QUEENS, NEW YORK
The Loose Leaf Herbal Tea Experience store opened last summer in Astoria Queens’ Ditmars neighborhood offering authentic, traditional Greek herbs and a holistic philosophy. The store was founded under the principals of Classical Greek physician Hippocrates of Kos, who believed in “the healing power of nature” (“vis medicatrix naturae” in Latin).
Prior to opening the teahouse, owner Peter Zotis worked as an engineer and owed a construction company for several years.
Zotis was born in Greece and raised there until he was nine years old when his family moved to New York City. While in Greece, his family regularly used native Greek herbs to support wellness. In the United States, Zoltis relied on Western medicine until a bout with shingles motivated him to reconnect with the herbs of his cultural roots. On a trip to Greece, he met with his cousin—a Western medicine doctor and herbal specialist—who gave herbs to him. “Almost instantaneously, I felt a difference I my mind and body,” said Zotis. This experience was the catalyst that inspired him to decide to introduce the American market to Greek herbs.
More than 6,000 different herbs grow in Greece. When treating patients in Greece, modern and traditional remedies are more synthesized than they are in the United States, said Zoltis, who added it is common for Greek pharmacies to sell herbs.
The store currently sells 16 herbs and three superfoods and plans to expand its herbal inventory.
All of the store’s herbs are sourced in Greece. Some are grown on Zotis’s family’s hometown of Kastoria under a strict biocertification system that ensures the highest organic standards including clean land and water and no genetic modification. Other herbs are wild crafted. The wild crafted herbs originate in the Balkan Mountains, where Zotis has been given a license by the Greek government permitting him to harvest. Manager Gabriel Luber spoke of four components that go into making the store’s herbs the highest level of purity: location, elevation, irrigation and their deep root systems. The location is remote and untouched by industry. The elevation is more than 5,000 feet above sea level. The herbs are irrigated by melted snow runoff from the mountains. Their deep root systems evolved over centuries of growth. All of the herbs sourced for the store are nutrient dense and mineral rich.
The three herbs composing Zotis’s main elixir were: Dittany of Crete, St. John’s Wort and Tribulus. Dittany of Crete is known for its anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. Its claim to fame came from Cleopatra who drank and bathed in it. St. John’s wort is traditionally used for being a natural mood uplifter and for detoxing the liver. Tribulus was traditionally used for regulating hormones.
The Sea Buckthorn and Aronia Berry superfoods also contributed to Zotis’s health journey.
Zotis and Luber educate customers on the properties of each herb and superfood. Customers can smell the herbs in jars and taste samples.
The store has modern brewing technology that precisely brews herbs at specific temperatures so their nutrients can be expressed in the best possible way.
“We like to call it an experience store because when people come in we truly do want to give them a unique experience,” said Luber. They have already received positive testimonials from customers.
The store also offers vegan, gluten-free snacks and baked goods, locally grown honey and Italian espresso. Kombucha on tap that is made in New Paltz, New York will be added soon.
Gift boxes are available for those who want to give a healthy and unique gift. Orders can be made on ShopLooseLeaf.com.
Zotis intends to open additional stores.