Christa Barfield of Germantown starts each day by drinking a cup of hot tea. When she lifts the cup to her lips, before indulging in the first sip, she inhales the herbaceous aroma of the tea while contemplating the day ahead.
“Drinking a cup of tea is a form of introspection,” Barfield said. “When I’m doing my meditations and praying … drinking tea allows me to sit in the moment and be present.”
Barfield, 32, fell in love with tea in 2018 after taking a trip to the Caribbean island of Martinique where every morning with her breakfast she was served a piping hot cup from the couple she visited. There, she learned to drink tea in a new way. The host would take live herbs, like echinacea, from his garden, put them in a cup, and pour hot water over them.
“It was very different from what we do in America,” Barfield said. “The tea definitely had a fresher taste.”
When she returned to Germantown, she was inspired to start a tea company of her own. In August, she launched Viva Leaf Tea, a company that sells hand-blended teas from herbs and plants that Barfield grows from seed. The name of the company, Viva Leaf, is a nod to the fresh herbal teas she drank in Martinique.
“I started a tea company for wellness reasons,” Barfield explained. “It helped me to keep my 10 years of health-care experiences and reincarnate it in my own way."
Before starting Viva Leaf Tea, Barfield worked in health-care management at several private practices in Philadelphia, including behavioral health and ophthalmology offices. In 2018, she earned a bachelor’s degree in health-care administration from St. Joseph’s University.
“We take all of our herbs very seriously,” she said. “There are thousands of tea companies all over the world. But you don’t really know where the tea leaves are coming from.”
Barfield boasts a “farm to cup” experience for her customers. Every herb, plant, and flower that’s used in the tea blends — including rosemary, mint, borage, lavender, and mullein — are grown in a greenhouse in Germantown. Barfield creates the blends for her teas in commercial kitchens located in Germantown and Roxborough.
With every order, customers are provided with information about the origins of the herbs used and their possible health benefits, like the Metabolism Booster, which has echinacea flower, thyme, orange zest, habanero pepper, and white peony tea leaves.
Philly-based nutritionist Olena Zinshtein agrees that ingredients like orange zest and habanero peppers promote a healthy immune system and help to prevent cell damage. Additionally, drinking tea, “is a great way to increase water intake and improve digestion.”
One of Barfield’s favorite flavors is the Mindfulness Mint tea. To add a touch of sweetness to the mint flavor, Barfield blends in green tea and ginger, and uses five types of mints: peppermint, spearmint, black mint, apple mint, and chocolate mint. The company also sells herb-infused honey, which costs $6 for a two-ounce jar. The honey she sells is made at a Germantown apiary, InStar, owned by Jeff Eckel, who Barfield met at a vending event last year.
“We also sell herb-infused agave syrups," Barfield said. “Our teas are vegan but we wanted to make sure to have a sweetener option for our vegan customers.”
Viva Leaf Teas start at $15 for at least 1.5 ounces, depending on the density of the herbs. By Barfield’s count, each pouch of tea makes 30 servings. Barfield sells the teas through the company’s website and farmer’s markets, including Pretzel Park, Elkins Park, and Farm to City.
“When we do go to farmer’s markets, the benefits really sell the tea because people aren’t tasting it when I’m talking to them about it,” Barfield said. When she’s not selling tea at markets, she relies on social media to market her products.
This summer, the company plans to debut a subscription service where customers can sign up for a monthly order of “two to three” flavors of tea that’s delivered by mail. The service will cost $25 per month. Starting in April, Barfield said, Viva Leaf Tea’s herb-infused honey will be sold at all DiBruno Bros. retail locations. Viva Leaf Tea is also on Germantown’s Attic Brewery’s menu.