By Aaron Kiel, World Tea News
As an open-air haven in Chapel Hill, N.C., The Honeysuckle Tea House is thriving during the COVID-19 pandemic. Its unique outdoor setting, which makes it easy to social distance, and its diverse offerings and innovative ideas – including a membership program and an upcoming co-working space – are making an impression on guests and tea enthusiasts.
“The Honeysuckle Tea House is special and unique in so many ways – from its physical building to the products and people who consume them,” says Tana Chitwood, the brand and experience manager for The Honeysuckle. “The teahouse itself is an open-air structure that’s built on recycled materials in the middle of a farm. The products are farm-focused – like the tea blends that feature the herbs we grow and harvest – and the people who come here often describe us as an ‘oasis’ and ‘destination,’ which is so rewarding to hear.”
Being an open-air business is attracting numerous visitors that want to get outside amidst the pandemic, and it’s helping The Honeysuckle flourish while some tea shops or teahouses may be struggling. “We are very grateful for a wide outdoor area in which to serve folks during these challenging times,” explains Chitwood. “Focusing on our outdoor space has helped give our guests peace of mind when coming to visit.”
Surrounded by beautiful fields, The Honeysuckle Tea House is located on its own farm, where it grows herbs and berries for the company’s signature tea blends and mead. In addition to farm-crafted tea and beverages, the teahouse features a playground, hammocks, picnic benches, a mandala garden and a hipster-y yome rental that can be reserved via Airbnb – all of which attracts and delights customers (for now, the playground and hammocks are closed during COVID-19, as part of The Honeysuckle’s safety protocols.). The Honeysuckle Tea House structure, similar to its teas, was designed to reflect the Earth, hence the use of recycled and repurposed materials such as shipping containers.
“We want guests to have a warm and welcoming experience,” says Chitwood. “So, we strive to greet all our customers with a smile, and we do constant training and tasting with our staff, so that they are not only familiar with our products but excited about them. We rely on our staff to be knowledgeable about our products, so they can share their enthusiasm with each guest; and we hope our staff and wide range of teas will create an unforgettable experience for the guest.”
The Honeysuckle Tea House is only open to the public seasonally, but they offer an innovative membership program (for US$100 a year) so patrons can enjoy the venue all year long. They’re also launching a co-working space in the teahouse – as one of their many ways of being a “community within a community” – and patrons can rent the teahouse itself, which The Honeysuckle will be renovating to include more shaded areas and possibly a semi-indoor area.
For The Honeysuckle’s signature tea blends, they only use herbs and ingredients that are grown directly on their farm, outsourcing only when necessary. Some of their blends include a Spiced Anise Hyssop, Tulsi Chai, and functional teas like Allergy Relief and Sweet Dreams. All of the teas can be purchased online or via wholesale.
“Our tea blends were originally created with a medicinal context in mind,” says Chitwood. “The idea was that healing can come directly from the earth. When we are not able to grow herbs ourselves, we source our teas from Mountain Rose Herbs [in Eugene, Ore.].”
Despite operating at reduced capacity surrounding COVID-19, The Honeysuckle Tea House has been open for business and is attracting a steady flow of customers who want to enjoy a cup of tea and experience the blueberry fields, or enjoy special bonfires with local musicians or starry nights with hooting Barred owls. They encourage guests to bring folding chairs and/or blankets to spread out, and they’ve moved all of their tables 10 feet apart.
To learn more, visit TheHoneySuckle.org/Teahouse.