Listening to the wisdom of Vineyard Herbs

Tea Up

by Samantha Barrow

Tea Up

Elizabeth Cecil

Boil fresh water, steep tea, breath in, sip hot.  

After the mourning of summer subsides, I get giddy pulling out my favorite sweaters and quilts. It’s time to get snuggly. Tea is the beverage that piques my happiness about the harvest season. Today, I am blessed with a steaming cup of Chilmark Chai, blended by hand by Holly Bellebuono of Vineyard Herbs, Teas & Apothecary of Martha’s Vineyard.

Its deep and luxurious flavors of cinnamon and clove, coupled with Orange Pekoe Black Tea, warms my blood and keeps me alert on this early darkening afternoon. After the little caffeine buzz steps in, I’m up to brew another cup. This time Organic Lemon-Ginger, Holly’s latest concoction. With the citrus of sunshine slowly fading, the warm, slightly spicy bite of ginger soothes my belly, making me more optimistic about winter’s approach.

Holly brought her business and family to the Vineyard in 2005 from the hills of rural North Carolina. Her expertise is gleaned from a long history of following around “old timers” in the woods, pestering them with queries for ancient wisdom handed down. Holly enhanced that knowledge with a certification in phytotherapy (botanical medicine) and an herbal medicine practice. She doesn’t believe in heading to the doctor for every bump and bruise (although she thinks responsible application of Western medicine can be appropriate), but rather, she advocates walking through the back yards or fields of Martha’s Vineyard and learning how to use what grows there. Many so-called weeds offer remedies: plantain, nettle, raspberry leaf, mint.

Herbal teas—or more accurately, tisanes and infusions—can be the gateway to a wealth of health experiences. As Holly says, “I believe plants are special gifts to us; cousins if you will, or maybe guardian angels. Backseat driver guardian angels. They like to ride in the back and tell us which way to turn, but we’re usually too ornery to listen.” It doesn’t hurt us—or the herbal angels whose advice we should heed—that Holly’s teas capture well-being and yumminess together.

Vineyard Herb’s teas are available at Cronig’s, Eden’s Market and Garden Center, and Polly Hill Arboretum. Holly’s complete line of herbal products are on sale at The West Tisbury Farmers’ Market and online: