An interview with the sisters who created the most stylish Charlotte tea shop.
The past months have overwhelmed small business owners with so many obstacles and challenges. No strangers to struggle, sisters Kristina and Alena, the co-owners of Birch Fine Tea, are still inspiring others with their business despite the decision to close their storefront earlier this year.
For their family, tea became a way to heal after Alena’s scary cancer diagnosis and health crises. She beat the odds and, with her sister, started a mission to share the natural benefits of tea and their new beginning with as many people as possible.
At Birch Fine Tea, modern aesthetic meets traditional practice. With over one hundred loose leaf tea options and many accessories to make the perfect blend, this family-owned and operated establishment is confident there is a tea to satisfy each individual’s needs. The sisters answered our questions about Birch’s inception and their recent experience.
Birch Fine Tea’s inception in 2017 was a very difficult time for your family. How did you start your business in the midst of personal struggle?
When we started Birch Fine Tea, Alena was recovering from ovarian cancer and heart failure while attempting to find a balance in life again. Like most people with a small business idea, it seemed like a distant dream. Growing up in a coffee-centric city, that dream was to bring the beauty of loose leaf tea to the forefront. We knew it was the perfect opportunity to bring Birch Fine Tea into life when the doctors became reluctant to give our family any hope in Alena’s recovery. Our small business isn’t just tea–it’s community, healing, heritage, and survival.
What advice do you have for individuals who are new to shopping for loose leaf tea instead of typical tea bags?
Don’t overthink it! We always hear that customers are intimidated to try loose leaf tea because they don’t have the right tools to get started. It can be as easy as boiling a pot of water on the stove and straining the leaves.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Birch Fine Tea had to close its store at Camp North End. What have you learned from this decision?
When March arrived, everything was perfect. We finally settled into our first retail location at Camp North End. We were beyond excited to have our customers experience Birch Fine Tea. Unfortunately, that was right at the time of the initial lockdown. We pivoted our business plan by offering local contactless home delivery, free shipping, and in-store pickup, but we were unable to recover. We found that during these uncertain times, our customers preferred to shop our tea and tools online, which led us to the decision to close.
How does Birch Fine Tea give back to the Charlotte community?
Our mission is to use Birch Fine Tea as a tool to meet the needs of those within our community. In Birch Fine Tea’s short existence, we have hosted multiple events to raise funds and supplies for various groups in our city. One fundraising event provided supplies to Metro School of Charlotte, a special needs school. We are also partnered with Junior Achievement Charlotte to inspire students to plan their career goals outside of high school.
Why is it important for your tea collection to change with new seasons?
Incorporating a handful of new tea blends into the rotation allows us to supply fresh small batch tea options and highlight the current season. Our senses, specifically smell and taste, play an integral part in forming memories. That’s why it’s so important for us to use seasonal ingredients in our blends. We hope that when you take one sip of our Pumpkin Pie blend, it takes you back to a special moment with your loved ones.