Noushin Ebrani looked to the soothing powers of tea during her recovery from breast cancer and, soon after, her passion for and knowledge of tea turned into a booming online small business, Heavenly Tea Leaves, in 2006. Ebrani and her family seem to have become tea connoisseurs throughout the development of the business, learning how tea is made, the processes it undertakes and how to properly taste it.
After Ebrani was diagnosed in 2003, she became very interested in alternative medicine and the works of Dr. Andrew Weil, who is widely known as an alternative medicine guru. Weil talked about green tea in his books, so Ebrani began to explore green tea, trying different flavors from different manufacturers. Most of the tea she began trying came in tea bags, but she soon switched to natural loose-leaf tea as the market shifted toward organic and healthy products.
“I got very interested in [organic tea] around the same time these tea shops were starting to emerge everywhere,” said Ebrani. “Whenever I would see them, I would be like, ‘Oh my gosh, I need to do this. I have to open a tea store.’”
While encouraged by her husband, Ebrani explained that she is Iranian, and it is not typical for women in her culture to work. So the business began in her home where she could be close to her family.
“It’s very important for me to give a message to women that even if you put in a little bit of time, slowly it all adds up,” said Ebrani. “The first year was research and developing the idea and, in about a year, I was ready to open. It was hard at first. I thought you open an online business and you succeed. What else could happen? Everyone is online.”
But, that did not seem to be the case for Heavenly Tea Leaves when its online store first started. Her business has developed slowly over the last 10 years and is now booming after the tea began selling on Amazon. Ebrani attributes her success to luck, hard work and a passion for tea. Her passion is evident as one clicks around on Heavenlytealeaves.com, finding 15 different types of tea ranging from green to rooibos, samplers and information about the leaves, including health benefits, a brief history and traditions around the world.
“All teas that are actually tea are made from the same plant and then the processing will determine whether you have white tea or green tea or black tea, so the artisan will do different processes to it and add different flavors to achieve the results they want,” explained Ebrani. “A lot
of people don’t know that. Any flower like chamomile or lavender, like any fruity blends, they’re not actually tea. They’re considered tisanes.”
All teas sold on Ebrani’s website have been handpicked by the Great Neck resident and her family from countries such as China, Japan and India. Traveling has allowed Ebrani and her family to build relationships with companies. She said that her business is very trust oriented and is done with a handshake like in the good old days.
“It’s a combination of traveling and also just working with different people and trying to figure out what we need and where it could fit in to some of our blends,” explained Ebrani’s son, Matt, who works at Heavenly Tea Leaves.
Ebrani assured that she and her family taste every flavor of tea before selling it on their website. According to the tea maven, when tasting tea, tasters must slurp the tea off a spoon and hold it in their mouth for a few seconds to get the full flavor. Ebrani claims that her son is a tea super taster because he is able to grasp every nuance of the tea.
“It has grassy notes, it has nutty notes, there’s different criteria for how you’re supposed to talk about tea and its flavor,” explained Matt Ebrani. “It’s kind of similar to wine or chocolate. It depends on where it’s grown, how it’s grown, how it’s processed—a lot of different factors.”
Along with selling loose tea leaves by the ounce, Ebrani sells tea samplers that are perfect gifts. Samplers come with either four containers of loose tea for about $30 or 9 containers of loose tea for about $44. Customers can either customize their samplers or choose from a variety of pre-chosen varieties, such as the dessert sampler with raspberry-chocolate and key-lime pie black tea, organic piña colada rooibos tea and chocolate-almond green tea.
“These samplers are a good way to either give a gift or try a few different teas at once, whereas other tea companies really emphasize selling by the weight, so it’s sometimes harder to try a few things at once. So, this really helps with that,” said Matt Ebrani.
For more information about tea or Heavenly Tea Leaves, visit www.heavenlytealeaves.com.