Shelby is the founder of The Honest Leaf, an organic and all-natural tea company based in Toronto, Ontario. As part of her education, she started to become interested in health and wellness, and this eventually led to a career in Nutrition. Tea has always been part of her life, and after noticing that some popular tea companies were including artificial ingredients in their teas, she decided to take matters into her own hands and start her own tea company.

We chatted with Shelby about how she comes up with her specialty tea blends, her go-to ingredients for a spring detox tea, and what types of tea can actually help you kick your coffee habit. 

WEHL: Tell us a little about yourself and why you became interested in natural wellness.

SK: As a young girl, I was always into sports, dance and gymnastics. After graduating high school I went on to study Kinesiology. One of my favorite classes was sports nutrition. I found it fascinating that so much of our health, performance and mental state could be changed by what we put into our bodies. This led me into my career in Nutrition.

WEHL: What’s your philosophy on wellness?

SK: My philosophy on wellness is very simple. You have to do what works for you. There is no one size fits all plan. Everyone has the ability to make positive lifestyle choices that will enhance their overall health. Whether it be reducing your sugar intake, eating more vegetables, walking more, meditating, etc, we can all make simple changes that will help us achieve our goals.

WEHL: What have you learned about wellness through your travels around the world? How has your personal wellness journey been impacted?

SK: It is amazing to see how people live and prioritize their health all around the world. There is so much that you can do to achieve ‘your’ optimal level of wellness. It is not just about eating well and exercising. It involves your relationships, spending time with people that shine a positive light on your life, working on personal growth (physically, mentally, emotionally, etc), enjoying nature and so much more. There is no one equation to follow. Traveling has allowed me to immerse myself into other cultures and expand my understanding of what wellness means to me.

WEHL: Why did you want to start a tea company?

SK: Tea has always been a big part of my life. I can remember many afternoons and evenings spent sipping on tea with my mom as we chatted away about our days. I would go into any tea shop I could find to explore all the different varieties. When blended teas became popular, I noticed that a lot of them contained artificial flavors and ingredients that just didn’t belong in tea. So I decided to making my own blends and I wanted them to have a health twist. Then The Honest Leaf was born.

WEHL: How did you come up with your formulas for your loose leaf tea blends?

SK: I began by choosing a health function first. Then I researched different herbs, spices and teas that helped to support that function. Of course flavor came into play and the ingredients all had to work together on the palate. It took a lot of trial and error before each blend was solidified.

WEHL: What kind of tea do you drink in the morning, afternoon and evening? What benefits do you enjoy?

SK: Personally, I’m a fan of green tea. I like all different types, especially genmaicha. It’s a little toasty and gives me that boost I need to start the day. Afternoon and evening I often like to have my Relieve blend because I love ginger. I pair it with a little raw honey and it totally soothes my entire body! I definitely don’t drink tea all day every day, but I do consume a pretty good amount :).

WEHL: What are your go-to teas (blends or ingredients) to get ready for spring?

SK: I absolutely love lemongrass. It is so fresh and light. Hibiscus and rosehips are also perfect ingredients for spring because they work well in cold brews for iced tea.

WEHL: What would you include in a spring detox tea? Or digestion tea?

SK: For detox I always choose milk thistle or dandelion root/leaf. Digestion is definitely ginger but a close runner up would be turmeric.

WEHL: What are some other ways you can enjoy tea? In a meal? Facials?

SK: There are many ways to enjoy tea. You can incorporate it into smoothies and sauces, infuse it into oils and even use it in DIY body care products. I actually use camellia seed oil (this is oil extracted from the tea plant) in my own DIY facial oil.

WEHL: Which teas can you try if you’re trying to kick coffee?

SK: Roasted chicory and roasted dandelion root are two great ingredients that have a nutty roasted flavor. Now, you will never get the same flavor profile as coffee, however, this is a great substitute for those that want a caffeine free option.

WEHL: Are there any surprising health benefits of drinking tea regularly?

SK: Absolutely! For starters, many teas and herbs are chock full of antioxidants. But some teas can help to control appetite and even improve brain function. So drink up!

WEHL: Are there any ways to reuse the tea bags after you’re done with them?

SK: Composting your tea bags is always a great idea. But if you’re crafty….why not make a fun art project out of them once they’re dried out?

WEHL: When purchasing a tea blend, what should we look for (or look to avoid) to make the healthiest choice?

SK: In my opinion, you should avoid teas that say “artificial OR natural flavors.” Ultimately, these flavors can be made from anything artificial or natural and then manipulated in a lab. Stick to what you know!

WEHL: Do you have any tips for someone who wants to make their own tea blend at home? Do you have any secrets for brewing the perfect cup?

SK: You can start by asking yourself a few questions. Are you making a tea for a specific function? Do you want it to have caffeine? Do you want it to be floral? Spicy? Fruity? I always have my notebook out so that I can write out these questions and build my blend on paper first. One pro tip is that if you don’t know what an ingredient will taste like, steep it on its own first so that you get a good sense of what to expect. And lastly, just have fun!

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