Meet The Couple Behind This Black-Owned Atlanta Tea Shop
By DeAnna Taylor
New Orleans native Brandi Shelton’s love for tea started when she was just a little girl. She grew up watching her grandmother pick fresh herbs from her garden to make different tea blends when she was sick. As a way to bond with her, Brandi would often pretend that she too was sipping tea while sitting with her grandmother.
In her own home, her mother was known to be quite the entertainer. She often invited guests over and served them on fine china, something that has stuck with Brandi well into adulthood.
When Brandi was studying abroad during college, she found comfort in the tea rooms of the countries she was visiting and they became a favorite hangout spot for her.
She eventually made her way to Atlanta where she worked as a fashion stylist. Even in this role, Brandi still found tea to be an important part of her world. She would make tea for her clients as a way for them to remember her and she would eventually be known as “the tea lady.”
In 2006, she decided to turn her love for tea into a business and Just Add Honey Tea Co. was born.
Soon after in 2008, she would marry her husband Jermail.
The couple purchased a commercial kitchen space so that they could focus on their tea business full time. They hired a marketing specialist to help get the brand’s name out to as many people as possible and quickly gained traction. In 2014, they hosted their first pop-up and after a successful event, the couple opened their first brick and mortar.
“I initially thought our clientele would be mostly white,” Brandi Shelton told Travel Noire. “But, once our store opened we saw lots of Black and Brown faces showing up to the space.”
The couple describes their shop as “fancy without the fuss.” They serve their teas on china and there are linens on the tables. But, it’s also a very welcoming environment and a safe space for people to gather. When you walk in you’re likely to hear Coltrane playing over the speakers.
“It’s cool to see people walk into our space as strangers, but then walk out as friends,” Jermail Shelton said.
Last year, a second Atlanta location was opened. It’s set in a loft apartment that has been coverted into a tea room. People can host tea parties, attend tea classes, or simply come in to get some work done.
If you are new to the world of tea, no worries. Brandi and her team are able to select blends for you based on your likes. Whether you like sweet, spicy, or savory, there is a tea blend for you. You can sample certain teas that are on display as well as purchase blends to take home for your own brewing.
Brandi can even explain how different herbs affect your body and/or create a mood.
“There are so many endless blending options,” Brandi said.
If you aren’t in the Atlanta area, you can find the teas online as well as in hotels, restaurants and specialty shops in 17 states across the country.
We asked Brandi to explain the importance of having a space like this, she said:
“It’s one of those things you didn’t know you needed until it presents itself. You don’t have to be anyone else but yourself when you walk in the door. This is a safe space for everyone, but especially the Black and Brown community. The tea is only the backdrop.”
DeAnna Taylor is a criminal defense Attorney turned travel blogger, author, and writer. While Charlotte, NC (her hometown) is her base, she's always somewhere on a plane. Catch her on IG: @brokeandabroadlife.