Walk in the door of the Light of Day Organics tea shop, and the first thing you’ll notice is the smell. Rose, lavender, lemon and other fragrances make the first step in the door a sensory one. They emanate from whatever tea is being packaged and subtly scent a guests’ first impression.
“We always have soothing and calming music on. We want the experience of coming into our shop to be as fully sensory as possible,” said Angela Macke, owner of Light of Day Organics. Macke is putting Michigan on the tea map with her Traverse City-based tea farm and shop.
The world collectively drinks about six billion cups of tea per day, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Much of world’s tea is grown in tropical and subtropical environments, in regions of Kenya, Sri Lanka and China, among others, but tea farms are increasingly appearing on U.S. soils. Seventeen states now support one or more, according to World of Tea, a leading online blog on the subject. In Michigan, there is only one.
Macke’s involvement with tea began in 1993 during her last year of nursing school. She was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease and wasn’t happy with the results of using prescribed medications. She decided to take control of her health using a more natural approach.
“I moved to Maui to study alternative medicine,” said Macke, a native of Whitehall. “Instead of medicine being created in a lab to represent a plant, we worked with plants that actually work in nature.”
In 2002, she circled back to working with plants and began growing and making tea as a hobby, gifting tea to family and friends during the holidays. But when she decided to donate some tea to a conference she was attending, a restauranteur approached her about purchasing her tea for her new business.
“I agreed to take on this one account,” Macke said. A business was born. It soon grew to supplying food co-ops, farmers markets and others. Light of Day Organics now offers more than 60 tea varieties, about 60 percent of which are grown and processed on-site. Her offerings range from classic green, black and white teas, to more unique, specialty teas like Matcha, Oolong and Pu-erh.
The 75-acre property houses the tea shop, two yurt-style buildings where Macke holds tea, health and wellness classes, as well as hoop houses that allow her to grow tea plants in Michigan’s nontropical climate. While the teas and shop are reason enough to visit, the farm and its operations are why customers return again and again.
“Our typical customer respects our mission statement and seeks out organic and biodynamic farming practices,” said Kristen Ryder, a Light of Day Organics employee.
Light of Day Organics is the only certified organic and certified biodynamic tea farm in North America, according to Macke, who said biodynamic farming methods are used by many farming sectors but is sometimes misunderstood due to its esoteric practices.
“It’s hard to explain how it works, but it’s also hard to explain why the sun rises every day,” Macke said. “Science demonstrates that food grown using this method is nutritionally better for your body, and it almost always has a greater yield.”
Macke said biodynamic farming is considered the highest standard for commercially grown food, and it is extremely good for the earth. Biodynamic farmers, like Macke, utilize and follow the lunar cycle. They also create homeopathic remedies.
“The farm is a truly special place. It has an energy of its own, which I believe is attributed to the biodynamic practices,” Ryder said.
While Macke loves growing and making tea, for her, it’s about the perfect blend of her passions.
“It’s been a brilliant way to combine my love of nursing and my love of botanicals and naturalistic health,” she said.
“It’s been so satisfying.”
For more information about Light of Day Organics, visit lightofdayorganics.com.
Megan Westers is a freelance writer based in mid-Michigan who enjoys writing about food, beverage and travel.