Nov. 2, 2005Experiencing health issues in her late 20s, Leelanau County resident Angela Macke sought alternative ways to manage her illness. Macke, a registered nurse, is not opposed to modern medicine but believes that there are many ways to find healing. Her search led her to the benefits of various herbs and the delights of a good cup of tea.
I have always been a tea drinker, said Macke, who recently launched her own organic loose tea company known as By the Light of Day. One day I opened up a bag of tea and realized that it looked like fish food. I have always felt that it is important to know what one is putting in their body so I started researching tea. What I found out was that loose leaf high-quality teas not only taste better, they have several medicinal benefits.
Macke had been growing various herbs and flowers in her garden on the Leelanau Peninsula and began thinking about making her own teas. She spent a few years experimenting and researching before she was ready to sell her teas publicly.
Besides making teas that tasted great it was important to me that my operation be 100% Organic and Fair Trade certified, said Macke. Fair Trade is so important because it insures that a fair price is being offered and that the growers are not using children to harvest the tea.
CYCLE OF POVERTY
Without Fair Trade certification many coffee and tea farmers are forced into accepting payments lower than their production costs. This results in a cycle of poverty and debt and results in children as young as four years of age being pressed into work as well as labor practices that are considered illegal in the United States. Fair Trade works to correct these imbalances by guaranteeing a minimum wage for small producers harvests and by encouraging organic and sustainable cultivation methods.
Of equal importance to Macke is being an Organic Certified Farm. Her production facility is licensed by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and she recently went through the painstaking Organic Certification process.
There are about 400 pages of doc-umentation. It is a very thorough process to receive the designation. A lot of people say they are organic, but they are taking short cuts and really are not organic, said Macke. I want the certification that says that I am.
The inspector was impressed with Mackes operation and is expected to give certification in the next couple of weeks.
Even without the official certification Macke has successfully entered the market-place. Her teas are available at several area restaurants and retailers.
The secret is that I use quality ingredients that in most cases are grown right here, said Macke. A good cup of tea starts with the ingredients. It is also essential that the teas be loose in order to draw out all of the flavors the tea has to offer.
HOW TO BREW
Macke points to the fact that most tea bags are made from lower grades of teas with the ingredients all crushed up. She also suggests not using the wire mesh baskets when seeping loose tea.
Those baskets crush and restrict the tea from releasing its full flavors, said Macke. They make tea bags that work great for loose teas or brewing directly is great as well. Either way after the seeping time it is important to remove the ingredients as extended seeping will result in a bitter flavor.
As for medicinal benefits from tea, Macke is cautious in making any recommendations and suggests that those interested do their own research.
There are numerous books and lots of information online, said Macke.
She is comfortable in discussing why tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world. Only water is consumed more on a daily basis than tea.
Tea has a rich history and has been an important part of society for thousands of years, said Macke. Several wars have started as a result of tea.
War is a negative thought and Macke pre-fers to think about the positive impact tea has had on society.
You get this warm, relaxed sensation inside of you while brewing tea, in anticipation of the cup you are about to enjoy, said Macke. Tea is a great conversation beverage and many cultures take time each day to enjoy a cup of tea and converse. It is a great way to create a relaxed environment among friends and family.
Tea is an indigenous plant throughout the forests of Southeast Asia. Historical counts show that tea was first consumed in China possibly as early as 2700 B.C.
All tea comes from one plant known as the Camellia sinensis plant, said Macke. Tea plants must be trained to be a bush. If left alone it would grow into a tree reaching 40 feet. One great thing is tea plants have avoided crossbreeding that many agricultural crops have experienced over time.
While most tea is grown in Asia, plants are popping up in Washington as well as Guatemala. Macke has acquired 10 plants herself and is going to see how they handle Northern Michigan winters.
I will plant them in a couple of weeks. Grapevines have survived the sometime harsh winters so I am hoping my tea plants will as well, said Macke.
Macke chuckles about how fast her com-pany is moving and growing. She started out as a master gardener growing organic herbs and flowers on the Leelanau Peninsula since 1997 and now she can barely keep up with orders.
You might say this started out as hobby. I went into this with no expectations and every thing has blossomed is such a positive way, said Macke. I already have to expand my operation to keep up. It really is a challenge trying to be the grower, business manager and marketing person all at the same time. But I am having fun and meeting a lot of wonderful people.
For additional information on Mackes teas that includes 43 blends and the popular 7 Chakras line visit her website www.bythelightofday.com. The site includes a list of the retail and restaurants that sell and serve the teas. Macke is also available to speak to groups about tea. To learn more about having her address your organization contact her at (231) 590-2035.