From $100 and a few jars of tea, to biting her nails watching the old Jaffray Hotel be shipped down the road, Krista Oestreich organic tea business has come a long way in a year.
The entrepreneur from Grasmere has started an organic, fair trade tea company in the South Country, frequenting markets and craft sales in southern Alberta and the East Kootenay.
“I brought it to Griz Days and the rest is history,” she says, standing in front of her rows of tea in fine china cups at the Fernie Holiday Craft Fair.
With a degree in horticulture, Oestreich was searching for a way to use her degree in a lucrative, creative way.
She grew herbs to mix with teas, to create unique tisanes that she tested out on friends and family.
However, with the demand for tea that grew out of Griz Days last year, she simply couldn’t keep up. Now, Oestreich sources all of her organic ingredients and mixes her tea recipes from her home. “I come up with the blends on my own,” she said, explaining that blends like Vanilla Sarsaparilla are inspired by her friend, who loves licorice.
“It’s so good,” she said, explaining that she dragged her feet making the blend, because she didn’t like licorice at all. “It’s my new favourite.”
Her children have become tea connoisseurs, sampling their mother’s creations at night in dainty ceramic cups.
Even the ceramic cups holding the display samples of loose tea have a story. Each floral printed, gold-leafed cup is from an adventure around the world. Not hers, but of a lady who left her nephew in Cranbrook an extensive teacup collection.
Oestreich is continuing to build on the denim and pearls, rustic, yet dainty aesthetic of her tea company.
Come summer, she will have her very own tea shop just off the highway on her property in Grasmere, inside the newly relocated Jaffray Hotel.
It was about to be demolished last summer when Oestreich decided to purchase it and have it shipped down the road.
“It’s one of the original buildings in the South Country,” she said, explaining that while she is from Alberta, her husband grew up in Grasmere and their family has a connection to the history of the community.
She says that many local farms and historical buildings were lost in the flood of Lake Koocanusa.
“You don’t want to see these things go,” she said, adding that even some of the people living in Jaffray and the South Country have grandparents that frequented the pub that ran inside the old hotel decades ago.
The move was tough though.
Oestreich received a permit to move the extra-wide building down the highway, but it didn’t move in one piece. Crews had to cut the roof off in the process.
“It was dramatic,” she said. “All I could think about was this old building exploding on the highway.”
Now, the building is back in one piece and resting on her property. It needs a full restoration to be operational by summer, but the presence of the structure is already drawing in curious travellers.
“I’m a big devil dreams on an idle horse type of girl,” she said. “Don’t sit still, make it work.”