For the Venice business Elevation Tea Company, the word "elevation" is more than just the name. It is used to describe the high altitude in which herbs must grow to obtain perfect tea, and how one can elevate one's senses, and health, when drinking it. Owner Jennifer Martinez launched Elevation in 2018 after being inspired by her passion for tea and how it has healed her.
"A few years ago, I developed irritable bowel syndrome and other inflammatory health issues," says Martinez. "I had always loved tea, but didn't realize how it could help alleviate my symptoms and heal me in ways traditional Western treatments might not have."
Martinez grew up drinking tea with her grandmother, who is of Native American descent and whose culture values the herbal mixtures for healing a variety of ailments. Now, Martinez wants to make the power of tea accessible to everyone through her online shop and her "tea trailer," which she uses to serve custom tea drinks at the Sarasota and Lakewood Ranch farmers' markets.
Martinez first started selling loose leaf tea at the Venice Farmers Market, but she was unable to serve fresh tea at the 10-foot-by-10-foot tent she was provided. So in April 2020, she renovated a small trailer into a fully functional tea shop, which allows her to serve 20 different teas, including SRQ Breakfast tea, a house-blend black tea and rare oolong from Kilimanjaro, turning them into delicious lattes, spritzers and even purple lemonade, which is made out of rare purple tea from Kenya.
"The purple tea is fun because it turns purple when mixed with the lemon juice," says Martinez. "Kids love it, too, and it's filled with antioxidants."
Many of the teas the company sells are certified organic and free from artificial flavors and preservatives. They are sourced in small batches from farms in Africa and Asia, and from other U.S. distributors. Her website's tea finder, which is interactive and fun to use, categorizes teas by flavor, place of origin and function, helping customers find their perfect match. Each tea also comes with a description about where it comes from, the altitude at which it grew and how to prepare it. The site also has tips on tea and food pairings, how to steep tea and which ones are most beneficial.
One of the most popular drinks sold at the tea trailer is the root beer spritzer, made with a combination of herbs, soda water and natural sweetener. "People are shocked when they try it and it tastes like real root beer," says Martinez. Other flavors include berry bliss, peachy mango and cranberry apple. There are also seven different lattes, including the fruity Orange Creamsicle, decadent S'mores and authentic Japanese matcha latte, made with plant-based whipped cream and milk.
"Many of the tea lattes you purchase at an average coffee shop can contain lots of added sugar," says Martinez. "Our drinks are made to order, with natural sweeteners like agave and cane syrup, to each customer's taste."
In addition to the trailer and online shop, Martinez has also hosted tea tasting events, similar to wine tastings, which allow people to form a bond over a shared love of tea. She plans to reintroduce the events in April, when the company's warehouse is complete.
Martinez's favorite tea? She is partial to oolong from Kilimanjaro. She says it has a bold flavor, and she loves to pair it with a slice of warm spice or carrot cake. "I am not too fancy about preparing it, either," says Martinez. "I usually boil the water in my kettle and use a tea bag or mesh steeper."
"We want to show people what they can do with tea," Martinez adds. "They can incorporate it into their lifestyle for health, and enjoy playing around with its flavors."
Find Elevation Tea Company's tea trailer at the downtown Sarasota Farmers Markets from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays year-round and at the Farmers' Market at Lakewood Ranch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays from November to April. For more info, visit the Elevation Tea Company website.