ABINGDON, Va. — A community herbalist is using her lifelong passion for native plants to open a tea business inside the Springhouse, a new Abingdon company that will hold multiple businesses under one roof.
Appalachian Teas and Botanicals will join Wolf Hills Coffee and Tumbling Creek Cider Co., all three new businesses set to open on Court Street in the next few weeks.
The trio of businesses promises to unveil a one-of-a-kind experience to customers throughout the region.
Drawing inspiration from the stories of herbal remedies told by her grandfather when she was a child, Lori Pennington is turning her love of herbs into a tea and botanical business.
As an herbalist, Pennington said she mostly served family and friends with her herbal blends until the opportunity to open a business fell in her lap.
“The owners of Wolf Hills Coffee have such a beautiful vision for this place. I am excited they want to include my custom Appalachian teas blended with herbs from the Southern Appalachian region.”
Foraging and gathering many of the medicinal native plants for the teas, Pennington will offer customers a variety of tea blends, all of which contain herbs for supporting health and wellness.
Customers can order a cup of herbal tea at the front coffee bar at the business, followed by a visit to the “tea room,” where there will be an exhibit of a curated selection of plants, teas, herbs and other goods related to gardening, foraging, herbalism and botanical inspiration.
She plans to offer educational experiences for kids and adults on herbalism, native plants and habitats and other adventures, she said. She’ll even offer herbal tea parties for kids.
The tagline for her business is “Get Elevated,” a marketing phrase that suggests elevating — or boosting — a cup of tea with medicinal herbs.
“So, if you’re going to have a nice cup of black tea, why not consume the essence of life from the Southern mountains while you’re drinking it?” she asked.
Pennington marries local herbs with black and green teas that come from sources throughout the world.
Customers can choose a Blue Ridge Breakfast Blend, a tea blended with ginseng leaf for improving overall health.
A Mount Rogers Tea boasts of local mint and wild nettle, a herbaceous perennial flowering plant that is “one of the most nutritious thing you can put in your body,” according to Pennington.
The Clinch Mountain Chai is a spicy tea made with native spicebush and reishi.
She also makes a black tea with local lavender harvested by Cathy Ziegler of Walnut Hills Lavender Farm.
“My mission is to bring together people and plants by blending ingredients sourced from the heart of Appalachia and beyond,” said Pennington.
“Plants are the original medicine of the people,” said the herbalist, who describes herself as “quite the rambler,” foraging with her dog throughout the herb-rich landscape of the Appalachian Mountains — areas she finds nettle, bee balm, bloodroot, yarrow, violet and chickweed, just to name a few.
“Southern Appalachia, one of the most biologically diverse and rich regions on planet Earth, is home to thousands of species of plants, trees and fungi,” she said. “Many of these inform the healing traditions of the native, African American and pioneer cultures that have inhabited this region for centuries.”
Pennington’s family history is flavored by medicinal herbs used to promote wellness and health.
“Both sides of my family were generational farmers,” said the herbalist.
“Just listening to my grandfather’s stories sparked my interest in the plants.”
She studied anthropology in college and later worked in education. It wasn’t until she was a young mother that she turned to the study of plants for her own enjoyment.
“I had space and opportunity in my life for the first time. I wasn’t a full-time employee or a full-time college student. I was just a full-time mother, so I got to dive in and play with herbs,” said Pennington, who, at the time, was living in rural Lansing, North Carolina, among a wealth of native plants.
“My path is very interconnected with a passion for people, plants and place and how we weave those together.
“The woods are such a magical place. To me, the forests are sacred, and the fields are hallowed ground,” she said.
“The native plants are a wealth of medicine, and the forest is full of teachers.”
Visit Appalachian Teas and Botanicals on Facebook and Instagram to keep up with events and opening dates for the three stores at the Springhouse.
Carolyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer in Glade Spring, Virginia. Contact her at email@example.com.
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