Interview: Tarn and Moon

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Based in the Yorkshire Dales, Tarn and Moon’s healing teas are inspired by wildflowers, herbs, stories of old moorlands and moon cycles - organic hand blends which offer something a little bit different.

Hello Tarn and Moon, thank you for chatting with me! How are you?

Very well thank you, feeling fully awake now after the darker winter  months; the beautiful green spring is here!

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

Well I’m a obviously a big plant fan but I’m also very passionate about animals too.

(It takes me a long time to garden as I have to move anything that’s alive out of harm's way!)

I grew up on Bingley moor, was mostly feral running around in the woods that bordered our garden and I would say that’s where my green soul grew, my love of nature and creating potions started.

I went to school at Ilkley grammar and studied for 3 years at Leeds college to get my first and national diploma in wildlife and animal care.

This lead me to living in west cork, Ireland, working on an estate garden and reed filtration system among other jobs.

I was there 4 amazing years before finally settling back in the Yorkshire Dales, in a small country village just outside of Skipton.

We have a small dog called Ponyo, a cat called Totoro and a lovely brood of back garden hens.

We just have some new bantam chicks on the way to us today too - very exciting!

I love my garden, we’ve worked on it for ten years now, but I’m always altering it. We have just put our 5th big veg plot in but this time we are using it to grow organic mugwort and sacred white sage along with other specialist herbs.

I’m actively involved in village life too, we’ve helped put lots of trees in, build a play park for children and put bird and bat boxes around; I even ran the baby, toddler and mother group for 3 years too, which I absolutely loved! Now we run our family tea business from home and that’s where we are at now.

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What made you realise herbalism was your passion?

Creating potions when I was young was the beginning of this journey, I used to make herbal drinks, rose waters and use petals to dye water too - totally dangerous as I hadn’t a clue what I was using and drinking as I was too young.

I eventually got a book on what herbs I could use and how to survive in the wild, I took that out with me all the time, along with my crystal book.

I loved collecting crystals so much (and still do).

While other girls were buying designer gear and learning how to do makeup, I was out with moss stained jeans building dens and using plants to create water collectors.

I loved skating, biking, and playing army, so I didn’t really fit in well with other girls at first. Most of my friends have been boys until my late 20’s.

I love being alone, especially in the natural world, herbalism and gardening was a way to stay as close to it as possible as an adult.

I worked as a human health advisor for 3 years which specialises in energy testing using hair strands - I helped people discover what supplements they may be in need of and programmed the machines to balance peoples bodies energetically, this I did alongside my herbal studies.

I found that blending tea was my favourite way to use herbs when I studied, so I just rolled with it after using them to help heal friends and family.

The first tea we created to sell was Ghost Rose Tea and is still a top seller, particularly for stressed out, heart broken and in need women.

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How did this lead you to Tarn and Moon – and what does it mean?

I started selling unique natural homeware and plant based skincare that we carefully curated around 2 years back, which then led me to start looking into how I could blend my own teas and start producing them to run alongside as the ones we were stocking weren’t working for our shop.

It was a lot of hard work, and still is, but I really enjoy it. The teas took off and now our main focus is on the tea. The name we came up with at the beginning is based on the stunning wild Malham tarn (mountain lake) near us. It’s my favourite place and I think about it at night to help me get to sleep - so that’s where the moon came in. The tarn is home to unique wildlife and plants too, so it’s very relevant to what we are creating here.

Do you run the business on your own?

I run the business primarily on my own as I really like to be in control of everything, it allows me to get creative as well.

I love drawing and painting and bringing ideas to life.

I do the designing of the labels, tea blending, accounts, marketing etc but as we’ve grown I have my husband Michael helping me out on the ordering and delivery side. My best friend Susie and my mum as the all important sound boards and top tea testers.

What’s your process of creating and packaging your products?

My process changes all the time, as I’m dyslexic, I can work in back to front ways sometimes but I’ve learnt to just go with the energy flow, sometimes a place inspires me, sometimes it’s a person and what they are going through, sometimes the image and name comes first.

I usually come up with a tea blend idea based around one plant, order the fresh organic herbs that might go well with it and then we do lots of taste testing.

Once I’m happy with it, we drink it for a few weeks to really connect with it, send it out to our tea tasters, then we name it, design the label and then finally start to produce the offerings for our customers and cafes.

We always look for organic herbs and the most eco friendly packaging we can, this is slowly changing and improving all the time. The bigger we grow the more green we can become!

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Tell us about the importance of using tea as a ritual. What benefits does it have?

Nowadays if you ask any person you’ll find that they are either stressed, overworked or busy, the importance of tea ritual is that your taking a moment in that day to nourish and slow down, even if it’s only for 5-10 mins.

It can balance you back out and keep you feeling alive and able to cope with things.

Tea ritual can also be a longer moment in a day or night, it can be used as part of something bigger such as a women’s circle, yoga or tarot reading, or it can just be a longer moment of breathing and inner work for yourself as you brew, sip and light some incense and candles.

I personally find it so therapeutic and always feel such gratitude for the nourishment from the tea or tisane when I find my moment to sip. It calms me so much.

Have you collaborated/ partnered much since creating your business?

Yes we’ve done both a few times, but we have more in the pipeline that are secret at the moment.

We have designed some tea blends especially for places too, for example Avalon wellbeing centre at Broughton Hall.

We made a lovely calming nourishing tea for the people who visit this amazing state of the art building for treatments or classes.

We felt so blessed to be asked!

We have also been part of some amazing subscription boxes such as London based Merkababox and Goddess supplies based in the Netherlands.

We are hopefully collaborating with a botanical waters company soon, the amazing moon journal and plant loving milas apothecary too.

We are also just running a fab competition giveaway with some other amazing plant based/vegan/green companies spearheaded by angel face minerals makeup. So many have entered!

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How do you make your products stand out?

I think our products stand out because they have all been designed by us, they have a rustic look rather than overly polished which we feel makes them authentic and more personal. It keeps the spirit of the product connected to its true roots and us.

With being an avid reader of stories and spooky things too, I think we work that into our products to give that gothic vibe alongside the natural look that we also love.

It connects us with like minded people but also offers something different to those who are new to it all.

We feel our products are definitely very us and are unique in quite a few weird and wonderful ways.

What does your typical working day look like and how much does living in the Yorkshire Dales impact this?

My working day starts with packing the kids up at 6.30am and going to work at my morning job with my best friend Susie from cobble kitchen - she owns a vintage van and serves delicious homemade food to people in the Dales and I help her to cook it all.

I help out there till 11.30am then come home for some lunch. I make a big pot of tea and head out to the unit which is a vintage caravan called rocky.

We love working in there, as it’s on our own land and we can keep it totally just for making tea.

It has a bright feel, painted vintage orange inside and we even use a record player to listen to music such as kate bush and ELO.

Once I’m in rocky, I blend, package, dry flowers for parcel decorations, email etc then at 3pm I set off for the school pick up and go drop the parcels at our very tiny post office.

Once home I try not to go back to work but usually once I’ve cleaned the house and made dinner, I go upstairs and do more online work until late at night.

This last year as we’ve picked up, I’ve been working long hours, but it’s worth it.

Living in Yorkshire has played a huge part in making the teas possible, not only is it a lovely place with lots of great artisans and crafters, but it’s also home to some of the most wild breathtaking parts of the UK.

The Brontes, stories of the black dog haunting our valleys, witches and fairies living behind our waterfalls - all help inspire that ghostly darkness in our teas and the craggy green landscape and all it’s plants in places like Malham tarn, call to us to create using its bountiful offerings.

I love the Yorkshire Dales so much.. it would be so very hard to leave here now. The roots are firmly in the ground!

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As a business owner, what perks and struggles have you found running Tarn and Moon, especially as a mother.

I think maybe if someone had told me how hard it was going to be to set up our business, I may have laughed and walked away. Saying that though, I wouldn’t change any lessons I’ve learnt now to be honest.

The thing I’ve found hardest is the lack of clear info and laws on  running a business, and with no previous knowledge I’ve had to hunt so hard to find out how to do things the right way.

No one wants to answer any questions and anyone doing anything similar wants to keep their cards close to their chest.

We have done everything by the books too, making sure we had full insurance, trained on tea courses down in Cornwall, got our 5 star health and hygiene certs etc and with no start up at all we had to put our own money in and grow very slowly.

It’s expensive so a lot of small companies skip these parts.

I always feel a bit frustrated when I see others jumping the queue without their books in order to create things, but at least we know we are doing it the right way and all lawfully.

The thing I’ve personally found the hardest has been juggling and not slacking off in any other part of my life while we’ve grown.

The main stretch has been with our kids Vincent and Poppy, during the school holidays, especially when I have to work in the van, I feel so guilty and I’m sure many parents can relate!

My sons nearly 13 now though and when he’s around he does help me out by going to the post office and posting all the parcels and my daughter being 9 is happy to come in the van and sit and be chief helper (Boss!). She likes to take videos of me blending and then interviews me for her pretend blog! Very sweet! The other thing we have struggled with is people stealing ideas both locally and over the pond. A tea place in America stole my tea name and the blend and sold it as their own. It was so bad I had to just laugh it off. I think at some point soon, we will have to start trademarking.

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Finally, what can we look forward to from Tarn and Moon in the future?

Lots more magical tea blends, we are always looking for stockists too that share our ethos, (please get in touch if your interested) so hopefully the future will be more of our tea being served up and down the country and maybe other countries too?

We are always growing in our shop as well, so definitely more amazing unique products.

I also think we might start including more local herbs and flowers in our teas and tisanes, some we will be homegrown and some will be wild harvested.

We really love what we are doing, I’m so excited for our future  and we have the nicest customers around, it’s been a really amazing adventure so far and we have all learnt so much!

I’m so glad we took the leap into the beautiful world of tea.

Gem Tetley - Chief Tea mixologist for Tarn&Moon.

You can find Tarn and Moon’s products on their shop https://www.tarnandmoon.co.uk/shop and follow them on https://www.instagram.com/tarnandmoon/.

Pollyanna ShawComment