Tea time: Bringing flavor to Auburn Avenue

Just Add Honey, a shop on Auburn Avenue, specializes in loose leaf teas. PHOTO BY RALPH HERNANDEZ | THE SIGNAL
ust Add Honey, a shop on Auburn Avenue, specializes in loose leaf teas. PHOTO BY RALPH HERNANDEZ | THE SIGNAL
ust Add Honey, a shop on Auburn Avenue, specializes in loose leaf teas.

Over the summer, several new businesses opened on Auburn Avenue and other downtown locations to encourage residents and tourists to shop downtown and use the streetcar services. Although the streetcar has yet to run, some of the stores have stayed in business delivering costumers with their hand-made items.

Just Add Honey Tea Company is one of these new stores that is continuing to stay and share its items with university students.

The new Auburn

Initially the store on Auburn Avenue was a part of Atlanta’s “Pop Up Shop” project, a three-month project designed to revitalize the downtown areas of Auburn Avenue and Edgewood Avenue Although the project came to an end on Sept. 30, Just Add Honey is continuing to stay in its store building on the historic street.

“I decided to stay because I enjoy the energy down here,” said Brandi Shelton, Just Add Honey’s founder and owner. “I enjoy the students, the business people, the visitors. I just enjoy the connections I’ve made so far and I see the potential that could be made on this street.”

In June, several shops opened in parts of Auburn Avenue and Edgewood Avenue after signing a free three month lease. The “Pop Up Shops” were a way to help bring attention to the city’s new streetcars that were also scheduled to start operating in the summer. Although the streetcar isn’t running yet, these shops were allowed to stay in business until the three month period was completed.

Out of the seven shops that signed a lease only four of the shops extended their lease in hopes to continue to be a notable part of the community. Modern Tribe, The Byrd’s Box, Fallen Arrows and Just Add Honey are the four shops that remained for the ‘Pop Up Shop’ project.

Shelton is encouraged to stay on the street as she hopes to continue the city’s mission of drawing in more costumers to the area and restoring the old charm of what used to be Atlanta’s richest African-American street in the world.

An untouched market

While the other pop-up shops on Auburn Avenue specialize in selling clothing, accessories, and small gifts, Just Add Honey is the only shop that specializes in food or drinks.

“When I started the company I did notice that there weren’t too many business that only specialized in selling loose teas. There are Teavanas and other shops around but the tea market in America has barely been touched,” Shelton said.

It was in London where Shelton was first introduced to the expansive tea market and what she named as “real tea.” Shelton described “real” tea as tea brewed from organic tea leaves and with no artificial flavors. As a hobby, Shelton began collecting these teas from various local London markets.

“Tea-making for me was initially a hobby. I was in London studying fashion design and all they drink there is real tea. I was so intrigued with the lengthy process of brewing tea leaves that I decided to put all my time into making teas,” Shelton said.

As a fashion stylist and fashion marketer Shelton’s schedule was not as flexible as it could have been. Eventually she married and became a mother, decreasing the amount of free time that she had. Shelton said that the time that she took making tea was the most beneficial to her hectic schedule.

“Loose tea makes you slow down, you actually have to have some time to sit down and brew it,” Shelton said. “It was nice to have to slow down and do something different and that’s what I want others to do.”

With the encouragement from her husband, Shelton sought to create Just Add Honey. While taking classes at the World Tea Institute to become an expert in teas, Shelton began experimenting with different ingredients that were uncommon in most teas.

“I sat and I thought about how the tea would taste if I added some frozen fruit to it or what if I added some dried cranberries. I wanted my teas to be more flavorful than the teas that I was tasting,” Shelton said.

The company encourages experimenting with different flavors to create unique tea blend options for customers. Many of the tea flavors offered include real chunks of fruits and other flavors, giving a different spin on popular teas.

“We sell a different version of Earl Grey tea which is traditionally a black tea with bergamot but we add vanilla and cornflower petals to give it this creamy and smooth finish,” Shelton said.

Shelton believes that what will help keep her store and the other stores active are dedicated costumers. Overall, Shelton not only encourages students to step inside her shop but to try some of the other new shops on the street.

“We have tea, we have comfy chairs, we have good music, we have friendly faces. All those things we do to be that change, to be a comfortable place for everyone,” Shelton said.

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