Photo Credit: Greenhouse Tea Company
How This Black-Owned Tea Company Started From An ADHD Diagnosis
Greenhouse Tea is a Black-owned tea company creating custom blend loose-leaf teas. The family-owned brand has gained a following that includes actresses Tia Mowry and Academy Award Winner Gwyneth Paltrow, the latter using it during a recent fast.
“She and I have established a pretty incredible friendship over the past year and some change,” revealed co-founder Quentin Vennie to Travel Noire. “She’s a big supporter of Greenhouse Teas and loves our blends.”
The best part, it all started as a search for a solution to a family problem.
When Vennie’s seven-year-old son was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a neurologist suggested that he drink two ounces of green tea 30 minutes before a big test. The rationale was that it would help him focus in the same way Adderall would but without the same side effects. Green tea has a minimal amount of caffeine, so two ounces were unlikely to adversely affect him. There would be no midday crashes or jitters.
There was only one problem. To put it mildly, he was not a fan.
“We went out, we bought a few different types of green tea, tasted it, and he hated it,” Vennie said. “We sweetened it, and he still didn’t like it. He said it was nasty, it was bitter, it was astringent, and he didn’t want to drink it. If this was something that was suggested by his neurologist, and it could help him, I wanted to at least give it a fighting chance by finding something that was more palatable for him. The unfortunate part was that nothing on the market that I could find tasted good. It didn’t taste good to him. And even when I tried it myself, I didn’t like the taste of it.”
Vennie made it his personal mission to find something more pleasing to the palate for his son. He and his wife Erin began researching and experimenting. They landed on a blend that combines green tea with lemon verbena, lemongrass, and lavender. It was a hit.
“He loved it. He drinks it every day. It’s his favorite tea, it works for him, and it helps him focus. Now I’m not going to say that the tea was the end all be all — it didn’t cure anything — but it gave him that additional edge. It gave him something extra that can help him focus without having to go to medication.”
A History Of Trauma
Finding alternative forms of treatment is something Vennie is passionate about. He grew up in Baltimore, raised by a single mother and the son of a heroin-addicted, absentee father. His mother moved with her to son escape the surrounding poverty, dilapidation, and violence. She enrolled Vennie in Baltimore County schools to give him a quality education and more opportunities. Instead, Vennie says he received a lesson in racism and prejudice as part of a predominantly white student body. It was there that he developed the first symptoms of chronic anxiety. The doctor wanted to put him on Ritalin but his mother, who worked for years in the mental health field and saw the side effects, refused.
“Ritalin was a behavioral adjustment drug,” he explained. “It was a drug that a lot of kids that had attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity were on. I didn’t have behavior problems. I was just experiencing these episodes.”
Vennie spent the next few years trying to figure things out without relying on medication. But the episodes returned and at age 26 he was officially diagnosed with severe generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and mild to severe major depressive disorder, and put on medication. This led to a prescription pill addiction that culminated in an accidental overdose and two suicide attempts.
“After the second suicide attempt I kind of threw my hands up, I said, God, you win. Please show me why I am here. Because even left to my own vices, I couldn’t kill myself correctly. I was obviously here for a purpose and a reason that was greater than my own level of understanding at the time. That started my entire journey into understanding more about my mental health disorders, understanding more about mental health in general, the importance of it, how to identify certain signs, and then figuring out a holistic path to help manage it.”
Exploring Other Options
Vennie threw himself into a deep dive on everything related to anxiety disorder and searched for stories of individuals who healed themselves holistically. As the owner of a personal training business, he was aware of the way the body reacted to eating a certain diet and exercising a certain way, and he was interested in finding out if the same rules applied to our mental health.
“I started watching documentaries, like Food Incorporated, Forks Over Knives, and Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead with Joe Cross,” he disclosed. “He was this Australian guy who was fighting an autoimmune disease, and he was overweight. He was able to lose weight and cure himself of his autoimmune disease by juicing and going on a juice fast. I looked at a documentary called Crazy, Sexy Cancer with a woman, Kris Carr. She had stage four cancer for an incurable cancer. She was able to essentially thrive by changing her diet, adopting meditation and yoga, and different modalities.”
Encouraged by this newfound information, Vennie started incorporating all he had learned into a health and wellness routine. In addition to juicing, meditation, and yoga, he started a gardening practice growing herbs like rosemary, basil, and ginger. He also started a tea regimen, often drinking a cup of chamomile to calm himself before bed at night.
“All of these practices started to really shift and change the way that I thought of myself, the way that I behaved, and the way that I thought about my anxiety,” Vennie shared. “That allowed me to take a step back from my anxiety and really come into myself.”
Black-owned tea company, Greenhouse Tea
Tea has played a major role in the Vennie’s healing process and is now the family business. Greenhouse Tea offers herbal teas and a small selection of caffeinated teas. Even the names give off wellness vibes: Awaken, Breathe, Clarity, Comfort, Ease, Empower, Escape, Relief, and Surrender.
“I love the Awaken blend,” enthused Vennie. “It’s the same blend that was inspired by my son. But then I also found white tea, which has the least amount of caffeine of all teas. We also offer an oolong tea, which is higher in caffeine content. We’re not offering black tea at the moment. Instead of doing a traditional spice Chai, we actually did a non caffeinated Chai, which will be made available in the next three weeks. We just finalized the blend for that. We have a multitude of teas that we offer. Our Breathe blend has tulsi and peppermint and astragalus root. They’re said to be able to help minimize the symptoms of seasonal allergies.”
He continued, “We have a Relief tea, which has a green robust base with spearmint and ginger. Ginger is great for your digestive system and to minimize nausea. Same thing with spearmint. We created that blend after being on a road trip in North Carolina, and our daughter was struggling with a stomach issue. We didn’t want to go and get Pepto-Bismol, Tums or Mylanta. Instead, we went to a health food store, and we started buying different herbs and ingredients in plants. We created that blend while in North Carolina, gave it to her and within an hour her stomach was fine.”
The Empower blend contains hibiscus, rosehip, elderberry, and lemon peel; all ingredients which are high in vitamin C and antioxidants as well as good for boosting the immune system.
“Our goal is to not just create something that tastes good, but also to create something that makes you feel good,” he added.
The teas are sold direct to the consumer on the company’s website, but plans are underway to get the blends into retailers and boutique supermarkets. For every Greenhouse Tea purchase, a percentage goes towards “food education, sustainable gardening, and provides resources, education and relationship building opportunities for those negatively impacted by systemic oppression.” All Greenhouse Teas are made from 100% organic ingredients and are full leaf. The Black-ownd tea company is packaged in a pouch rather than sachets as part of an effort to change the tea-drinking experience.
“We want to make tea drinking cool. It’s not just something that people in London do with their biscuits. That’s something that we all should be doing. It’s something that is accessible. It’s delicious and it’s healing. And I think with what we’ve just experienced in the world, we all need a little bit of healing. We all need that permission to slow down and take care of ourselves. Why not do it with a cup of Greenhouse Tea?”