Brittany and Joey Wight launched Wight Tea Co. three years ago this May, turning their shared passion into a product line chock full of delicious and surprising flavors. The sipping siblings want to challenge the stereotype that tea is just for drinking curled up under a blanket while the snow falls. We got a chance to sit down with the Wights to chat about spring and summer teas, how they craft their blends, and the future of the business.
Do you have any special memories or stories connected to tea?
Joey: Every Sunday at our grandmother’s house, we would pack 15, 20 people in her tiny apartment, and after dinner the men would all go watch TV. I don’t really care for football, so I’d stay with all our aunts, mother, grandmother, female cousins, and we’d sit around the dinner table drinking tea and talking. I’d go through all the different teas in Grandma’s cabinet, seeing what I liked and didn’t like.
Brittany: I just really enjoy waking up and making the tea and being quiet, when the light is still coming up. It’s this peaceful moment I have to myself. And my favorite thing to do is to go over to our parents’ house, and we sit around the dining room table and drink tea together.
What was the inspiration behind Wight Tea Company?
J: As young as 7, I started reading every book I could find, researching tea on the internet, trying to find new things to try.
B: We’re seven years apart, so at that age we didn’t really talk much. After I graduated from UMBC, Joey encouraged me to get a job at a tea shop. All of a sudden, I realized I loved it.
J: And when I reached working age, I started working at the same shop. We started sharing blends we would make with each other.
What is it like working together as siblings?
B: We have a good checks and balances system. When I feel like I’m uncertain about something, Joey is very certain, and vice versa.
J: We know each other so well. We can read each other a little differently than you just could with the average coworker or business partner. Every time someone asks if I’m in business with partners, I say, “Yeah, it’s my sister,” and they’re always like “Oh, I’m so sorry,” and it’s like no, you should really give it a shot!
What’s the best thing about being a small business owner in Baltimore?
B: I really love business in Baltimore specifically because of how supportive it is. I love making friends and connections through supporting other small businesses. It’s my tribe, and I love seeing everybody succeed.
J: If you have trouble finding resources or information, someone in business that’s a similar size is always willing to help you track it down. It’s a really helpful community.
Coffee has been trendy for so long, do you see a similar focus and attention growing for tea?
B: Absolutely. Tea is already popular, especially among millennials. That age set is drinking as much tea as they are coffee. I think that people are opening up to it, realizing they can have a very high-end experience with tea.
J: If you look at the coffee industry, there are coffee beans from different parts of the world, processed in different ways and roasted and brewed with all different techniques, and the same thing goes with tea. Tea tastes different depending on where it comes from, based on the pH of the soil, the mineral content of the soil, how high up it was grown, how it was processed once it was picked—there are thousands of factors that go into the flavor of tea. That’s really the fun part for me is understanding why it tastes that way, and you can have that elevated experience while seeking out variety.
B: People are starting to wake up to the idea that if you care about your coffee menu, you need to start caring about your tea menu as well.
What makes the perfect cup of spring tea?
J: If it’s a spring morning and I can make a leisurely cup of tea, I’m doing a jasmine green tea with some local honey. It’s light, it’s floral, and the green tea notes really bring it down a little bit.
B: As spring comes I want something a little lighter, something brighter, which is the Sage Rose, or something along the lines of a little floral, or a little fruity, but nothing too heavy.
J: Spring is also harvest season for the tea we use for our Marquess Grey, my favorite time of year!
B: It’s only picked in March and April, and it’s the first buds, so we’re sitting on the edge of our seats.
J: It’s a luxurious tea we would buy for ourselves. And then we made a tea blend out of it, and people loved it. I can’t wait to have it back in stock in May.
B: That will be a great spring tea, too. It’s an earl grey, which is a kind of basic tea everyone knows about, but ours is a different earl grey experience.
How do you come up with your flavors?
J: We begin looking at ingredients that we like and think are different. We’re not just going to make a basic tea. For example, the Tropical Green Tea. We wanted something to fill that gap in our product line, but neither of us likes fruity teas that are heavy and dense. We knew what we wanted and what we didn’t, but we also wanted to make it a little different. So we put coconut in it. Or with the Blueberry Lemon Basil, we added the basil. Blueberry and lemon is delicious, but we wanted something to differentiate and make it pop.
B: And with the Sage Rose, we added the lemongrass. It always starts with thinking about flavors that I enjoy. We’ll kind of brainstorm back and forth about different combinations, and we’ll get the ingredients to make little test batches. We’ll have a test cup together, we’ll talk about what we like, what we don’t like, what to add, what to subtract.
J: Sage Rose almost didn’t happen. One time it tasted too much like moss, the next time it tasted like potpourri, we kept going back and forth that line in the middle of balanced flavor, and then right as I was about to give up, we made one final blend, and it was amazing.
What are your recommendations for enjoying tea in warm weather?
B: Our most popular blend, Tropical Green Tea, is a summertime favorite. It’s a green tea with tons of fruits, and it’s so delicious and light. We also just released Blueberry Basil Rooibos with Lemon, which is a great caffeine-free tea.
J: It’s easy drinking. The thing I really love about Blueberry Basil on a hot day is when you’re drinking something with some of those more savory tones in a tea, it can be cooling.
B: When our Sage Rose tea is made iced, the sage has this buttery, refreshing smoothness.
Any summer trends in the tea world to keep an eye out for?
B: We just started making tea-flavored cotton candies, which are really fun and great for the summer. Right now, we have a green tea, black tea, and earl grey flavor, and we have those at all of our events.
J: In a couple months, we hope to have cotton candies that taste like our own tea blends.
B: Cold brew is going to be hot for the summer, too. It’s so simple, you just put your tea in cold water and leave it in the fridge overnight.
J: It’s great because you won’t release the tannins out of the tea leaves since you’re not getting it hot enough, just lots of flavor.
B: You can also mix in soda water with your tea, which is great for summer. It’s so light!
What does the future hold for Wight Tea Co.?
J: We’re working on becoming more visible in Baltimore and the DMV area through wholesale to restaurants, bars, other local businesses.
B: In the broader future we’re looking to get into warehouse space, to up our production on a much larger scale.
You guys are also very vocal about educating your customers.
B: Absolutely. We’re always happy to educate people on how to make proper tea at home. Like matcha, which is on trend right now and we can teach you how do it right.
J: A lot of people think they hate matcha because they’ve had it made poorly. It can be lumpy and bitter made wrong, but if you have it hand-whisked the proper way, it can be so velvety and smooth.
B: We always have tastings at events, and love to talk with people how to make it right.
J: We both have this experience a lot where we make tea for someone and they absolutely love it, but they won’t do it at home. And I always say I’m more than happy to show them how. As long as that means they’re going to enjoy tea, whether it’s our tea or tea they found somewhere else, that’s my goal. I just want people to open themselves up to the world of possibility with tea.