with medicinal benefits. We wanted to know their story along with some health tips!
Craftly: What is the process like in creating and sourcing these tea flavors? I’m not familiar with how the process is like for tea at all.
Autumn: That’s a good question, actually. When we first started formulating these teas, the first thing that we had to take into account is that we really wanted them to taste good. All the medicinal teas that are out on the market, they don’t taste very good. That’s the truth. You drink them because you kind of have to, not because you want to. So we had to go through a pretty painstaking process of putting together Western herbs for their medicinal properties. I had done an internship on Western herbs so I already had a good foundation of how they are used medicinally. What we did is we kind of overlapped our knowledge of Chinese medical principles and started to piece through how this herb going to taste with this herb, and how can we blend their properties. I’ll be honest--the first time we ever did it, we whipped those suckers out in like a day, and we were high-fivin’ and thinking ‘We’re amazing!’ and then we tasted them and they were awful. I mean, absolutely awful. (laughs) Some of them looked horrible. It was not a glamorous thing. So we had to back up and really start to experiment with taste as well as medicinal properties, and how we could utilize and maximize the two together. So we just started playing around with formulas. Once we got our formulas together, we ordered our herbs from a sustainable and organic source out in Oregon, and we hand-blend everything together.
C: That’s a lot of tea! Can we talk about how you came up with the Prevention tea we featured in our box? How’d you come up with that one?
A: This time of year is when people start to get sick because there’s a lot of temperature changes, lots of up and down. Over the course of winter, flu season starts to hit and people are very vulnerable when the cold weather starts to come in. We wanted to create a tea that has tons of vitamins and minerals, but also has things like elderberry. As an example, elderberry is an herb that is amazing for fighting colds and flus. Here’s what it does-- the cold and flu virus, imagine it as being a circle with a little barb that sticks out and essentially that barb punctures a whole bunch of other cells and that’s how the virus proliferates. Well, elderberry is an herb that breaks that barb off, so even if you get infected with the virus, it doesn’t spread. Even if you got exposure to the cold or flu, it can prevent you from getting it in the first place or cut your cold time in half. And so, we wanted something that was really nutrient-dense that was helping to fight colds and flus, but when you ramp up your immune system, we wanted to make sure we wanted to put a blend together that did not cause for people with autoimmune conditions to have a flare up; that’s a really common thing if you take something for your immune system if you have an autoimmune condition, and that can be a really bad thing. So it’s a tough place to be if you’re someone who’s already compromised. So that was kind of the idea-- it’s that we wanted to find a way to fight colds and flus and nourish the body without triggering anybody who is susceptible to, you know, because they have underlying condition.
C: Can you describe to me what your philosophy is all about?
A: Our philosophy is that we want people to have something that they can do for themselves everyday to help benefit their own health. It’s a very valuable and empowering thing to play a role in your own well-being. We’re taking this amazing knowledge that we have, and we’re putting it into tea so that people can have something that they will love and enjoy and drink everyday, but that’s also going to work for them as well. Our goal is to reach as many people as we can to give them a tool to live a healthier life.
C: So it started out as a “let’s try this out” and began to venture as a business.
A: There were only so many people we could see in a week, but by making teas based on Chinese medical principles, we are able to help thousands of other people. It’s kind of a way for us to help other people harness their own health and do a little something each day. So we put our training to good use.
C: How have your lives changed since growing this side of your business?
A: (laughs) We spend a lot of time blending teas, putting things together. There’s definitely a lot that we have on our plate trying to juggle our acupuncture practices and making time for putting the teas together. We’ve done some tea events where we set up tastings and given out samples, and different tea parties like that. We’re really branching out in the way we interact with people, so not just in the acupuncture office.
C: What has been challenging for you so far?
A: (laughs) Everything! I don’t know what the most challenging is for Erica, but for me, the challenge is definitely time. Taking on a new business is so volatile, and we’re constantly having to problem-solve. It just seems like once we tackle one little problem, another one pops up. So it’s really just learning to accept that problems are just going to be our norm. At this point, being able to find peace with that, I think that’s been really hard for me. I don’t know about you, Erica.
Erica: Yeah, along the same lines. Autumn was my professor when I was in school and she taught a practice management class, which is the only one we got in almost five years of studying acupuncture. One thing she pointed out to the class was ‘You think you’re coming to school to be an acupuncturist, but what you’re really doing is becoming a business-owner.’ I think a lot of healers in that position are devastated to hear that because you kind of think that you’re pursuing an entirely different path. The tea business is an extension of that. I think we both thought that we’d spend a lot of time blending teas and having hands-on experience with herbs that we love and feel an affinity for, but really that’s about 5% of what we do. A lot more of it is really trying to teach ourselves about how to run a business and all the different obstacles we’re running into without having had formal training on how to do the [business side of] things. It’s a lot of trial and error, and a lot of reinventing the wheel. But if we could start a tea business right now [compared to before], we’d probably be really good at it.
A: It’s also been an incredible learning experience. It’s very humbling. It’s like you spend your life studying something and you’re pretty good at it, and you go out into the world and do that. So acupuncture is something we get to practice and both of us are pretty good at it. We love our patients and we are kind of accustomed to being in that world. Having started a business-- we are completely out of our comfort zone, and it’s challenging us to be different people. And that is a good thing. We continue to grow. Sometimes it’s hard and sometimes that’s where you’re at, but it’s always different and always allowing us to explore different avenues of ourselves and making us do things that we would never thought we could do.
C: What’s the best place you like to go and relax? Individually?
E: Anywhere outside of the city, preferably nature. I go upstate to go hiking with my dog. Go to nice lakes. I also travel a lot, both nationally and internationally. I’m really drawn to nature although I live in a place that doesn’t have much access to it. If I have to answer that question for within New York City, then Spa Castle, which is a 4-floor Korean spa with twenty-something different saunas and hot pools and rooftop pools and amazing Korean food. (laughs)
A: For me, getting out of the city is always rejuvenating. My husband and I have a little cabin out in the woods along the Appalachian trail in New Jersey. We spend a lot of time out there whenever we get the chance. We have a 2-year-old daughter and a dog so we like to go have a good time hiking and being out in the lake. But if I had my ideal relaxation, I think Hawai’i is it for me. I also do a lot of international traveling. I did a lot of teaching overseas, and I continue to love to foster my relationships in Europe, and that’s always really relaxing to me. And just eating yummy, delicious amazing food.
C: For this season, what are some good health tips that you’d like to share?
A: I would say eating with the season is actually really important because seasonal harvest is actually--the type of foods that are developed by this time of the year-- are actually the kind of nutrients we need in order to fortify our bodies for the coming cold weather. And maybe that speaks more to the people that live in the [U.S.] east coast than those who live in Los Angeles because you guys have a lot more sunshine and overall warmth than we do. But eating seasonally is essentially how the body gets ready for what’s ahead. I think that’s a super important thing to remember. So eating like bananas and pineapple in the middle of November is not such a wise choice because you’re not actually getting the type of nutrition you would need to get from your pumpkins, squash, your apples, you know, things like that. Those are the seasonal components that are valuable to your body. That would be a nice tip for someone, or a reminder.
E: Yeah, and along those lines, the spices we’re used to in the autumn, Thanksgiving spices like pumpkin pie stuff with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves-- all those warm spices. And the prevention tea actually has some of those blends so it’s actually great for this time of the year.