Ivy’s Tea Co.’s Shanae Jones Brings African Holistic Health Traditions And Hip-Hop Culture To Herbal Tea
Shanae Jones is looking to change the way you sip tea.
A holistic medicine practitioner, Jones not only provides handcrafted herbal teas and herb-infused sweeteners that provide customers with the nutrients and regenerative minerals they’re in need of, but she also seeks to celebrate Black culture while doing so through her business, Ivy’s Tea Co. The brand was established in 2016.
Her products are delicious, and they have clever names associated with Hip-Hop and Black television culture references. There’s the floral meets minty with a side of cinnamon of the “Sister Sister” relaxant tea. There’s also “Pusha Tea,” a sweet black tea that’s a blend of apple and ginger flavors. And who wouldn’t love “Schmoney”? An organic honey that is both sweet and citrus-based. If you can’t choose one, there is also the #TrapTea Subscription Box, which is so popular it’s already sold out. The quarterly box is an assortment of five different products, a mix of teas, infused sweeteners, honey and tea accessories.
You could go to the local Starbucks or Teavana, but what sets Jones’ Ivy’s Tea Co. apart from those brands is her attention to wholesome ingredients, commitment to putting holistic medicine first in everything she makes and sells, and making sure her people feel represented –even in herbal tea.
MadameNoire: What was the inspiration behind the creation of Ivy’s Tea Co.?
Shanae Jones: I started Ivy’s Tea Co. after years of purchasing tea from businesses that were not Black-owned. I wanted to offer a product to the herbal tea and holistic health markets that reflected me and my interests.
How long have you been into holistic healing/medicine, and how did your interest in that come about?
I’ve been practicing a holistic lifestyle for about eight years now. I was stuck in a rut with my job, confused about what I wanted for myself, not entirely pleased with how I looked, and I was working through some anger issues. The decision to reconnect with nature was a last resort and something I just decided to try. It turned into a passion for me and several years later, I decided to start my own business selling herbal tea and sharing my knowledge of herbalism.
What is the story behind the influence of Hip-Hop (and some R&B) in the naming of your teas?
Being a first generation American, born to a Jamaican-British family, I learned to connect with my Black American peers in school through Hip-Hop. There’s much to complain about when it comes to Hip-Hop, however, I learned at a very young age its power to connect people and simplify the complex. And I’ve loved Hip-Hop ever since because of that. Using Hip-Hop to market herbal tea is so simple and it’s second nature to me because it’s woven into my identity as a Black American. I believe that Hip-Hop is a suitable vehicle for teaching people about herbalism, but it’s also a great way to insert Black culture into the holistic health and herbal tea industries.
Why should people of color get more into holistic medicine, particularly through the products you have?
People should get more into holistic medicine because it is a challenge to the individual to become more hands-on with his or her health. We’re very used to grabbing this soft gel for pain, this syrup for cough, or this pill for stress, and we’re rarely called upon to identify the source of the pain, cough and stress. Holistic medicine asks you to do that. It asks you to go just a bit deeper, beyond the symptom and find the cause, then remedy that. When you visit Ivystea.com, you’re expecting to just buy some teas like, “This is a cute name! I want this one.” But the product descriptions are thought-provoking and ask you to consider how you feel at the time before making your purchase. The cheeky product names and humor in the descriptions are enough to keep your attention.
What benefits have you witnessed for yourself by going the holistic, herbal tea route?
As a Black woman born to foreign-born parents, there was a lot of pressure to be the best, get the best grades, think five to 10 years ahead all the time, etc. The strict discipline I used to follow as a means to success was an imbalance in my life that caused high stress for me and occasionally triggered the migraines I had come to think of as normal. However, with my transition to a more holistic lifestyle, I’ve found flexibility in my life, a remedy for my migraine headaches, which I had suffered from ever since I was 11, and a healthy means for better managing my anger. I have a bad temper! Admitting is the first step to a cure, though, right? As a result, I’m generally healthier than I have ever been. My holistic lifestyle also moved me into a path of entrepreneurship and freedom that I needed, and I still need.
The herbal tea industry is something not many people of color get into. What made you take on this endeavor and how has it paid off for you?
Bringing Black people and African holistic health traditions to the herbal tea industry is very, very important to me. It is partly why I even started the business. I purchased a lot of tea and I never saw any tea advertisements or branding that reflected me, and this was troubling. Ivy’s Tea Co. is my social activism at work. The goal is to empower Black people with the knowledge that they need to make conscious and affordable decisions to better manage their mental, physical and emotional health. We’re online now, but with plans to open a physical location, I will have the opportunity to create a work culture that I never had as a Black woman in the workplace. Supporters see the vision, respect me as an entrepreneur and love the teas and honeys. I get to do what I love to do and connect with my community in ways that I never have before. I’m really proud of myself and I’m proud of the work I do as an herbalist and as the owner of Ivy’s Tea Co.