Just Add Honey is expanding beyond its Sweet Auburn Curb Market location, recently partnering with The Hammonds House to provide a cafe within the museum, offering light, healthy fare ranging from soups, salads, veggie wraps and, of course, loose leaf tea options. Customers who visit the cafe will have the ability to walk around the Museum and view the newest exhibits free of charge. In addition to the café, Just Add Honey and husband and wife duo Brandi and Jermail Shelton will host public and private high tea “parTeas” along with other tea-infused events, using the company as a vessel to connect their already swelling customer base to a hidden gem in historic West End.
1. Why Hammonds House Museum? How did the partnership come about?
JERMAIL: We’ve always had a love for the West End neighborhood. Brandi bought her first home in the area in 2006. We love the culture and the history of that side of town. Brandi and I have this game we play called ‘wish list’ where we tell each other our biggest dreams and goals and manifest them through our thoughts and words. We were playing ‘wish list’ on Thanksgiving weekend and Brandi said, “I want a tea room in the West End.” The following day, we rode around the West End neighborhood to look around and Brandi said, “Let’s show the boys where we were married.” We pulled up to the Hammonds House Museum, walked on the porch and Brandi took a picture before we left and said, “This is it. This will be where we have our tea room.” The following weeks we meet with the Hammonds House Museum and 42 days later we stood on the same porch we said our vows — this time serving tea to customers. I have so many great memories of getting married in that home, so every time we’re there it’s like we’re reliving that day – our love full circle. The Hammonds House Museum is a diamond tucked away in historic West End. The history of the home, the architecture, and beautiful artwork makes it the perfect combination for a sophisticated twist on a southern tea tradition. This partnership has had such an effortless flow; we know it was meant to be.
2. What will be some of the differences between the two Just Add Honey locations?
BRANDI: The Sweet Auburn Curb Market location is a fun, fast-paced spot to enjoy a cup of tea and answer a few emails. The space allows us to educate and share our love of tea with locals, tourists, students, and hospital staff that are downtown. The HHM space is a little more formal: White linen service and fresh flowers at every table with the backdrop of amazing brown artists. Each location has its own uniqueness and we invite everyone to visit both.
JERMAIL: Our main location at the SACM is more of a retail location that serves a cup of tea. Customers come in, purchase their loose leaf tea, grab a beverage, enjoy desserts from our locally sourced bakers, and leave. The Hammonds House Museum is more of an experience. Our cafe offers light, healthy fares ranging from soups, salads, veggie wraps and, of course, loose leaf teas. Customers who visit the cafe will have the ability to walk around the museum and view the latest art exhibitions while taking a moment out of their busy day.
3. Describe the historical and social significance of African-American tea rooms/spaces.
BRANDI: Historically, we were shut out of ‘tea time’ because it was us serving them. We created our own tea time in secret. Now we have a tea room where we can sip with a friend or enjoy a moment to ourselves. Just Add Honey created a tea ritual class centered around women slowing down over a cup of tea. As women, we give so much to our families, spouses, and careers that we often forget to pour back into ourselves. Our tea ritual class is designed to teach the on-the-go woman how to slow down and give back to herself over a cup of tea. It’s a beautiful experience if you really stop and think about it. It’s a form of self-care that we guide you to implement into your daily routine. Bring a tea space with you, wherever you may be.
4. The tea and menu curation process seems deliberate and intricate …
BRANDI: Our blends are created from things we’ve enjoyed in our travels around the world and/or customers’ requests. For instance, our Good Night Tea is a blend of chamomile, lavender, and other herbs. I enjoyed a lavender tea in Europe and thought about recreating it to remember my trip. It was first introduced in 2009 before lavender was popular in beverages. We tried selling it at Piedmont Park Farmers Market and not one person was interested. Needless to say, I made my family drink most of it and later it became Christmas gifts. I re-introduced Good Night Tea two years ago and now it’s one of our best sellers. Our menu is simple. We make a sophisticated twist on a southern tea tradition. Whether it’s our chicken salad sandwich served on a buttery croissant or our southern sweet tea, we take a classic and step it up a notch (or two).
5. Where did your combined passion for tea originate?
BRANDI: My mother gave me tea for any ailment. My aunt made Mississippi Mud Tea (sweet tea and orange juice) for family gatherings. My mom, sister and I traveled and enjoyed tea rooms wherever our passport took us. Later, studying abroad for fashion design and marketing, my love for tea resurfaced. I thought I could create a fresh take on a traditionally formal beverage. Mixing fun flavors together was just the beginning and in 2006 Just Add Honey was born.
JERMAIL: I married a tea lover whose passion grew over the years. I watched Brandi create blends and saw the positive reactions from customers at markets, events, and around town. In 2015, I left my real estate career to help grow the brand.
6. What’s next for Just Add Honey?
We’re working with restaurants, spas, hotels and other businesses interested in carrying our thoughtfully blended teas. As we continue to grow our main location at the Sweet Auburn Curb Market, we’ve also been looking throughout the city for another location to further expand our brand in Atlanta. There are so many cool places to grab a cup of coffee in Atlanta, but for that tea drinker who likes options, there’s not much to choose from. When you think about tea, we want you to think about Just Add Honey Tea Company. AT