There’s no joy quite like the kind found in a cup of tea…
Amber Jackson has been blending business savvy with community outreach for just over a year; she brought her tea company to life in April 2019. A work opportunity at Brown University athletics’ department brought her to New England from her native Chicago. When she’s not at her day job, Jackson is single-handedly running her online tea shop The Black Leaf Tea and Culture Shop, from selecting ingredients to shipping out orders.
It can’t be easy performing every role in a business operation, but Jackson does not allow for any cut corners. Working out of business incubator Hope & Main, Jackson uses her food science degree to develop unique flavor combinations. Every blend she sells has been personally mixed to perfection, including bright, citrusy Sunday Morning, deliciously dark CoCo Bae, and earthy, peppery Glow.
She also takes great pride in the sourcing of her ingredients. Jackson keeps her recipes simple with no additives, just tea leaves from local tea company Leafy Green, and herbs and spices from Mountain Rose Herbs. She praises both companies for their transparency in sourcing and their high quality.
Surprisingly, tea isn’t her only focus. “In Providence, in a very general sense, I was almost always the only Black person in every room I went into. I wanted to not only create this business, but also a space for people who look like me.”
Jackson is referring to the “Culture” of The Black Leaf Tea & Culture Shop: her Tea Talks. “I’m generally just the facilitator, creating the space, keeping the conversation going, highlighting certain points. My part in those are really just to do my best to make sure it’s a safe space because I want to make sure people are constantly engaged.”
Engagement with the local Black community is interwoven with Jackson’s company mission. Despite the accomplishment of building a successful business in such a small amount of time, Jackson points toward the generations-old, Black-owned businesses in the Providence area that are only now receiving the recognition and promotion they deserve.
The current political climate surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement can be credited with encouraging the public to support their local Black-owned businesses, tipping the scales in favor of them receiving well-deserved publicity.
Jackson hopes her Tea Talks may provide a safe space for members of the Black community to find inspiration to perhaps start a business of their own. At its core, they provide an environment for Black people to discuss issues that concern the Black community; Tea Talks are open, roundtable discussions on anything from current events to pop culture, dating, sex and relationships — anything that affects the Black community on a day-to-day basis. According to Jackson, it is ultimately a safe space for people to speak openly and feel heard, but also be able to respectfully challenge each other and each other’s opinions.
While the COVID pandemic has temporarily put a stop to these meetings, Tea Talks are still alive and well in the virtual world, courtesy of Zoom. If you would like to participate, check out theblackleaftea.com for updates on upcoming events. While you’re there, you’ll also want to peruse the “Shop” tab to get a taste of The Black Leaf’s tea offerings. Each cup supports not just a local business, but an entire community.