Paula Shaw owner of ‘Cured Tea Leaves’, and online tea company. (Courtesy Photo)

By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer
Report for America Corps Member

Before Paula Shaw started her online tea business, she was a competitive bodybuilder, who dedicated herself to the sport to fend off generational health conditions, like diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Her passion for health quickly expanded into becoming vegan, taking herbs for holistic health and becoming a yoga instructor and breath master to help her with mindfulness and tranquility. But, in 2017, Shaw experienced a serious anxiety attack. She was scared. Her heart was racing and her blood pressure was higher than it had ever been. 

“I didn’t know where it was coming from because I thought that I was living this lifestyle that would support me and sustain me through yoga, through eating plant-based foods and taking herbs,” said Shaw. “For me, it was a little embarrassing because I almost felt a little hypocritical that I was promoting a mindful life, and now I’m suffering from anxiety.”

The attack led Shaw to research more herbs, and eventually, she encountered the camellia sinensis, which is more commonly known as the tea plant. After looking into its long history, Shaw discovered how people in foreign countries relied on tea to help support their mental health through mindfulness and decided to give it a try with the hope that it could ease her anxiety.

Fortunately, the tea plant helped. Shaw had several other anxiety attacks, but she turned to tea to get through them.

“It helped me to cope through those times, and they haven’t been as bad as the initial one,” said Shaw. “I really deal with it now every now and again, when those anxious type feelings come up, I have tea to support.” 

Shaw sought to provide others with this source of relief and wellness, especially after witnessing the distress COVID-19 caused, and in June, she was finally ready to launch Cured Leaves Tea.

Before the launch, Shaw did extensive research into the origins of the tea plant and discovered, to her surprise, that it grew in Africa. Now, all of Shaw’s teas are sourced from farms on the continent, including Kenya, Malawi and Rwanda. They range in flavor from East African Currant to Green Mint Magic and remain in their whole leaf form, providing drinkers with antioxidants and other medicinal properties. 

The company gets its name from the curation process and its logo is the tree of life, which portrays the human experience. The roots in the tree are in the shape of Africa.

“The reason we did that is because that’s where our extra roots come from as Black Americans in the diaspora, and coming from those roots is almost unknown so our roots are kind of dangling on their own,” said Shaw. “Because of that uncertainty and that unknowingness, we do develop, we still develop, we still grow, we’re still resilient and we can still be that beautiful life that becomes a tree.” 

Shaw does not want people to think of her business as just simply a tea company. Instead, it is a movement to promote mindfulness and community through tea. 

“We want to be the force for people to have affordable tea,” said Shaw. “We want to provide equity in tea by going to different locations and different communities and telling them about this healing telling them about this tool that they can have access to.” 

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