Today I’m featuring my favorite local tea company – Piper & Leaf! If you live in the North Alabama area, chances are you know of Piper & Leaf. You may even have a jar that you carry around in your car so that you’ll always have it handy when you visit their store or a local farmer’s market. You know the name. You’ve probably tried their teas…but do you know their story?
Through this Small Business Small Talk series, I have had the opportunity to talk with local business owners and learn their stories of how they got started. I find it incredibly interesting, and I hope you do too. I find Piper & Leaf particularly fascinating because of the length they go to to create their tea blends. Continue reading to learn more about this!
Piper & Leaf has 3 store locations – one at Lowe Mill in Huntsville, one in Madison, and one in Birmingham. You can also find them at markets and festivals in the Tennessee Valley and a select portion of their products are sold in shops and cafes around the country.
After you’ve read the story of Piper & Leaf, be sure to head to Instagram, where they are giving away one of their new party packs!
Small Business Small Talk with Piper & Leaf
*All photos by Elles Photography Studios
Q: Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past several years, then I think most everyone in North Alabama has heard of Piper & Leaf. I want to learn more about YOU – the founders, manpower, and brains behind this business. Please, tell us about yourselves!
A: Ha ha; Thanks for the complement! However, there are still MANY people who we have not reached; have never heard of Piper and Leaf Tea Co. We are daily working on ways to share the good news and attract them to support all of the local, independent businesses.
It is a brother, 2 sisters, and a brother-in-law that own and run P&L. Caleb and Brigette C. both have a history of independent entrepenuership, having worked various initiatives since they were young teenagers. At the time P&L started, MaryClaire K. was still in high school and decided to try this crazy life of starting a business. Connor K. had been living in Alaska with his professional job, but decided to move back to Alabama and help start P&L.
More details of their backstory here – piperandleaf.com/about/
Q: How did you get started in this business?
A: We started with a desire to create local passion and inspire community – a one night a week hobby at Greene Street Market. Within 3 months, we had to become a full time local business because we were so supported. What really made us decide to become a full time business is at the Madison Street Fest. We had amazing support that day, getting a line about 2 blocks long. While we were going crazy, trying to brew more tea and serve customers as fast as possible, we couldn’t help notice but that people were happy, and talking to one another. What was even more inspiring is when people gave up their spot in line to help serve the other customers. That’s when we decided P&L was bringing our community together and we needed to continue that work full time.
Q: What makes your tea different from any other tea out there? Could you tell us more about the process of how you make your tea blends?
A: Our special-tea is making Tea Blends vs. having just tea leaves. This is because we want to bring together and feature our local food systems and farmers. We use fruits and herbs that we grow ourselves, get from local farms, or forage in the woods to make our blends. This is a very unique process and makes us more similar to a coffee roaster than a ‘traditional’ tea company. We add flavors and profiles here locally instead of relying on the tea manufacturer in another country to create the final product.
Q: Where does the name Piper & Leaf come from?
A: We started with another name; inspired by listening to a song about a Samovar. However, we received a cease and desist within 3 months of beginning. We talked to a lawyer who said we would be fine, but it would takes years of litigation and thousands of dollars. We didn’t have the time, money, or interest to deal with that conflict, so we looked for a new name that had some significance.
“Piper” is an old english tea for a Tea Kettle (“Put the piper on to boil”) and may have the same origination as the phrase “piping hot”. We chose leaf because it references the tea leaves, fruits, and herbs.
Q: What can people expect when they walk into one of your stores?
A: Our motto is “serve the joy”. We actually don’t really care what we serve as long as this motto is fulfilled. In our stores we currently have our tea, specialty drinks, as well as coffee options. Our baked goods and pastries are made in house and are delish!
Q: What do your customers love the most? What are your most popular items?
A: Our tea is hands down our most popular. Some of the specialty drinks and secret menu items are gaining popularity, but our traditional tea service reigns supreme.
Q: Besides your shops, where else might someone find your products?
A: We work with independent small businesses all over the nation.
*See this map of partner shops where you can find Piper & Leaf products around the country piperandleaf.com/locations
Q: Is there anything new or exciting coming up that you’d like to share with your customers?
A: Something is ALWAYS brewing. Several new tea blends have been and are about to be released. We are about to release a limited number of tumblers, hats, and shirts! Stay tuned!
Q: I can imagine that taking the leap to start your own business can be nerve-wracking. Is there any advice you would offer to someone who is considering opening a business of their own?
A: We were blessed to accidentally have most of our processes work out. However, my answer is not the most fun…Run the numbers. Passion and interest helps to keep you motivated, but if the numbers are there then you can’t have a business.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add that you would like your customers to know?
A: Confession: We are owned by Starbucks. Just Kidding!
We find that people often get the wrong impression about us at Piper and Leaf Tea Co. We are a small, independent company struggling to make it in the big world. We are very small, have no applicable experience, and make a lot of mistakes. Our family works tirelessly to try to bring out the best in ourselves and products. We only succeed or fail because of local love, support, and encouragement.
How can you support Piper & Leaf?
Visit one of their shops and grab a jar of tea or visit their online shop at piperandleaf.com/shop-tea/
Piper & Leaf – Lowe Mill: 2211 Seminole Dr. SW, Huntsville AL 35805
Piper & Leaf – Strong Station: 7504 A4 HWY 72 W. Madison AL 35758 (by Hobby Lobby in Madison)
Piper & Leaf – Pizitz: 1821 2nd Ave N, Birmingham, AL 35203
Follow along so you don’t miss a thing!
Want to see more local businesses?
If you enjoyed this post, you may also like to read about other local businesses featured in this series:
Elles Photography Studios (who takes all the photos you see throughout the series)
Whistle Britches Children’s Boutique
La Rue French Macarons
*If you are a small business owner in the Madison/Huntsville/Athens area and would like to be featured, please contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you know of someone who may want to be featured, send them my way!