Annie Favia’s morning meditation begins with a cup of tea—always loose leaf and preferably wild foraged green. As she waits for her water to reach a roiling boil, about 180 degrees, she carefully selects 5 to 10 leaves and drops them into a glass pot. After she rinses the leaves with a small amount of water, she refills the pot. The 60 seconds it takes for the leaves to brew is her favorite part of the ritual.
“I love watching the leaves slowly unfurl and smelling the aromas they release,” she says. “Herbal teas are brimming with floral, fruit, woody, and earthy components, just like wine.” As the tea steeps, she admires the subtle change in color, then decants the pot before pouring her first cup.
“Herbal teas look and smell so enticing, but you must be patient as the tea cools down,” she says. “If you drink tea when it’s too hot, you’ll miss out on the flavors.” On cool mornings, she wraps her hands around the mug for warmth. While the tea cools, she closes her eyes and takes in the changing aromas. The deep inhales clear her head for the day. “That first cup is my time to think,” she says.
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Once her personal tea ceremony is completed, she retreats to her yoga studio. Favia has had a home practice for the past 15 years, but it was only recently that she created a dedicated space. “It’s my sanctuary,” she says of the light-filled carriage house on her family’s new Napa Valley homestead. “It’s where I set my intention for the rest of the day.”
Using Her Green Thumb to Craft Cult Wines
Before she took up yoga, Favia found her zen in some of Napa Valley’s most renowned vineyards. “There’s a very meditative quality to working the land and being out in nature,” she says. “I find yoga clears my mind just like working in the vineyards does.” She honed her viticulture skills under legendary grape grower David Abreu and is married to winemaker Andy Erickson, who has overseen the cellars of cult producers including Screaming Eagle and Dalla Valle.
In 2003, Favia and her husband launched their own eponymously named label, Favia. Some 15 vintages later, they’ve found a home for their family and their winery on a historic parcel of land in Napa Valley’s Coombsville AVA. Favia puts her green thumb to use in the vineyards, as well as an herbal tea garden. She says she chose to focus on herbal teas because they are caffeine free. “As I get older, my body can’t handle alcohol and caffeine like it used to,” she jokes.
Tea leaves are harvested with just as much care as the grapes, hand-picked to retain their whole flower and leaf, then immediately placed in a temperature controlled drying room to preserve their freshness. The leaves are dried at low temperatures, to capture as many natural oils as possible, so they drink with bright, clean flavors.
Turning Tea into a Business
Favia’s love of tea started way beyond she had her first sip of wine. As a child, she spent hours with her mother picking herbs in the garden for fresh tisanes.
“I still equate sitting and having a cup of tea as shared time with my mom,” she says. When Annie moved to California, she studied with the late tea master, Winnie Yu of Teance in Berkeley, and started growing any varietal she could get her hands on, gifting mason jars of teas to friends. When Favia’s mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer a few years ago, she gifted her daughter $10,000 to start the tea business she dreamed of.
Last year, Favia launched ERDA, a loose leaf tea company aimed at making Americans treat tea as if it were a fine Cabernet. “The American tea culture extends to a bag in a paper cup that we drink on the go,” she says. “I think tea should help people slow down.”
How to Drink Tea Like a Sommelier
Like an aged wine, a quality tea evolves over time, says Favia. After the first pour, the leaves can be re-infused up to five times and each new cup will offer subtle, yet distinct characteristics. “The entire process is a sensory evaluation, similar to how you’d enjoy a fine wine,” she explains. “Sight, smell, and taste all unfold. You get so much more out of the experience if you are sitting and enjoying the tea as a mindful practice, rather than brewing it quickly and taking it to go.”
Annie says her biggest take away from a three-day tea preparation workshop with Winnie Yu was how mindful the entire process can be. The actual tea preparation helps get you in the mindset of drinking more thoughtfully: Favia carefully chooses her tea leaves and always uses a glass pot to ensure the brightest flavors. Just as a sommelier decants a bottle of wine to let it breathe, Annie allows each cup a moment to cool and open up. She takes a deep inhalation before her first sip, contemplating the aroma. “Just like wine, the tea should have an entry, middle, and finish,” she says. She notes the change in color and taste from her first cup to her fifth.