Made by Mom Gift Guide: Sterling Berry Tea Company offers fine teas, custom aromatic blends
Posted November 24, 2020 8:30 p.m. EST
Updated November 25, 2020 7:26 a.m. EST
Tatiana Boulankina cultivated a love of tea as a child in her grandmother's herb garden. Today, she's mixing up all kinds of tea blends as part of her business Sterling Berry Tea Company.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a tough one for Boulankina, who lives in Raleigh with her daughter, Daria, after moving here from California four years ago. But she's been working hard to pivot away from restaurants and cafes and find new tea-loving customers. (As a fan of tea myself, I can highly recommend Sterling Berry's tea blends!)
Sterling Berry is on Go Ask Mom's 2020 Made by Mom Gift Guide. Here's a Q&A with Boulankina. Stay tuned for more Made by Mom features.
Go Ask Mom: How did Sterling Berry Tea Company get its start?
Tatiana Boulankina: In California, I owned a small business, a pet store. I enjoyed the interactions with people, the ability to help and the joy of seeing happy customers. My daughter was born into the store. Her first job and introduction to responsibilities started there.
Here, in North Carolina, I decided to turn to my other passion, tea. I enjoy tea and always was searching for a good source of quality teas. So I decided to be the source for those like me and also introduce coffee people to the wonderful world of tea.
The roots of my love for tea comes from my Grandma Meela. She had a big herb garden and would brew a herbal tea every day, teaching me about tea, herbs and their use.
GAM: What all do you offer?
TB: I offer a variety of black, green and herbal teas. Before COVID, I hosted tea parties where I would introduce people to tea, its history, how to brew it and traditional ceremonies of tea drinking.
GAM: How has the pandemic reshaped your business?
TB: The pandemic disrupted many businesses and wasn’t gentle with my tea endeavor as well. Loved by many, my tea parties are on hold. Many cafes that were considering serving my tea to their customers slowed down on sales. In these uncertain times, many people stick with essential purchases where tea is not on their priority list. I went through a hardest time where bills like insurance and vendor’s invoices were due and I had no money in the bank to satisfy it. But these hardships pushed me to rediscover and learn new ways to do business. I concentrated on Sterling Berry: Shop and shifted my focus away from sales to corporate offices, cafes and restaurants.
GAM: What do you love about what you do?
TB: Everything. Every step of the process is rewarding in many ways. The process of creating a tea always brings surprises and joy. The air fills up with aroma of mint and thyme and oregano.
Yellow, red and blue petals of flowers brightens the tea mix and gives it a wonderful vibe. And, of course, customers that come back, asking for their favorite blend always warms my heart and makes every struggle along the way little and worthy.
Recently, one of the customers wrote to me, "May I say your customer service is outstanding! And the teas are superb. I'm giving your tea as Christmas gifts and am excited to turn family and friends on to your store. I hope they re-order! Thanks again for taking care of me, the samples and the curb service. So helpful. Can't wait to try them all.”
GAM: What are your hopes for the future of your business?
TB: I hope that I’ll be able to lift my tea business off the ground and see some profits. My dream, and my daughter is strongly advocating it, is to open a tea shop, where people can come together, sit and enjoy their moment, relax and reflect. It would be a place where I can display all my tea and add more varieties from all over the world.
My daughter’s desire is to once again have a community shop so strong. She’s looking into spaces, researching rents and creating ideas of interior design. She promises to manage the shop if we’ll be able to open one. (Well, after school. She’s in 6th grade!).