WRITTEN BY MAUREEN WERTHER PHOTOS BY BLACKBURN PORTRAIT DESIGN
It has already been two years since Hayley Stevens opened Saratoga Tea and Honey on Broadway. During that time, Hayley and her team have managed to create a space that is both a retail mecca as well as a meeting and gathering place for tea lovers. In many ways, it feels as if Saratoga Tea and Honey has been an integral part of the downtown scene for far longer and, for aficionados of all things tea, they can’t imagine Broadway without it.
Hayley’s background and training is in the culinary arts. She is a graduate of the Alma International School of Italian Cooking in Italy, where she was the only American student in a class of 55. Following graduation, she spent four years in Naples as chef for a two-star Michelin rated restaurant, calling it “intense.”
Following her sojourn in Europe, Hayley had what she calls her “New York experience,” teaching French cooking at the French Culinary School in Manhattan. It was while Hayley lived in the city that she became so enamored with tea.
“In Italy, I was drinking 8 cups of espresso a day and when I got to NYC, it was hard to find good espresso anywhere,” says Hayley.
A friend suggested that she try tea. Hayley discovered a tea shop in the city, “In Pursuit of Tea,” and quickly became a fan.
“Each time I went there, I would try a different tea.”
HAYLEY SAYS THAT EACH TIME SHE TRIED A NEW TEA, SHE WOULD THINK, “What a beautiful thing this is! IT SUITED MY LIFESTYLE AND, UNLIKE WINE, YOU CAN’T OVER DO IT!”
As her love of tea expanded, so did her knowledge of it. Hayley says that tea shares a lot of the same characteristics of wine.
“It is an agrarian product that follows similar rules of production as wines.”
Hayley says that each time she tried a new tea, she would think, “What a beautiful thing this is! It suited my lifestyle and, unlike wine, you can’t overdo it!”
For Hayley, tea equals happiness.
When Hayley, who is originally from Rochester, relocated to Saratoga County, she fell in love with what she calls Saratoga Spring’s “potential,” adding that, in addition to its year-round appeal for residents and visitors alike, it is a very European city in many ways.
“It has the parks, the restaurants, and the walk-ability that you find in Europe,” she says.
For Hayley, Saratoga also offered opportunities to learn the business side of owning a specialty shop from people like Michael London, of Max London’s and Clint and Barbara Braidwood, owners of Saratoga Olive Oil and Hayley’s business partners at Saratoga Tea and Honey.
“Clint and Barbara wanted to open a honey shop,” explains Hayley. So their partnership was the perfect marriage of a love for tea and its natural counterpart – honey.
Saratoga Tea and Honey offers teas from around the world in a vast assortment of varieties and blends. The teas at the front of the shop are what Hayley refers to as her “passions.” The black (oolong), green and white teas are the “fine wines” of the tea world. Hayley is proud
of the impressive list of importers she has assembled to provide only the best teas from China, Taiwan, Japan and India.
Her honey assortment also comes from a variety of producers, both local and far-reaching.
“We have a cranberry blossom honey
from the cranberry bogs in Wisconsin, buckwheat honey from Washington State and a ghost pepper-infused honey that we produce right here,” says Hayley.
Perhaps the best unintended consequence of opening Saratoga Tea and Honey on Broadway is the tea bar. Hayley’s vision for it originally was as a sampling area. But it rapidly grew into a place where people could gather for tea and socializing.
“The tea bar is much busier now then it was when we first opened. We have our ‘regulars’ who come in and there is an increased interaction between our customers and our staff. We like to say that it’s become a ‘communi-tea,’” says Hayley with an infectious laugh and bright smile that clearly shows her passion for Saratoga Tea and Honey.
So, next time you’re strolling along Broadway, stop by Saratoga Tea and Honey for a “spot of tea” and some sociability. -SS
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