By Sucheta Rawal (Cuisine Noir Magazine )
Wayne Ashford is raising a cup to conversations about health education over tea. Ashford is a tea sommelier, entrepreneur and motivational speaker. At 61 years of age, he is in the best shape of his life. He does yoga, meditation, strength training, running, and owns/operates a tea shop in downtown Savannah, Georgia, called The Ashford Tea Company. He attributes his good health and positive mindset to drinking tea.
The First Cup
Born in Mississippi, Ashford grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, watching his mother brew old-school sun tea. “I was intrigued by how she filled a huge mason jar with 100 or so tea bags and let them sit in the hot sun. Then she added 4-5 pounds of sugar to it. As a kid, that was the best thing!” says Wayne about his first recollection of drinking southern-style sweet ice tea.
Over time, Ashford realized there was more to the sweet drink and discovered a variety of loose teas, where they originate from, how they are grown, their health benefits, and different ways to brew.
A Tea Enterprise
“I was passionate about tea but never imagined it would be something I would live off of,” explains Ashford. After completing high school, he served in the U.S. Army, traveled abroad, attended college and worked in the corporate sector. As VP of Operations at several startup dot com businesses, Ashford learned about entrepreneurship and saved enough money to launch an online tea store. He offered samples at health food stores and city markets and opened Tea’s Me Café in Indianapolis, Indiana.
After 20+ years of running a successful business, Ashford decided to move from the Midwest to the South for a change in scenery and better quality of life. He opened The Ashford Tea Company, a boutique tea shop in the popular coastal vacation destination – Savannah. Here he offers in-store tastings, free consultations, talks on the origins and health benefits of this amazing elixir, and how to live a healthy lifestyle. “My mission is to help people find peace and happiness no matter what the state of the world is,” adds Ashford.