Featured photo: Candace Holder grew up learning how to make herbal blends from her Caribbean father and grandfather. (photo by LaTrayl Nichole, Perfect Snap Photography)
Candace Holder likes her tea strong. Like two bags and maybe even a third one strong.
That’s why when Holder came to the United States seven years ago and tried American bagged tea for the first time, she was taken aback.
“The tea in America is weaker than the tea in England,” Holder says. “I’m used to a stronger tea palette. I even went to the Asian grocery store, and nothing was the same…. I think it’s the way it’s produced. So I would still drink tea bags in America but one bag wouldn’t taste the same as one bag in England. It’s not as much flavor. I would have to use two bags.”
Holder, who speaks with a British accent, is originally from London. She came to the US at the age of 18 to attend college in Alabama. Eventually she found her way to Greensboro, graduating from UNCG’s hospitality program last year.
As she continued to crave the stronger brews she was used to, Holder realized that she might be able to turn her passion for tea into a business. During her junior year at UNCG, she began researching different kinds of tea and eventually launched her own business — Candy’s Tea House — in January 2020. Currently, she sells her blends online and at Greensboro shops like Savor the Moment and Black Belt Soap Company. She also has a regular table at the Corner Farmer’s Market.
And while she grew up drinking bagged tea back home, Holder decided that for her business, she would experiment with selling loose-leaf tea.
“It gives you more flavor,” she says. “Bagged tea is more convenient but it’s not better for you. The bags have chemicals in them and also bagged tea is older.”
Now she sells about 10 different tea blends including everything from fruity green teas to a chai blend to a vanilla spice offering.
Holder, who draws on her background as a Brit and as a Caribbean, wants people to see her tea as something different. And part of that comes from the fact that she is a Black woman.
“It’s different because you usually see white women selling tea or Asians selling tea,” she says. “You don’t normally see Black people selling tea. In that aspect, it’s important to me too, because I’m a Black British woman and also Caribbean. It’s a part of our culture too, but we don’t have a lot of representation, so it makes me happy to share that and say tea is a part of our culture also.”
She says that when she first started researching other tea companies, she found that they were mostly white-owned.
“I found very few other Black tea companies and for me, coming into this industry, it’s not really a Black industry so it was something I just had to be sure of myself and to show people that there are Black people who drink tea and it’s not just white people culture. I’m not just doing this because I’m a British person; it’s also my Caribbean culture.”
Holder says she was used to drinking bags of black tea but also remembers watching her father, who is Caribbean, make herbal blends of ginger, lemon, garlic and honey. In fact, she says the tradition of using herbs for medicinal purposes through tea has been a part of Caribbean heritage for centuries. And that’s exactly how Holder views her relationship with tea.
“I think for British people, they drink tea to drink tea,” Holder says. “But for Caribbeans, we drink tea for health purposes. We use herbs. Caribbeans would make their tea from scratch rather than getting it from a tea bag. My grandpa collects different herbs, and he puts it all together.”
For new tea customers, Holder starts by asking whether or not they drink other caffeinated drinks like coffee. If they do, she’ll recommend a black tea because of its bolder flavor. If they want something lighter, she’ll offer a green tea like her popular zen berry green tea blend. For a spicier option, she’s got her iced chai milk tea, too. The point, she says, is that tea is for everyone.
“My favorite part about tea is honestly I feel like you learn something new every day,” she says. “You learn about new herbs every day. Tea isn’t necessarily just something to drink. It’s also good for my health. It can give my body the nutrients that I need. The connection I have reminds me of home and since I’m not longer there, it just brings me back to my childhood.”
Learn more about Candy’s Tea House on Facebook and Instagram.