Sweet Tea: Just Add Honey lets Atlantans bond over a cup

Brandi Shelton orders 100 pounds of chamomile at a time. When you produce, and drink, as much tea as she does, it’s a necessary to have a good stock.

Shelton is founder and owner of Just Add Honey, a tea company at Sweet Auburn Curb Market celebrating two years this February. Over the years, the tea lady has blended enough tea for all of Atlanta to bond over a cup.

Shelton drinks two or three cups of Holy Basil every morning, using her own blend, which also includes ginger, peppermint, cinnamon and black pepper. “It allows me to read the Bible or meditate and gives me a quiet moment,” Shelton said. “You can create a mood, or feeling, with a cup of tea.”

Just Add Honey’s cafe is the first stop before the expanse of the bustling market. They greet visitors with small samples in the shop’s doorway to draw them into the world of tea. The walls of the cafe are dedicated to drinking tea – from fun facts about the health benefits of certain varieties to steeping instructions for just the right cup. Plus, every tea blend at Just Add Honey is made with natural flavors that can be traced back to family-owned farms.

“So many people want to know where their food comes from, but then they drink a Diet Coke. We want to let you know and educate you on exactly where your cup comes from,” Shelton said.

The shop’s spot in Sweet Auburn Curb Market has allowed Shelton to interact with many different customers, whether its Grady Hospital doctors replacing former coffee addictions with a cup of yerba mate or Georgia State University law students seeking to escape the library. For years, Shelton preferred the flexibility of festivals and tea expos, but now can’t imagine life without the café. “The connection that the retail cafe gave us was something I didn’t anticipate and now I love it,” she said.

When Shelton lost her mother to breast cancer in 2005, she wanted to create a tribute to her memory and thus created Just Add Honey. The initial logo for the company was designed using the elegant script her mother, Jean, used to sign her name. Brandi has kept her mother’s signature style and love for entertaining alive with springtime parties served with full tea sets and linen napkins to echo her mother’s motto “paper is for picnics.”

Just Add Honey owner Brandi Shelton with students visiting her shop for Career Day. (Courtesy Just Add Honey)

Touches of Jean’s flair can be seen around Just Add Honey. Shelton applied her fashion design and marketing degree and background in designing movie sets to decorate the teashop. Glass walls are decorated with bright orange and yellow honeycombs. A large blackboard at the front announces seasonal teas in calligraphy. Shelves are filled different blends of tea sorted by type: herbal and fruit teas, green and white teas, and black teas. There are also simple but sweet teapots, French presses and teaspoon infusers to be found.

Shelton has a full “TEAm” of about a dozen employees. Some steep tea for customers at the shop, while others manage a commercial kitchen in Tucker to keep up with all the ways Just Add Honey distributes tea, including monthly subscription boxes. Coffee shops and restaurants such as Inman Perk, Grant Park Coffeehouse, Hodgepodge Coffeehouse, The Beehive, the Piedmont Park and Peachtree Center farmer’s markets, Ladybird and Wrecking Bar also offer tea from Just Add Honey.

For more information, visit justaddhoney.net.

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