Bahleaf Teas Available at Black Food Bookstore and Culture Shop
Since the day we launched Black Food Bookstore and Culture Shop in 2007 we had in our minds the concept of a bookstore and culture shop that offered a full African experience to our customers based on our experiences over the years and the relationships we have with Africans all over the world, including the Uhuru movement; here at home, in the Caribbean, the US, Europe and, of course, on the Continent itself.
So in about 2018/2019 when we decided to go full steam ahead with our first retail store we knew that a proper bookstore and culture shop would also need to have a coffee shop component. A place where people could read books and look for unique African gift items while sipping on a good cup of tea or coffee.
After several attempts with various local and international brands for our tea offerings, one of my sisters suggested Bahleaf Premium Teas. I had never heard of the company but she encouraged me to reach out to the owner. She was just sure it was the right fit.
A good while passed, almost a year actually, and every now and then when the conversation came up my sister would nudge me in (what I now realize to be) the “right” direction.
So September of last year I was moved to reach out to Ryan Winters, the man behind the brand, to seek out a partnership with his company and here we are several months later embarking on what I know will be a fruitful relationship.
Ryan stopped by Black Food Bookstore and Culture Shop yesterday and he explained all of his products to me and walked me through the loose leaf tea making process. It was super easy!
We also had a delightful conversation that I’ll share with you below:
Charo: What made you start your company 'Bahleaf'? (I pronounced it Baha-Leaf)
Ryan: The company’s name is actually pronounced Bahleaf, similar to the English word “belief” and the reason it’s pronounced that way, is that I wanted to be a company that sold more than just tea.
I believe that within each of us we all have our own personal beliefs that we hold dear and true to us so that’s why when I named the company 'Bahleaf Premium Teas' I had that in mind.
I feel that tea is something that allows people to sit and reflect. You know you kind of sit down, have your cup of tea and you take your time and you have thoughts of what’s on your mind. That’s what I want the experience to be when customers have Bahleaf Teas.
The other reason behind the founding of the company was I’ve always been a tea drinker from a child and as you would imagine your grandparents would always give you Lipton tea and you drink tea...tea for this, tea for that...and then as I got older I began to experiment with more loose leaf tea.
Everytime I would travel I would try different teas from around the world and as I got into my working career I would have a lot of teas on my desk and a lot of people would come to me for teas. So the idea came to me to try this as a business.
Charo: When did the lightbulb go off for you to proceed with the business?
Ryan: Definitely as a lover of tea and as a result of traveling; wherever I would travel I would look for a tea shop. Seeing the potential that tea shops had [inspired me]. Also, when I went to China it was another experience and also other countries you would always find so much different boutique tea offerings. So that’s what I had in mind. I [realized] we didn’t have that [locally]....yes, we have persons selling tea but you don’t have that kind of experience. Especially, the loose leaf tea and such variety.
We’re still working toward a dedicated tea shop where you have a variety of teas from all over the world, including The Bahamas, because we do source local teas as well.
We would like to offer tea service where customers choose what they want; to have the sommelier kind of experience. That was the idea when I saw what the potential was from other places.
Charo: How long have you had the company and how many employees do you have?
Ryan: About two year years and three employees.
Charo: Tell me about the process of sourcing Bahamian teas?
Ryan: Teas like lemongrass, what we call fever grass in The Bahamas, and moringa I source and grow myself. They are in abundance in families’ yards so I can source them myself. Other things I source from my [networks].
I’ve also begun incorporating more fruits as opposed to leaves in the teas. For example, I had a black tea from India and I got coconut from the Coconut Factory; this was my first experiment with this process. I went to them for their dried coconut, obviously that’s Bahamian coconut, and I infused the two so that infusion with local ingredients and [imported] teas gave me a new way to bring a Bahamian experience.
Charo: How much of your teas are imported?
Ryan: About 75% are imported and the rest are sourced locally.
Charo: Why did you agree to partner with Black Food Bookstore and Culture Shop?
Ryan: I was aware, generally, of the store and so I prefer the kind of boutique experience for my brand. I didn’t feel as if you were going to just sell the tea; I can keep that in-house if I want to just sell the tea. But I felt it would be a good partnership as I became more aware of what you were doing at your store in terms of the curated and cultured experience.
I am a strong cultural enthusiast as well so I really got excited about the [partnership]. I feel with your products and as well as with your in-house offerings that you tend to do in terms of tastings and experiences I think it would be a good mix.
Charo: What’s in the future for Bahleaf Premium Teas?
Ryan: Definitely, I would like a dedicated retail store. The goal is also to expand into hotels (food and beverage restaurants, bars and guest rooms).
We wish Ryan every success! He is very passionate about his company and makes tea sound so magical; and his teas really are. I had the “Relax Bey” loose leaf tea this morning and I was ready to go back to bed (no lie)....theeeeee most relaxing tea ever….and it was so flavorful and aromatic.
Bahleaf Premium Tea is top tier tea and just what we were looking to offer at Black Food Bookstore and Culture Shop. We spend a lot of time researching and sampling products throughout the African world with a view of offering you the very best of our people. Ryan’s teas are just that. And we are pleased to have them as part of our collection of products.
Stop by soon to get a cup or buy a package for use at home.