Imagine sipping a cup of tea on a crisp autumn afternoon. Now imagine sipping that same cup of tea and remembering a perfect day spent picking berries at a Hudson Valley farm…or sitting around a bonfire telling tall tales with friends…or taking a hay ride to a local apple orchard in the fall.
Precisely such a thing is possible thanks to Catskill Mountain Tea Company.
“I try to carry tea that is related to a moment or memory [and] specifically linked to the Catskills and Hudson Valley,” owner Ashley Carr explains. “I have had many people just smell one of my teas and say, ‘That reminds me of my grandmother,’ or “That smells or tastes like camping, apple picking, etc.’”
For Carr, a native of the Catskills and mid-Hudson Valley region, tea has held a meaningful place in her life since childhood. Some of her earliest memories are of afternoon tea with her grandmother’s silver tea set and, later, tea with dinner at Mountain Brauhaus in Gardiner.
“[That] was probably when I felt the ‘fanciest’ as a child,” she admits, adding that the seemingly endless varieties of teas appealed to her because they offered an alternative to the sugary drinks and sweets that weren’t to her taste. As she grew older, she realized the health and meditative benefits associated with tea were even more of an incentive to keep drinking and learning about it.
Through the years, her love of tea stayed with her during her career in the childcare and education industry. Yet it wasn’t until she became pregnant with her daughter that she decided to pursue the passion that had long lingered at the back of her mind. Although her grand goal was – and is – to open a tea shop of her own, she knew that it was financially out of the cards for her. Yet after dipping her toes into the world of tea as an affiliate of another tea company, she worked up the confidence to start something for herself.
And thus Catskill Mountain Tea Company was born. Up and running in Saugerties since spring 2019, Carr’s tea company stands out not just thanks to its enticing medley of brews, but also to the fact that each blend calls to mind a visceral recollection with strong roots in the Hudson Valley. Take her Fireside Memories, for instance. Made with black tea and safflower petals that are infused with smoke and maple syrup, it brings to mind cozy sweaters, changing leaves, and evenings spent toasting marshmallows over a crackling fire. Then there’s Winter Wind, an enticing harmony of black tea, peppermint, candy cane pieces, chamomile and cornflower petals, and strawberry leaves. With this, one sip is all it takes to recall blustery winter afternoons in the Catskills, where layers of scarves and coats bundle against bone-chilling winds during adventures sledding or ice skating around the Hudson Valley.
“Our hope is that each cup of carefully selected tea warms you with the romance of the Catskill Mountains, that its pleasing aromas revive memories of years gone by, and that its natural beauty recalls images of a land rich in legend and folklore,” she says. While many of her teas evoke memories of the Hudson Valley in general, some are tied specifically to the legend and lore of the Catskills. With her Gnomes blend, for example, she draws inspiration from the tales of Washington Irving (Rip Van Winkle, anyone?) to craft a fruity, nutty brew that’s just as wonderful hot as it is iced or turned into a cocktail.
If the brand’s burgeoning popularity is any indication, then Catskill Mountain Tea Company is just getting started. With an ever-rotating selection of 25 or so teas at a given time, the brand is a go-to for curated blends that call to mind all those most treasured memories of life in the Hudson Valley. That’s why it’s popping up at retailers across the region, like The Long Neck Inn in Catskill, Bear & Fox Provisions in Tannersville, Olsen & Company in Woodstock, See and Be Kitchen in Cairo, Violet’s Bakery in Saugerties, and Stoneledge Farm in Cairo, to name a few. Of course, it’s also available directly through the Catskill Mountain Tea Company website.
“I want my teas to not only be enjoyable to drink, but to smell and to look at,” Carr notes. “I also hope that the teas are flavorful enough for people to not want to add sugar to them. The herb, botanical, fruit, and nut combinations seem to be enough to satisfy all my varieties of tea drinkers.”
As Catskill Mountain Tea Company continues to expand its presence in the Hudson Valley, Carr, a stay-at-home mom, hopes to continue to juggle her family and her passion project. In addition to retailing at local storefronts, she sometimes offers curbside pickup and sells at festivals and markets in the area. Although she’d love to have a tea room of her own one day, she enjoys keeping her operation small and exclusive for now.
“I’m taking things slow and am looking for opportunities to grow,” she says.