Luna Tea Company is a nice place to sit, relax, and sip some organic fresh-brewed tea. It’s in the middle of Blacksmith Square, surrounded by wine and beer places, so it’s a good opportunity for people who don’t drink to go out with friends who do. When you first walk in, you can’t help but be wowed by the wall of origami birds highlighting metal baskets filled with loose-leaf tea in pouches and, in a nod to Livermore’s scientific history, test tubes.
Luna Tea serves everything from hot tea, iced tea (she can make any of the teas iced in minutes), lattes, cold-brew coffee, snacks, and they recently started making tea cocktails (more about that in the interview!). On a cold, windy day in March, I went to interview Jenni Curtice, the founder of Luna Tea Company. We talked about how her business got started blending teas, the difference between teas and tisanes, and creating tea cocktails.
Sarah Browne: What made you decide to start a tea business?
Jenni Curtice: I think that tea is not really enjoyed in this country in the way it is in other countries. It’s not a very American thing to have tea. Maybe iced tea or sweet tea, but sitting down with tea and drinking out of a teacup, enjoying yourself, and being in the moment is something that we don’t do in this culture. Tea is actually the second most consumed beverage in the entire world but not in the United States, so it’s an experience that I wanted to share with people. And I do a lot of educating here because most people come in here and they’ve never had tea out of a teapot before.
SB: Where did the name Luna Tea come from?
JC: Originally I was called the T House and that was before I opened this store, so I’ve been a company for three or four years. I was blending and selling my tea online and locally and I was called the T house (just like the letter “T”). It was too confusing for everybody and it didn’t feel right to me, so eventually I decided to rebrand. I wanted something more organic, easy, and simple for people to remember and “Luna” just came up. I think it goes with the brand – it’s very organic and earthy in here, and the moon is very feminine.
SB: What’s your favorite Luna Tea blend?
JC: That’s such a hard question because I make all the blends! Lately it’s been Lady Wednesday, which is earl gray with vanilla, and it’s really simple but it’s great and I love it with almond milk. In the afternoon I like to drink green tea so, Study Sesh, it’s a green tea with spearmint. At night I like to drink Calm the Viking which has chamomile, raspberry leaf, and ginger.
SB: What would you say is Luna Tea’s clientele?
JC: It varies by the time of day. In the early afternoon I get a lot of moms whose kids are in school and then by the evenings we kind of get a younger crowd because we just started serving tea cocktails. Tea is something that everyone can enjoy, so we like to welcome people from all walks of life to come here.
SB: Why did you choose Livermore as the location to start Luna Tea?
JC: Originally I wanted to open in San Francisco, because I wanted a place that felt more hip and kind of urban, but it’s so expensive out there. I used to bar tend at Tap 25, and after bar tending there and getting to know the community, I liked it more and more. I started to envision having a tea place here, and then a place opened in Blacksmith Square and it seemed perfect. I kind of pictured it somewhere else, but it worked out well here and it’s been well-received by the community.
SB: Do you think tea can have health benefits? What kind of teas do you think are the most helpful health-wise?
JC: Definitely. My Mom is an herbalist, and growing up she was always making different teas out of different herbs for us when we were sick, so I think that might have been the first interest that I had in tea. The tea plant, camellia sinensis, is what makes black, green, white, oolong, all those different teas, but then you have herbal teas and those are technically called a tisane, because there’s no tea plant, but those are the ones you’re talking about with the health benefits because there’s so many different herbs in them. Like chamomile is to sleep, or to relax, but there’s all sorts of health benefits to the tea plant as well as antioxidants.
Green tea is great for that, especially matcha tea, which is a stone-ground green tea so it’s really high in antioxidants, they’ve done studies about it fighting cancer and all sorts of stuff, so it’s pretty cool, but when I think about the health benefits of tea, I think about more herbal blends, and so, for example, I have a tea called TKO, like technical knock out, and it’s got chamomile, peppermint, valerian root, catnip, and passionflower, and all those herbs are incredibly great for relaxation and stress. And so, they just kind of knock you out. That’s been my number-one seller, ever since I started blending tea. I think, because of the health benefits, because of the sleep benefits, really.
SB: What is a tea cocktail?
JC: For us, it’s a strongly brewed tea – one of our tea blends – we brew it with fermented spirits, like a fermented whiskey or fermented rum, fermented vodka, and then bitters for flavor or some of them have pineapple juice and some of them have ginger beer, there’s just all sorts of things that you can make into a cocktail.