Like many small business owners, a desire to escape the corporate world drove Tirza Wibel to leave her job in publicity. The mother of five, who now lives in Spokane, Washington, spent 15 years representing small makers and artists, when she realized she might find more fulfillment by following in her clients’ footsteps. In 2013, she launched Winterwoods Tea Company with her husband and daughters.
The inspiration for Winterwoods was simple—Wibel wasn’t satisfied with the tea options available to her locally. “I had a hard time finding loose-leaf teas that didn’t have any preservatives or artificial flavors. That was part of the reason why I wanted to blend my own,” she says, adding that she wanted to create blends that captured the spirit of the Pacific Northwest. “It’s important that they not only taste good but are beautiful to look at and smell good,” she says. “Through our teas (and our Instagram feed) you get a sense for what I love about living in Washington—the woods and trees and everything available to us in the Northwest.”
Working with local farmers, Wibel has created teas like the Wildwood Cedar, a woodsy blend of peppermint, raspberry leaf and cedar tips, and Inland Earl Gray, which takes the familiar bergamot-laced Earl Grey and adds orange peel and blue cornflower. Her favorite new blend is the Mount Hood Hops, a mix of hops, pear and chamomile.
It didn’t take long for Winterwoods to catch on with local cafés and gift shops, and a 2015 kickstarter took the company national. After raising $35,000 for a commercial kitchen, Wibel has been able to meet the growing demand, and her teas are now found in more than 100 stores and cafés across the country. Even more than the company’s commercial success, Wibel is proud of manifesting her desire to slow down and take in the moment. “Tea really is about the experience. It’s not a cup of coffee you grab on the way out the door because you need to wake up. It’s about sitting down, slowing down, connecting with the people you are around, or taking a break from the business of life. You want it to be beautiful and appeal to all your senses.”
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