Community, tea at CommuniTEA
- Published: September 1, 2023
For many, making a cup of tea is not an event all on its own, but rather a prelude to whatever comes next — a cup of tea to start the day, or get through an afternoon meeting, or wind down before bedtime.
For local mother-daughter team Amy and Modjeska Chavez of CommuniTEA Love, however, the making and drinking of tea is itself the grand affair.
The new Dayton Street location of CommuniTEA Love is not a storefront — the tea blends will be sold online, though they may in the future be available at other brick and mortar locations around the Miami Valley. Instead, the Chavezes aim to use the space to host events, circles and parties that educate about how to blend and use herbs, create community connections and encourage folks to check in with themselves over a cup of tea.
The News spoke with Amy and Modjeska Chavez recently at their new headquarters — while drinking tea, naturally. The spicy, herbal VitaliTEA blend had been freshly brewed, and incorporated nettle, hawthorn berry and leaf, ginger, hibiscus, passionflower, oatstraw and spearmint — herbs that have been used for centuries for everything from anti-inflammatory benefits to supporting heart health.
“It’s a great blend for daily use — and it’s delicious,” daughter Modjeska Chavez said.
“And that’s where some [herbal teas] kind of miss the boat,” mother Amy Chavez added.
Flavor profile is as important as the potential health benefits at CommuniTEA Love. A craft bartender for several years, Modjeska Chavez said she’s spent years learning how to balance and blend complex flavors — a kind of alchemy that she said translates well to blending teas.
“There are notes that you want to hit,” she said. “Some herbs, if you’re not used to drinking green leaves, might taste to you like grass or straw, so you add ginger, which tastes great — but you don’t want to just throw in a whole bunch of ginger, because then it takes over everything. So you need to balance the flavors.”
She added that the herbs used in CommuniTEA blends are sourced from two organic wholesalers out of Oregon: Frontier Co-Op and Mountain Rose Herbs.
The Chavezes have long shared a family love and study of herbal practice: Amy Chavez began learning about plants and herbalism when she was 18, and as a young mother, took 6-month-old Modjeska Chavez to her first herbal conference in Northern California.
For the younger Chavez, it was that long connection that helped incite the beginnings of CommuniTEA Love; last fall, she said she told her mom she was interested in getting back to her “herb roots,” and the elder Chavez said she’d recently spoken with another person who had expressed a desire to learn about herbal practices.
That conversation spurred the idea of putting together a home apothecary kit, making it easier for folks to learn about how to use herbs on their own. And that conversation, in turn, spurred even more ideas.
“Little by little, everything just kind of started to make sense,” Modjeska Chavez said. “If we’re going to do the apothecary kit, we should probably go ahead and make [herbal] blends, too. If we’re going to make blends, we should teach people how to use herbs and what they can do with them.”
She added: “We realized we really wanted to make it accessible for people — not just sell people teas, which are delicious, but also give them a really clear, safe place to learn more about using herbs in their everyday lives.”
To that end, this fall, CommuniTEA Love will host a series of workshops on a variety of herb-related subjects, from blending teas and making syrups, to preparing tinctures and vinegars to adding the practices of herbal medicine to daily meals. Another series, the “Bodies of Wisdom Circle Series,” is described as a “five-week deep dive exploration into healing” and, in addition to herbal practices, Modjeska Chavez said, will touch on a variety of other approaches to healing.
“We’re going to look at the different body systems and then talk about the foods and the herbs and bodywork or breathwork or yoga — the different healing modalities specific to each system,” she said. “Because we’ve lost learning that — people don’t know about their digestive system or their nervous system or the endocrine system, how they’re connected and how to support them.”
Amy Chavez added that she hopes the events will also help participants engage not only with themselves, but with one another, building new relationships.
“It’s a different way of getting social engagement, because whether it’s a workshop or a circle, in some ways, it’s a safer way to meet people because there’s rules of engagement,” she said. “Whether we’re talking about health, or herbs, or feelings or parenting, it’s like our purpose for coming together is in the center of the circle.”
The Chavezes will also offer after-school tea parties to kids ages 6–12, which will include herbal education, blending and drinking tea, meditation and journaling/drawing. They added that, if there’s interest from teenagers in a similar event or practice, they’d be thrilled to take it on.
“I’m absolutely excited and willing to do programs for all the ages in town — we’re open to all ages, all bodies, all genders, all abilities,” Modjeska Chavez said. “We want this to be an intergenerational space where the focus is on healing.”
Amy Chavez added: “You can’t really heal if it’s not intergenerational anyway.”
An understanding of healing as being intergenerational, and relational in general, is part of Amy Chavez’s work as a practitioner of somatic healing — a practice that integrates body and mind in addressing trauma.
“[Somatic] work is based on learning how to regulate, learning to understand generational trauma and patterns of behavior,” Amy Chavez said.
With that in mind, CommuniTEA Love will also offer somatic work, both through regular, biweekly sessions open to anyone who registers, and through individual sessions and in private consultation. Amy Chavez’s somatic work encompasses a range of methods, including focus on the body’s movement, breathing, meditation and herbal or nutritional consultation, among others.
Amy Chavez said this work is her particular passion — especially when it comes to working with families.
“There’s so much emphasis on behavior; what I teach and work with is understanding that first it’s the body, and then it’s the brain, and then it’s the behavior,” she said. “If we understand how the nervous system actually works in relationship, then we have a different framework and different tools to work with each other and work with ourselves that are not shaming and blaming.”
The CommuniTEA Love space will also serve as a Greene County anchor for Trauma and Resiliency Informed Birth Education, or T.R.I.B.E., a pilot program Amy Chavez helped launch earlier this year. As the News reported in January, T.R.I.B.E. is geared toward bolstering the health and wellbeing of healthcare practitioners involved in maternity care by providing training in trauma-informed principles.
One of the T.R.I.B.E. practitioners, Shaiyanne Myrick, was on hand at the CommuniTEA Love space during the News visit, having just finished a session with Amy Chavez. She was there with her infant, Noah, and said that her relationship with CommuniTEA began during her pregnancy, when she drank both the ImmuniTEA Chai and Prenatal tea blends to help her through the sickness that often comes during the first trimester. Since then, she said, she’s continued drinking CommuniTEA blends — not only for use as nourishment after nursing her son, but also as a form of practice unto itself.
“It’s like me putting that intention back into myself,” Myrick said. “So yes, it has nutrients, but doing slow practices like making and drinking tea just calms you and soothes you. It’s a lifestyle change, inviting calmness and stillness into your life.”
“It literally feels like filling the well before giving back,” Amy Chavez added.
“And it can be really empowering,” Modjeska Chavez said. “Part of what we want to show people is that herbal health doesn’t have to be difficult or disgusting — it can be really fun and it can be really easy.”
To learn more about CommuniTEA Love’s herbal tea blends and upcoming programming, go online to communitealove.org.