Press play, yall. We're going to vibe during this feature today.
You wouldn't believe me if I told you how fascinating and essential honey can be to the general circle of life. Of course we all know that it's immortal and massed-produced by bees. But did you also know that honey is the only food that includes all substances necessary to sustain life?
That's right ladies: honey includes enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and water—each of which means it contains advantages of therapeutic, medicinal, nutritional, and cosmetic value.
*Updates self-care kit*
In setting the tone for this feature, I knew how necessary it was for me to know and understand my own personal associations with honey. Thoughts came pouring in of my own self-comparisons to a black woman's universal ooze of femininity. I thought of one of Erykah Badu's coldest songs, this amazing book I once read called Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur, and of course, some of my favorite green and ginger teas.
But even in my intense research and memory connections, it became very apparent that no one understood the intricate craft and chemistry of honey and any of our favorite teas quite like Brandi Shelton, owner of Just Add Honey Tea Company in Atlanta, GA.
You see, in essence, Just Add Honey is a loose leaf tea company that creates thoughtful blends that tea lovers and loose leaf tea novices alike can enjoy.
But in reality, they are so much more.
Just Add Honey uses tea leaves, herbs, botanicals, and fruits and spices to make full flavors with all-natural and recognizable ingredients in every cup sold. Nothing is changed or altered, as their only mission is to bring thoughtfully blended teas to your taste buds.
And to give you an example of the small, personalized details that go into their brand, Brandi's husband, Jermail, backs her by saying, "She had a blend called '1st Date,' which was a chocolate-based tea reminiscent of our first date at an ice cream shop."
Just Add Honey also sells hand-crafted pastries, hosts tea blending classes and tastings, and most interestingly, every single blend can be traced back to family-owned farms—being that their niche mission is to educate every customer on exactly where their tea comes from.
And if this all didn't impress you enough, Brandi also manages her own commercial kitchen, which focuses on distribution and online business, including monthly subscription boxes.
In my usual getting-to-know-my-subject fashion, I assess Brandi's entrepreneurial archetype and I'm immediately enamored by her brilliant balance of boss, present family woman, and herbal activist. I take note and observe as we begin to discuss her journey to becoming a tea giant.
"Each of my [previous] careers were stepping stones to where I am today," she starts.
"I began undergrad in Biomedical Engineering [and] I later worked as a branch manager for the second largest bank for four years. Then I went back to school for Fashion Design and Marketing and worked in the film/print industry for 15 years. Now I own one of Atlanta's best tea shops, and everything—and nothing—prepared me for where I am today."
I instantly relate to her path of entrepreneurship through varying levels of Corporate America, to a self-made business woman. "[When we began] we didn't fit 'the loose leaf tea' narrative. I remember 20 years ago, enjoying tea in other countries and not feeling welcomed but couldn't put my finger on why."
Soon thereafter, Brandi realized that 'why' was because she didn't fit the high tea profile that so many of her peers possessed. "I was tolerated, not welcomed," she says reluctantly.
Now, we all know the tumultuous global history of tea (and chile, if you don't, go do your research) but it has now evolved into a product enjoyed and consumed by many, regardless of location. Yet, similar to most industries, even tea comes with a protective society of craftsmen and veterans.
And with Brandi's newfound trade discovery, she was forced to go back to the drawing board and take the time to study and perfect her craft through international trips to tea farms and immersing herself in her physically present tea-based research.
Thirteen years later, she began to take on tea. Her way.
"I decided I would create what I wanted. [At that time] 'inclusion' and 'black girl magic' weren't mainstream. I just knew I wanted to rewrite how people felt about loose leaf tea."
In her shops, large blackboards are placed front and center to announce seasonal and popular blends. There are huge peeking walls decorated with honeycombs along the perimeter. Teas are displayed on endless shelving in plethoras: green teas, black teas, fruit teas, herbal, white, and paired blends throughout. Nearby, there are quaint French presses and teapots to tie it all together.
Her customers and employees, whom she affectionately refers to as 'TEAlovers' and 'TEAm' respectively, fill the busy-bee (pun intended) room. My adoration is clear as Brandi continues. "Our TEAm is very knowledgeable about the leaf-to-cup process and we actively find ways to make the experience of enjoying a cup of tea for everyone."
And by knowledgeable, Brandi truly means just that.
Just Add Honey works with tea farms around the world to bring it back to the US for their brand and smaller tea companies who care about where their leaf comes from. This extra step ultimately places Brandi in a region of tea blend producers who stand apart from your average brewer.
She credits her grandmother and mother as those who encouraged her to pursue her passion beyond the surface knowledge of the industry, as both of their memories and personal touch are hugely present in her shops. This generational awareness has ultimately been passed down to her children who she proudly teaches entrepreneurship through day-to-day operations of brick-and-mortar retail.
Not so bad for someone who didn't initially "fit" the industry profile.
And how does Brandi find time for self-care? "I usually reserve Sundays for myself and the family. Outside of work, I'm a mom and a wife. I enjoy doing everything and nothing with them. And that's the day we take a family hike or I make things. I enjoy making jam with leftover fruit from the local farmers at The Market. Or dehydrating fruits and vegetables. I also enjoy painting on canvas. And running."
And now with a second location added to her portfolio, and the sky being the only limit for future plans, Brandi is well-aware of where she's headed. "I will be expanding our leaf-to-cup offerings and tell TEAlovers more about the farm/farmer/families that pluck our leaves. We're spending the rest of the year getting better. All of the not-so-glamorous stuff that businesses have to do. Better processes. Better service. Better at being the best."
Being better at being the best. Checkmate.
For more of Brandi and her tea company, follow them on Instagram @justaddhoney.
Featured image courtesy of Brandi Shelton, Just Add Honey Tea Company
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This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
There’s nothing quite as humbling as navigating adulthood with no instruction manual. Since the turn of the decade, it seems like everything in our society that could go wrong has, inevitably, gone wrong. From the global pandemic, our crippling student debt problem, the loneliness crisis, layoffs, global warming, recession, and not to mention figuring out what to eat for dinner every night. This constant state of uncertainty has many of us wondering, when are the grown-ups coming to fix all of this?
But the catch is, we are the new grown-ups.
As if it happened without our permission, we became the new adults. We are the members of society who are paying taxes, having children, getting married, and keeping our communities afloat, one iced latte at a time. Still, there’s something about doing all these grown-up duties that feel unnaturally grown-up. Enter the #teenagegirlinher20s.
If there’s one hashtag to give you the state of the next cohort of adults, it’s this one. Of the videos that have garnered over 3.9M views, you’ll find a collection of users who are overwhelmed by life’s pressing existential responsibilities, clung to nostalgia, and reminiscent of the days when their mom and dad took care of their insurance plans.
no like i cant explain to her why i had to buy multiple tank air dupes from aritzia #teenagegirlinher20s #fyp
The concept of being a 20-something or 30-something teenager is linked to the sentiment of not feeling “grown up enough” to do grown-up things while feeling underprepared and even nihilistic about whether that preparation even matters.
It’s our generation’s version of when we ask our grandmothers how old they are and they simply reply with, “I still feel 45,” all while being every bit of 76 years old. In this, we share a warped concept of time while clinging to a desire for infantilization.
Granted, the pandemic did a number on our concept of time. Many of us who started the pandemic in our early or mid-20s missed out on three fundamental years of socialization, career development, and personal milestones that traditionally help to mark our growth.
Our time to figure out and plan our next steps through fumbling yet active participation was put on pause indefinitely and then resumed provisionally. This in turn has left many of us hanging in the balance of uncertainty as we try to make sense of the disconnect between our minds and bodies in this missing gap of time.
Because we’re all still figuring out what the ramifications of being locked away and frozen in time by a global pandemic will have on us as a society, there really is no “right” way of making up for lost time. Feeling unprepared for any new chapter of life is a natural rite of passage, pandemic or not. However, it’s important to not stay stuck in the last age or period of life that made sense to us because self-growth is the truest evidence of personal progress.
So whether you’re leaning on your inner child, teenager, or 20-something for guidance as you fill the gap between your real age and pandemic age, know that it’s okay to grieve the person you thought you would be and the milestones you thought you’d hit before you ever knew what a pandemic was. If there’s anything that the pandemic taught us, it’s that we have the power to reimagine a better world and life for ourselves. And if we tap into our inner teenager as a compass, we can piece together our next chapter with a fresh outlook.
Sure, we’ve lost a couple of years, but there are still some really amazing ones ahead.
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Featured image by Stephen Zeigler/Getty Images