Tea Time: Master gardener turns passion into business

LEELANAU CO. – When Angela Macke decided to start a tea business, she looked around herself one day as she cut flowers in her garden and thought, “how nice it is to be doing this by the light of day.”

Things have changed a bit, though, since starting her company, “By the Light of Day: Organic Teas and Tisanes.” These days Macke finds she is also working “by the light of the moon.” She’s making free-trade tea that aims to teach all of us a lesson in slowing down and savoring the sweet taste of life.

“For many people, tea is not just some beverage,” Macke explained. “It’s a representation of how you live your life, more purposeful and with integrity.”

Macke grew up in Whitehall, Mich. on a blueberry farm, alongside seven siblings. She graduated with a BS from Western Michigan University and her RN diploma from Bronson School of Nursing.

It was shortly after graduating from nursing school that Macke began her journey with tea. With a diagnosis of what doctors believed was Crohn’s disease, she determined she had to find a better way to live in order to avoid the surgeries that would be in her future if her disease didn’t improve.

Friends of her parents in Maui encouraged her to come and stay with them. Figuring there were worse places to start her nursing career, Macke decided to see what Maui had to offer.

While there she was exposed to many new lifestyles. In addition to the treatments that had been introduced to her via allopathic medicine, she learned about alternative medical treatments. She also learned about tea.

Tea was just one ingredient of a lifestyle change that taught her to slow down and savor life.

“Thank goodness I found just the right people there, who guided me through a whole new way of living, including major dietary changes, modification of thought processes, basic lessons in chilling out-including yoga and meditation, and drinking tea,” Macke explained.

Upon returning from Maui, Macke began investigating ways to incorporate what she learned in Maui into her every day life. She did a significant amount of travel and in 1996 decided to settle down in Traverse City. The week she arrived she met Dr. Vincent Macke, whom she married in 1998.

While working at Munson Medical Center as a critical care nurse, Macke began studying for her Master Gardener’s certification through Michigan State University. It was during her study sessions for this that she can began rediscovering the effects of plants on the human body.

Macke is quick to warn that consumers must be educated about herbs before they simply start mixing teas or other “remedies.”

“As a gardener you need to highly research every ingredient and research the effect it has on the human body,” she explained.

As her appreciation for teas continued to grow, Macke decided to develop her passion into a business. “By the Light of Day: Organic Loose Teas and Tisanes” is the result of those energies.

In addition to growing all the herbs and flowers in Leelanau County, Macke is also making a difference throughout the world. As she set up her business plan, she made a conscious decision to make sure her teas were not only 100 percent organic, but also that her business was a part of TransFair, an international movement that ensures Fair Trade for farmers.

Fair Trade means she buys her products directly from the farmers, exposing small farmers to markets they might normally be able to access and in turn providing them a livable wage. “I feel like I am doing this small thing to make the world better,” she said of Fair Trade and the benefit it offers to farmers.

Macke has also worked to become certified as organic, something she is very proud her company can offer.

“I can say with confidence that every single tea we have is 100 percent organic,” she said noting that every ingredient in the teas from herbs to maple syrup and sugar are not only organic, but also from fairly-traded estates.

And while growing herbs at her Leelanau County farmhouse is a far-cry from her days as a critical care nurse (though she says that training did prepare her for raising two boys!) she still acknowledges all that her nursing career gave her.

“I have enjoyed the mellowing effects of gardening, but sure miss the bedside care, and continual learning that a shift at the hospital provides,” she said. BN