“It’s a combination of art and science.”

Amanda Waterhouse, 39, and Christina Caltagirone, 39, tea crafters

In the basement of Amanda Waterhouse and Christina Caltagirone’s Westerwood home is a laboratory of sorts.

It’s technically a kitchen. But it’s also a mini-manufacturing facility.

It’s where they tinker with leaves, flowers, spices, oils, and all manner of fragrant and tasty edibles to craft their unique, hand-blended flavors.

They’re the Tea Huggers – Greensboro’s homegrown tea mavens who urge you to “drink what makes you happy.”

“A lot of people come to us and say, ‘What tea can I drink to make me skinny? What tea can I drink to solve this problem?’” Christina says. “We say, ‘Oh my god, it’s a beverage. Drink what you like.’”

The Harnett County natives and high school friends moved to Greensboro to study theater at UNCG. They were pursuing careers in that field when gourmet tea shops started popping up in major US cities.

Both lifelong tea drinkers – they decided to jump in. Now 12 years into their partnership, they have an ever-changing rotation of flavors.

Christina is the flavor expert, Amanda says.

“I like to experiment in the kitchen and figure out what tastes like what and how it can go together,” Christina says. “Amanda has described it before as a high school science experiment, which is totally true. I will end up with eight tiny little cups with different ratios of ingredients and we just do a taste test.”

They’ve learned a lot – like how it takes a week or two of seeping to figure out what kind flavor a flower will give.

“Amanda’s palate is way better than mine,” Christina says. “She tastes nuisance a lot better than I do…That’s why it works.”

“It’s a combination of art and science,” Amanda says.

It takes a lot of experimentation, with fair trade ingredients. They’re proud of their orange spice blend. That took ten years to perfect. And they love the Mrs. Fahrenheit, a mint and chili pepper tea that is delicious iced or in a soup.

But this time of year, it’s all about the egg nog chai and all the other winter blends. They’re delicious on their own, of course. Or try them in a cocktail.

“There are so many tea cocktails, and they are so good, too,” Amanda says.

Tea Hugger blends are for sale at the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market and online, and are for sale by the cup local restaurants and coffee shops like Cheesecakes by Alex, Common Grounds, and Undercurrent.

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