Jennifer E. Jackson ’03: Just Your Cup of Tea

As a girl, Jennifer Jackson accompanied her mother to New York City tea rooms, but didn’t develop a real appreciation for the beverage until spending her junior year studying in tea-loving England. Today, Jennifer runs her own specialty tea company, which offers unusual blends she creates from whole-leaf teas, herbs, fruits, and flowers.

Not Just Tea offers exotic-sounding varieties such as Nefertiti’s Garden (which includes Egyptian chamomile) and Serenity Blue (with dried blueberries) as well as new twists on established favorites such as jasmine, peppermint, and oolong.

After working with the Peace Corps in Namibia—where she discovered rooibos (South African “redbush”) tea, which appears frequently in her tea blends—Jennifer learned every angle of the tea business as a tea education coordinator for the Specialty Tea Institute of the US Tea Association. Armed with that background and ideas for novel tea mixtures, she invited friends to sample her blends and used the most popular to launch in 2007.

Four MHC alumnae help Jennifer develop the business, starting with initial tea tastings and creating a business plan, and continue to sell the tea. “My customers value the ‘girl power’ that my company reflects in such a male-oriented industry,” Jennifer says.

Her Web site notes health information for each blend’s ingredients, noting scientific studies from the Journal of the American Medical Association and the Archives of Internal Medicine. Tea, she says, is sugar- and calorie-free, and full of antioxidants, which some believe reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.

But possible health benefits are useless if a tea isn’t appealing. “To incorporate tea into a healthy lifestyle, it must taste good,” she stresses. As she tells audiences at universities and health fairs, “tea doesn’t have to taste like leaves in a cup.” And as every serious tea-drinker knows, there’s a world of difference between generic tea-bag brew and a real, soothing-yet-stimulating flavorful cuppa. Take that, coffee!

—By Emily Harrison Weir

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