Tea-shop family have all their passions under one roof
When Jeff and Alisha Swientek decided to relocate from Florida to buy a small spice-and-tea store in downtown Hendersonville in 2019, Jeff admits it was his wife’s idea, and he was doubtful. He worked in IT as a software specialist when he suddenly lost the job he’d been working for more than a decade. “It really, obviously, changed my perspective,” he says. “There was a point at which I was going to clean pools for a living. The job fell through in August, and by Christmas we owned a tea shop.”
As Alisha busied herself with the business side of things — she also works in real estate and insurance — Jeff found himself going through a crash course in tea cultures from around the world. “He really took it to the next level,” says Alisha.
When they bought Spice It Up, which still has a location in Black Mountain, the shop was basically a bulk and package store — a place to buy spices with a few British-style tea blends here and there. But along with the name change, Spice of Life & Variety Tea has a much more tea-driven focus. The Swienteks have built a tea lounge in the back of the store with custom-built tea tables, traditional tea services, and have greatly bulked up the varieties, with more than 125 teas ranging from Japanese Sencha to Chinese fermented Pu’Erh.
“I never drank tea in my life until January of 2019,” Jeff admits. “I just started reading, and I learned the different types of tea and tea cultures. And at age 50, I found a passion that I didn’t know I had, and ironically, it’s playing with little bitty tea cups and teaware. I can’t get enough of it.”
Jeff isn’t the only one in the family finding his passion in the shop. Their daughter Madison Young is helping to curate medicinal herbs and makes a house kombucha. Another big change to the store has been the addition of their online market — a welcome relief for the burgeoning business owners once the pandemic hit.
“A lot of our local people switched to online during that time,” says Alisha, noting that up to 70 percent of their online orders were from locals. It’s a particularly useful service for anyone seeking spices that aren’t in most grocery stores. She also mentions their “huge wall of rubs” in house, including BBQ and seafood seasoning and blends from Ethiopia and the Middle East.
“We have a lot of stuff that is hard to find.”
Spice of Life & Variety Tea, 240 North Main St., Hendersonville, open for retail and tea service, 11am-5pm Monday through Saturday and 12-5pm Sunday. Call 828-692-6363 or see the shop’s Facebook page for updates. Visit spiceoflifeinc.com for online ordering and more information.