As the old saying goes, “A cup of tea makes everything better,” and Russian River Tea Company owner Holly Hunt is working to bring the comfort of tea to Sonoma County health care workers.
Since the shelter in place started in March, Hunt has been creating free tea care packages chock full of goodies and delivering them to local hospitals.
Hunt has made deliveries to the Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital and to the Healdsburg District Hospital and hopes to create gift baskets for all Sonoma County hospitals.
“It all started because I’m friends with a security guard, Jenna Torres, over at Sutter and because I follow her on Facebook, I just kept seeing all of these great posts that she was putting out about how hard they’re all working and how her job is so rewarding because she knows she’s supporting the essential workers and I was like, ‘What can I do?’” Hunt said. “I had to do something for the community. After I thought about it I said, ‘I am going to bring them tea. Everyone loves tea.’”
With her new idea in place, Hunt put together a special gift package with bags of loose leaf tea, tea bags and a sweet chocolate treat.
The packages include both herbal and caffeinated teas. “Chamomile dream,” a blend of chamomile blossoms, peppermint, vanilla and rose petals, and “Hello sunshine,” a blend of ginger and lemongrass, are included with the herbal teas package.
For helping workers stay energized, black teas such as “Wine and Roses,” “English breakfast,” “Lavender Lady Grey,” “Apricot Fancy,” “Vineyard Strawberry,” and green tea are included. “Wine and Roses” is a black tea with hints of pear and a blend of berry, grape and handpicked rose petals. “Lavender Lady Grey” is a fun twist on Earl Grey and features lavender and orange notes and “Apricot Fancy” has apricot, peach, marigold and sunflower petals and notes of vanilla.
“I brought them (Sutter and Healdsburg District Hospital) probably around 150 of those individual tea bags. I got a really nice platter and put the tea bags on there, cups and some infusers with some loose tea so they would get a nice variety, and then I threw a bunch of chocolate in there,” she said, noting that you can’t go wrong with a chocolate-related snack.
To deliver the products, Hunt dons gloves and a face mask, packs everything up in her car and hand delivers them to the security guards out front at the hospitals.
“Because the security guards are right up front, it’s easy; you just pass it off to them,” Hunt said.
She said she checked with them on the sanitary aspect of her deliveries, and they said they get food all the time from other generous donors, so tea was welcomed as well.
“It’s just to kind of brighten up their day,” Hunt said. “I think tea is comforting, even if it’s not herbal, and I just wanted them to know that we are thinking about them and that we appreciate what they are doing.”
This isn’t Hunt’s first rodeo in terms of taking the time to put together tea care packages. In 2017, she assembled baskets for firefighters and first responders during the Tubbs Fire and even created a unique blend of respiratory tea called “Sonoma Strong.”
“Valette was cooking all of this food for all of the first responders and I thought, ‘They need respiratory tea,’” Hunt said of her 2017 care packages.
A helping hand
When asked how others can support her while she is working to help health workers, Hunt noted that folks can place online orders if they need to stock up on tea. Domestic online orders get free shipping.
“Gov. Newsom, as you know, just lifted a lot of the restrictions, but as he said, just because he lifted them, that doesn’t mean people are going to come rushing in, so I have a very aggressive approach to the online deliveries. If people order online with me, it is automatically porch dropped to Windsor, Healdsburg, Geyserville, all the way to Cloverdale,” Hunt said.
While businesses like Hunt’s can now offer curbside service, she said she doesn’t know how much that will really help her since part of her store experience is being able to come inside to smell the different teas.
“Curbside, I don’t know how much that is going to help me.” But she said, “I’m a survivor. I just figure out a way.”
Hunt has been at her Center Street store since 2013, and despite facing several years of wild disasters and events, Hunt says she’s just happy to be part of such a kind, close-knit and resilient community.
“The community has been very supportive. Without them, I’d probably be in deep trouble financially,” she said, likening the small town charm of Healdsburg to that of the town depicted in the T.V. series, “Gilmore Girls.”
“Our community, I call it ‘Gilmore Girls,’ it really is without the drama and without Luke, although if they could send me a Luke that would be awesome. Everyone knows each other's names,” Hunt said.