BEHIND CLOSED DOORS: EMILY ERB

Emily Erb came to tea from the coffee and restaurant world. Her love for ingredients, sourcing, and rich flavors marry with her partner Anna Morton's interest in the medicinal properties of plants to create some of our favorite teas in the pantry. Their blends rely on local to Northern California ingredients and satisfy all through the day, morning till night. Besides concepting and drinking tea, Emily has a deep interest in cooking, meditation and the stillness that the morning hours offer her. Residing most of the time in Berkeley, lately she's been spending time in Kauai and is sharing what her kitchen and days look like on the island. Read on to discover what's behind her closed doors.

What is your food philosophy? 

Keep pleasure at the forefront of eating.

Eat foods that make you vibrant and feel good in your body, eliminate foods that don’t.

Food is medicine, so invest in high quality, organic ingredients for your health.

Eat what is grown nearby, in season, and use everything you buy.

Over the years I have tried to find balance between eliminating foods that don’t make me feel good, without making it feel restrictive. I want to love what I eat and more importantly to enjoy sharing meals with people I love, so I don’t adhere to rigid rules. As I’ve become more attuned to what works for my body, it’s easier to not focus on what I don’t eat, knowing that I am feeding my body what will make it feel strong, capable and nourished. For me, this means a diet centered around fresh produce, I would say 75% of what I eat comes from the farmer's market. I am committed to a plant rich diet, for my health and the health of our planet.

 

How were you introduced to the power of plants? 

I grew up in a household that primarily used western medicine and antibiotics to treat illnesses. I became intrigued in how alternative medicine, herbs and supplements can support health by observing friends choose these modalities when their own health was compromised.

I moved to NYC after high school to pursue modern dance and attend college. I worked in cafes to support myself, so was immersed in various communities where health and food were central in everyone’s life. I struggled with my relationship to body image and food in my early twenties and my health became compromised because of this. I ended up turning towards people in my community who celebrated food and used plants to support their health. These individuals acted as guides for how to re-establish my relationship to food and health. This was the first connection I felt to the power of plants and their ability to nourish and heal the body.

 

Tell us about Leaves and Flowers and how it came to be.

I spent years working in the coffee industry and was immersed in the local restaurant scene because of this. I found that over time I didn’t feel my best with the overindulgent lifestyle and long work hours that these industries promote.  I started envisioning what a balanced, sustainable career in food and beverage could entail. Owning my own company felt appealing because I could create my own framework for a healthy work / life balance. Around this time, I met my business partner Anna and we formed a friendship. We felt very aligned in our desires for work and started having conversations about collaborating on something together. She came to the concept of Leaves and Flowers with a stronger relationship to plants as medicine, I came from more of a culinary flavor perspective. We started drying herbs from local farms and found the vibrancy, potency and flavor was so much more pronounced than what we ever purchased in stores. Tea allows people to interact with the power of plants in such an approachable way. Some of our blends are medicinally focused, yet all are flavor driven and quite simple in composition, which allows customers to interact with each ingredient visually and through taste. I am still so inspired daily, when I drink our tea and feel nourished, not depleted.How do you start the day? 

I am a morning person and like to have some time for myself before my workday starts. My friends joke that my mornings revolve around various beverages!  I always start my day by rinsing my face with cold water and applying my face serums and oils – right now primarily from Marie Veronique, then I’ll make a cup of hot water with lemon. I immediately proceed to make a cup of caffeinated tea that I drink before I meditate. Somedays though I’ll take my tea to the Berkeley Hills for a morning hike, or curl up on my couch and read, or do some yoga and stretching. Finally, I’ll move on to coffee and breakfast.

 

What's always in your fridge? 

I am the queen of homemade jam and nut butters and always have a couple of jars of each in my fridge. I just made a nut butter with cashews, sesame seeds, and a big scoop of CAP coconut butter that is insanely delicious. Miso, sauerkraut and preserved lemons are always on hand. I keep lemons, limes, homemade fruit shrubs and sparkling water chilled to make yummy non-alcoholic drinks in the evenings. My produce drawers are generally stuffed with vegetables and herbs that vary with the season.

 

What’s always in your pantry?

There is a ton of waste from packaged goods—something that my company Leaves and Flowers thinks about regularly and tries to improve upon. Because of this, I am committed to buying in bulk as much as possible. The bay area has some great food stores that carry a lot of the amazing producers I love in their bulk section.

I love beans and lentils and am devoted to Rancho Gordo.  I got a donabe last year to cook rice in and it was a game changer, I buy Masa Organics brown rice and Koda Farm Japanese white rice. I’m obsessed with Alma Semillera masa for making fresh corn tortillas. Seka Hills olive oil is my go-to, you can purchase it in 3-liter boxes.  I keep my nuts and seeds in the freezer and always have a variety on hand. Tinned fish, homemade granola and dates are usually in my cupboard. I use a lot of spices and vinegars in my cooking; I love Diaspora spices and Katz vinegars! My tea shelf is overflowing with single dried herbs, Leaves and Flowers botanicals and caffeinated teas, plus a rotation of samples that we are constantly getting from various farms.

 

What do you turn to, to make you feel your best: food and all the other practices?

The pandemic and resulting isolation of the last year and a half made me realize that all of my self-care practices don’t matter if I can’t engage with the people I love. So most importantly, my friends and family. Movement of any kind brings me joy and can shake me out of a mental funk.  Being outside on a mountain or in any body of water, preparing a meal and enjoying it with someone, and holding space for simple daily rituals, like preparing tea each morning are all ways to make me feel inspired, invigorated, and in my body.

 

What is your favorite way to drink tea?

Tea can be such a soothing solo act, but when I make tea for others it really opens up the opportunity to remain present and engaged. I’ve found myself in amazing conversations with strangers and old friends over cups of tea that might not have happened otherwise.

When is your favorite time of day to drink tea?

I love bookending my days with tea. I look forward to my first cup of tea, early in the morning, when the world still seems to be waking. Brewing my first cup as the sun rises, stepping outside to feel the temperature of the air while holding a warm teacup. Then at night, in preparation for sleep a warm cup of herbal tea feels so grounding and relaxing.

 

Do you have a favorite ritual?

My daily ritual: making tea, lighting incense, sitting for meditation. Being outside, even for a moment and moving my body.

My yearly ritual: making sure I am in and around the ocean (or a body of water) on my birthday.

 

   

How do you end your day?

This isn’t daily, but an ideal way to end my day is to take a hot bath in my clawfoot tub and then do a full body oil massage with Everyday Oil, my favorite body oil of all time. I always make one of our herbal infusions, lately I have been gravitating towards our Digestive Seed Tea. I recently started painting or drawing for an hour or so before hopping into bed, which is so calming.

TOASTED DIGESTIVE SEED TEA SALT 

I LOVE salt and a chef friend once used our tea in a salt blend for a dinner that knocked my socks off, this inspired me to use our Digestive Seed Tea for culinary purposes.

 

2T Digestive Seed Tea

2T CAP Pink Mountain Salt 

 

  • Toast the tea in a skillet, until you smell the aromatics of the spices and they just start to darken in color.
  • Put tea in a mortar and pestle and grind down to a medium fine powder.
  • Add salt and if needed, mortar and pestle together to break down the salt a bit.
  • To store: keep your jar of Seed Salt in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight.

 

Ideas for usage:

Sprinkled over raw vegetables on a crudité platter

Steam carrots and toss with extra virgin olive oil and seed tea salt

Fold into homemade hummus

Add to black lentils or kitchari

Mix into yogurt and use on roasted cauliflower

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