Sarita Merlo in the Art of Tea Making
I’ve been drinking Byron Bay Tea Company teas for 6 years. I can’t remember how I found them but I just order them online and they appear in the mail. The all natural ingredients and the science and health benefits behind this ancient art has always fascinated me and these days, with such hectic lifestyles, we really should drink more tea.
Sarita Merlo is the owner of the Byron Bay Tea Company and is a qualified and experienced Natropath and Herbalist so we know she has her finger on the pulse and expertise in the area of all things tea. These days there are so many choices so how do you know which is best? We had a chat with Sarita about the beauty of life in Byron and the best approach to picking your tea. We look forward to Sarita’s regular Tea articles on The Mermaid Society.
Tell me a bit about your history as a Natropath, tea drinker and Byron resident? I studied Naturopathy at the Melbourne College of Natural Medicine and towards the end of this long and intense course I headed north to Byron Bay for some time out, before I finished it off at the Brisbane campus. That was back in the year 2000. Byron Bay “captured me” and once I found a job I loved working as a Naturopath at The Byron Medicine Wheel, I couldn’t leave. This place is magical- I love it’s natural beauty and eclectic mix of people who have come from places far and wide.
My passion and appreciation of herbal medicine, led to the development of Byron Bay Tea Company back in 2005. I was so keen to turn traditional tea drinking into a modern day practice that everyone could enjoy. I wanted people to benefit from herbs but it was essential that they were in a palatable form- so I started experimenting with form and flavour by mixing various organic herbs with other natural ingredients such as vanilla bean, berries and spices. I came up with a healthy herbal tea range to help with common health issues that people have. So, BBTC was born!
Do you have a daily ritual that involves the beach or the ocean? I LOVE the beach! This is the place I go to relax and unwind. There is nothing else like it. I live in the hinterland so dropping down to one of Byron’s beaches is an absolute delight and I do this as often as I can. My favourite time at the beach is sunrise when the world is just waking up. The beaches of Byron were also the inspiration behind our new gift collections- Byron Wategos, Byron Tallow, Byron Belongil and Byron Clarkes.
What’s the best part of living in Byron Bay for you, have you noticed a shift in it’s vibe over the last 10 years? The quality of life in Byron Bay is 10/10. A great climate, natural beauty, and an eclectic mix of people is what drew me to the area. I grew up in Melbourne and was happy to head to the sunshine and escape the rat race. Byron Bay offers so much and isn’t just any old country town- it has a heart beat with so much happening and so much to offer. The population of Byron Bay has grown but it doesn’t phase me. I do like living out in the hills so that I can escape the craziness of the town when I need to.
Tea is such a refreshing drink in summer and so warming and comforting in winter – What is it about the amazing brew that lead you to make it your life? I fell into it really! I have always been passionate about health and herbal medicine and was inspired by my Nana who was too. She was always making home remedies for different ailments and would never think of taking any pharmaceutical medication. The idea to make blended herbal teas excited me. I remember being quite dissatisfied with the choices of herbal teas in Australia 10 years ago- the selection was pretty much Chamomile or Peppermint.
The idea of blending organic herbs with other natural and exotic ingredients excited me- it was like Alchemy. So, Byron Bay Tea Company was born. I really wanted other people to enjoy and benefit from herbal medicine without having to see a Naturopath or take a horrible tasting pill or potion- so creating a range of blended herbal teas was accessible to most people and in a form that they could actually enjoy. My love of herbs was then extended to a love of the tea leaf and the BBTC range has expanded as a result.
What are the main benefits and difference between buying something fresh like BBTC and the supermarket products? Why should we keep it simple and basic with natural ingredients? Big question and hard to answer in a sentence or two! At BBTC we source our teas from small family owned tea plantations in countries such as Sri Lanka, China and Taiwan. They are teas crafted by experienced tea artisans- not commodity tea grown by a big business. These teas are grown at a high elevation using traditional farming methods. They are pesticide free, hand-picked and of a higher quality than the commodity teas. We take great pride in selecting the finest teas and organic herbs.
Our herbs are the superior non-hybrid varieties that are grown with the upmost care for the surrounding environment and organic wherever possible. If they are not organic we try to source wild-crafted herbs which come from a natural unpolluted source- for example our Eucalyptus grows on a family farm in Daylesford in Victoria. While it isn’t “certified organic”, there are no pesticides used- it grows naturally on their farm and they literally harvest the plants when we place an order. You can’t get fresher than that! I think that the vibrant colours and freshness of our teas and herbs reflects their high quality. Read more in our about tea page
What is your all time favourite brew and why? Green tea (contained in Energy). Technically, “tea” comes from the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) and includes four different types that have been processed in different ways including Black, Green, Oolong and White tea. The health benefits of tea are so wide ranging with Green tea being the most widely studied of all of them.
Tea contains an abundant source of natural plant-derived antioxidant compounds called polyphenols. In this broad polyphenol class of antioxidants are flavanoids and catechins, which have been shown in many studies to provide protective antioxidant action against harmful free radicals that can damage DNA, cell membranes and other cell components. It provides significant levels of certain nutrients including Zinc, vitamin B1, B2 and B6, folic acid and trace amounts of manganese and potassium.
The tea plant also contains an important amino acid called L-theanine which has been know to have a profound effect on the nervous system. Theanine is absorbed by the small intestine and crosses the blood-brain barrier where it influences the “feel-good” neurotransmitters of the brain (serotonin and dopamine). This in turn increases the alpha brain-wave activity and has been found to have the effect of producing a calmer, yet more alert, state of mind. Many research studies have shown that drinking green tea helps us to shed unwanted kilos by helping to firstly increase our metabolism (burn more calories/kilojoules throughout the day), and secondly to increase our body’s ability to burn fat (fat oxidation). Oolong tea, although it hasn’t been researched like Green tea, is revered in Asia for weight loss and its benefits to digestion. Other health benefits include cancer protection and cardiovascular support.
Is there one tea that is magic in your eyes? Lemon Myrtle (contained in Immunity) and Aniseed Myrtle (contained in Black Magic) would have to be up there on the list! They have very potent anti-biotic actions to help with infections. These native plants are very under-researched but one study has shown that Lemon Myrtle also has anti-tumour actions, making it great for cancer prevention. Research has also shown that Aniseed Myrtle has a strong antioxidant action that gives us protection from oxidative stress and helps in the anti-aging process. It is also high in Vitamin C, E and folate, as well as chlorophyll- the major pigment present in plants (that also plays a vital role in reducing oxidative stress in the human body). Additionally, it has high levels of lutein, a compound important in the role of eye health. It contains high levels of zinc, calcium and evaluated as very high in magnesium.
Are you a water baby? if so describe your relationship with the ocean…I love the water! Everywhere I have lived in my life I have been near the beach. I am nestled in the green rolling hills of Byron Bay at the moment but still only a short drive down to the beach. I love walking along the beach, swimming on the beach or just having some beach time. It is the number one place for me to relax!
What are your biggest aspirations for BBTC? My biggest aspiration for BBTC are to keep growing steadily around Australia and to access more markets so that people can enjoy the tastes, flavours and health benefits that our herbal teas provide.