5 Questions for the Co-Founders of Leaves & Flowers Tea

Leaves & Flowers tea co-founders Emily Erb and Anna Morton.The grace note of a dinner at Cala, Rintaro and other design-savvy Bay Area restaurants is likely to be a fragrant cup of herbal tea by Leaves & Flowers. Cofounded by Emily Erb, a specialist in brewed beverages, and Anna Morton, whose background is in herbal studies, the three-year-old company handcrafts locally sourced infusions, combining herbs and delicate flowers into lovely tisanes. The infusions—“teas” made from plants other than the Camellia sinensis plant—are then enfolded in the company’s signature, and sublimely simple, rice-paper packaging and canisters. This season, Erb and Morton release a new blend, Peace Tea, honoring the spirit of the holidays.

Leaves & Flowers's refined tea canister.What was your vision for the company?
Our vision was to produce flavor-driven, locally-sourced herbal infusions. We felt that restaurants and cafes, especially in San Francisco, would appreciate an herbal beverage that was sourced and crafted in the same spirit as other ingredients they employed. We approached local farmers, who were delighted to be offered a regular and reliable market for crops they were already producing and for the herbs we asked them to grow. We also import small-batch teas—green, black, oolong—using the same quality and flavor standards that we apply to our herbal ingredients. 

How do you design a blend?
We often begin with one herb to guide the flavor and energy of the blend. From there, we add secondary ingredients one at a time, making sure that no one ingredient takes away from the other as we build. We taste many variations, making subtle adjustments as we go. It’s surprising how much a little more of this or a little less of that can greatly affect the final result. We didn’t plan for our blends to be so simple, often three to four ingredients, but we found that the outcome was best when we exercised restraint. Each ingredient can be identified, but they also elevate each other and create something singular and cohesive.

Leaves & Flowers tea co-founders hand-pick sage.You say you use your training to “concoct a beautiful blend.”
Tea is a multisensory experience and we want our customers to enjoy our tea through every step, from seeing it on a shelf to taking it
home, opening it, smelling it, steeping it and, finally, consuming it. We try to keep the leaves and blossoms whole so that they appear alive and vibrant and our customers recognize the natural ingredients, and are intrigued by the color, form, aroma and flavor of each blend.

Leaves & Flowers's newest blend, Peace Tea.What comprises your new Peace Tea?
It is an herbal infusion of Yarrow, Tulsi, Rose Petals and Lemon Verbena.

Instead of picturing herbs and flowers, your exquisite packaging has grace and simplicity. What was your vision for the brand?
We created a product that we ourselves would buy. We steered away from the bold and busy design of many tea brands, and stripped our product down to its essence. The pared-down simplicity of our packaging attempts to illustrate the purity of our product and the essence of tea. Like our actual product, the packaging is straightforward and restrained, elegant and timeless.

A version of this article appeared in the November/December 2016 issue of SFC&G (San Francisco Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Aesthetic Infusion.