From a social drink to a mid-day pick-me-up, tea has come a long way since its introduction to the United States in 1650. Tea has even seeped its way into the wellness industry, and Old Barrel Tea Company (OBTC), downtown Flagstaff’s newest business, is ready to tell you all about it.
With four stores in New Mexico and two in Colorado, OBTC is a family-owned, female-run business. Manager Eleanor Krueger, who has roots in Flagstaff, is excited to introduce patrons to the advantages of loose-leaf tea.
“At OBTC, we are passionate about the benefits of tea for overall balanced health and wellness,” she said. “Be it relaxation, immune support or a tasty drink, I have personally adopted the practice of going to my tea cabinet to address whatever health needs I might have.”
Located at 21 North San Francisco, Old Barrel Tea Company will stock hand-crafted loose-leaf tea varieties and Tisanes (a medicinal drink or infusion), along with dry spices and seasoning blends such as Chili Lime Rub, Creamy Herb, Hickory Smoked and Hawaiian Black Sea Salt, Greek Seasoning and even a Serbian Blend, highlighting co-owner Nenada Huffmon’s Balkan heritage.
“We will also be selling essential oils that are selectively sourced, triple-scented, hand-poured candles, raw and unfiltered honey, tea accessories and more,” said Krueger.
Some of the tea leaf blends have mouth-watering names such as Orange Cream Popsicle, an earthy oolong with orange peel, safflower, marigold and vanilla. “This will boost energy, improve focus and mood, support digestion and metabolism, reduce inflammation, offer high antioxidants and support immunity,” said Krueger.
Many of the tea leaves are imported from around the world.
“Old Barrel Tea Company is a welcome addition to downtown Flagstaff,” said local resident Emily Halber. “I couldn’t be more thrilled about Old Barrel Tea Company’s debut here. Their hospitality and ethically-sourced, high-quality tea offerings are a real treat.”
The matriarch and co-owner of Old Barrel Tea Company, Dana Huffmon, is a three-time cancer survivor. In her quest for wellness, she and her daughter, co-owner Bailey Riddle, sought a preventative lifestyle, which spurred the first opening in Ruidoso, New Mexico in 2015.
“As a family-owned and operated loose-leaf tea company, we are dedicated to wellness,” said co-owner Paola Huffmon. “My mother-in-law, Dana, is an advocate for living a preventative lifestyle. At the core of our company culture is the belief that wellness should be a pleasure, so we sell products that taste and feel wonderful while enhancing our health.
“We gravitate to small towns such as Flagstaff because we like to be surrounded by other mom-and-pop businesses like ours,” said Huffmon. “We aim to capture the unique local vibe and taste of the communities we’re in. For us, tea is for sharing, and for keeping us focused during our workday or for fueling us during a workout.”
Of interest is Krueger’s ancestry in Flagstaff. Her great-great grandfather was Edgar B. Raudebaugh, whose construction company laid the first concrete sidewalk in Flagstaff, circa 1917.
“I attended Northern Arizona University, obtained my degree and worked at the OBTC store in Ruidoso after graduation. When the owners asked if I would be interested in opening a tea shop here in Flagstaff, I immediately jumped on the opportunity,” said Krueger. “This community is so close to my heart.”
Various loose-leaf teas also contain vitamin C, combat free radicals, reduce inflammation, boost brain health and hydrate. “We obsess over creating new blends that appeal to our palates as well as our wellness needs,” said Huffmon.
A brief anthology of OBTC can be summed up in the following:
“We’re a female-run, family business. We drink tea and tisanes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and all the time in between. We don’t put our pinkies up while drinking tea. We use honey in our tea, but we also use honey as medicine and for skin care. We love to cook and love to eat. We’re flavor-obsessed and wellness-oriented and we are united by the hedonistic belief that wellness should be a pleasure.” FBN
By V. Ronnie Tierney, FBN
Old Barrel Tea Company can be reached at 928-779-4201 or oldbarreltea.com.