By Lisa Malin
Sarah Scarborough is the owner, founder, and tea buyer for Firepot Nomadic Teas, a Nashville based tea company that creates organic teas using the highest quality, ethically sourced teas from around the world.
More recently, Sarah embarked on a new project called Tea Huntress, in which she shares tea as a ritual through workshops, private Tea Ceremonies and experiential retreats including yoga retreats. We caught up with Sarah to discuss her incredible journey, and the role tea can play in one’s overall health and sense of well-being.
Photo Cred: Christen Clemins
Sarah Takes The Questions:
Q) Sarah, you’ve had the most incredible journey, which I can’t wait to get into. But first I wanted to touch on your childhood: You often credit summers spent in Finland at your family’s lake house as having laid the foundation for everything that followed in your life. Can you tell us a little about these magical summers, and the lessons you learned there?
Thank you Lisa!
No words could express how much summers spent in Finland have impacted who I am and my values and beliefs. There is so much simplicity, practicality and connection to nature in the Finnish way of life. To have experienced bathing in the wood-heated sauna, fetching pure water from an old, deep spring, fish from the glacial lake and blueberries from the boreal forest is one of my life’s greatest blessings! I was given the gift of seeing, first hand, how to live in harmony with nature, and how to live simply with quality rather than quantity.
At the same time, I grew up most of the year in the US, so I witnessed the contrast, which imprinted on me a huge and long lasting sustainability ethic. Through my work promoting wellness and sustainable business at Firepot and connecting people to themselves and to Nature with Tea Huntress, I am able to share the gift of my Finnish summers.
Q) You often say Tea chose you. Can you tell us a little more about that?
Yes, Tea is powerful like that! Through a series of coincidences, I came to work in a Tibetan teahouse in Montana in 2001. That is where I started Firepot Chai. I knew at that time, in every cell in my body, that this was right. It was as if I could feel my path unfolding in front of me. It felt like falling in love--really energized and clear and good. Opportunities in tea have continued to fall into my lap ever since and over the past 18 years, Tea has led me around the world and brought me adventure, health, a spiritual practice, incredible friends and an income!
Q) Did you intuitively know you were being guided in the right direction, towards your passion and life work, or did it take time to really embrace tea.
I knew it intuitively, but I am stubborn so it still took many years to fully embrace. I started really trusting and surrendering to my path in 2008 when I could see with perspective how Tea kept coming back and that, even in hard times, I was supported.
Q) Do you believe that most of us have this sort of guidance, but we’re too busy racing about to hear and tap into it? Or, do you think you got lucky?
Q) Do you have any advice to share about how we can quiet the noise in our busy lives and minds to better tune in and understand our life purpose and path?
Yes, ritual is really good for that. A good daily ritual for clarity, or finding one’s path, would involve a daily meditation and a daily practice. Your practice, or way, can be yoga, tea, walking, dancing, writing, etc… Anything you perform regularly, silently and with intention works! Just focus on the intention practice daily.
Q) How do you quiet the noise in your own life as a busy entrepreneur and mom of two active, young boys?
I make time each day to meditate and for at least 10 minutes of silent tea (preferably outside) followed by a quick ritual I wrote for myself that helps me connect with my highest self and my purpose. I practice yoga and go for a walk or run most days too. It sounds like a lot, but really it takes only an hour or so a day and I either wake up early to make time or I squeeze in what I can throughout the day!
Q) In the U.S., tea is consumed most often as an alternative to coffee, whereas other countries such as Japan and India view tea as ritual and have long, rich tea traditions to promote feelings of harmony, connection, and balance. Do you think most of us are missing the real point and gift of tea?
Tea is an amazing drink, but yes, it is so much more than that! I think of tea in 2 lineages:
1) The British lineage, which, since the 1600s has viewed tea as a beverage. This tradition is famous for setting up plantations in British colonies like India and Africa to produce high yields of what we in the West call black tea for Breakfast tea and iced tea.
2) The Buddhist lineage, which is at least 5,000 years old, views tea as a spiritual guide, a god and a gift from Mother Earth.
You can imagine that the way tea is grown in processed in each tradition varies wildly!
Photo Cred: Christen Clemins
Q) Can you tell us a little about how these different values affect the growing and harvesting practices?
Albert Einstein said “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. I would say that in the Buddhist lineage, the producers and farmers would be more apt to see everything as a miracle. They would be more likely to have a spiritual connection to tea and to the land and to see the interconnectedness of all life. They would then treat the land and the tea with love and respect, like a dear friend, rather than a commodity. They would see the richness and joy in life lies in the art and service of their work, rather than in increasing yield and profit . They would choose quality over quantity and organic and natural options every time.
Q) Do you feel that the different values/goals/intentions of the growers impact the beneficial/healing/spiritual properties of the tea?
Of course. If you view everything as a miracle, you could break this down to science. For example, organic techniques and careful, mindful work will produce more nutritious and potent tea. If you view everything as a miracle, you could acknowledge that the energy infused into the leaf from the grower is high vibrational and thus more healing to your body, mind and spirit.
Q) How can a busy, active person, with no prior connection to tea, introduce a sustainable, personal tea ritual into their busy lives?
Simply by making some tea. Find some good, organic tea and then see what happens! I always recommend treating yourself to a teapot that you love because loose leaf tea is such a beautiful experience. Some of my favorite teas are Firepot’s Iron Goddess of Mercy, Himalyan Royal Ruby and Japanese Kukicha. If you want to explore the world of matcha, you will want a matcha bowl and a matcha whisk as well as some ceremonial matcha. Of course, chai is the ultimate bridge from coffee to tea for coffee people who want to get into tea- and Firepot Chai is so, so good!
Q) What can one expect to gain from a regular tea practice?
Some time each day to slow down and connect with themselves and to remember to stay present and to appreciate the simple pleasures in life!
Q) What does your personal tea ritual look like?
I put the kettle on when I wake up and then I bring my tea and teaware to the front porch or in front of the fireplace in the winter. I choose a tea each day based on my mood, the season and what I have available. Then, I choose my teaware based on the tea. When the water is hot, I bring it to my tea space (I keep it warm in a thermos or on an electric or gas burner). Then, I sit down to prepare the tea. Sometimes I burn incense. Sometimes I play music. Sometimes is is mundane. Sometimes it is magic.
Q) How do you share your passion for tea, nature, and ritual with your children?
We spend a lot of time outside and try not to overcrowd our schedules. As far as ritual, they come find me when they wake up in the mornings on the front porch, so they understand intuitively the regularity and sacred nature of tea time. They know it’s important--I don’t have to say anything specific to them about it.
Q) You recently created a wellness tea line called the Ritual Collection. Can you tell us more about this collection and why you created it?
I wanted to offer a line of wellness teas in tea sachets for jet lagged travelers and people on the go who need a quick, more simple tea ritual. Each tea in the Rituals Collection has one or more functional botanicals from ancient wellness traditions like Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Each tea was designed with a specific intention in mind and has tips to cultivate that intention on the box. So, we’re offering not just tea but a ritual guide as well.
For example, Cult of Flowers, my favorite, is a hibiscus rose blend with schizandra berries, vanilla and cinnamon. It’s intention is to attract love and beauty and it offers a yoga flow, essential oils, affirmations and other actions to support the functionality of the tea!
Q) Travel is a constant thread in your story. You have traveled the world for over 20 years, sourcing the best teas and learning about the cultures and farming practices that produce them. How have these experiences informed your mission, both professionally and personally.
From day one, Firepot’s mission has been to improve lives through sustainable business. To change the world through ethical trade and organic agriculture was the reason the business was started and that was born out of a deep sustainability ethic, as I mentioned.
Eighteen years later, the mission is the same. We have expanded the breadth of our commitment to sustainability and now, as well as offering ethical and organic teas, we are members of 1% for the Planet; we have an exciting partnership with Akilah Institute, a women’s university in Rwanda, where we source the tea for our chai. We also are committed to no single use plastics, organic ingredients at our tea bar in Nashville and also to supporting other women entrepreneurs.
Q) What’s up next for Sarah Scarborough?
I love to learn new things! Currently I’m studying French and learning to sail!
THANK YOU SARAH FOR TAKING THE TIME TO TALK WITH US, AND SHARE YOUR INSPIRING THOUGHTS ON HEALTH, WELLNESS, AND A GROWTH MINDSET. WANT MORE MARTHA? CHECK HER OUT ON SOCIAL @FIREPOTNOMADICTEAS