All photos c/o of MoodTea
"Everything that I do, I try to do it to completion. I'm super empathetic and I genuinely care about people, sometimes too much."
These words perfectly describe Iaisha Munnerlyn as a human being. It is no surprise that Iaisha was inspired to establish MoodTea, a Brooklyn-based tea experience company with a mission to make an impact on the quality of mental health in our communities.
Today, Iaisha shares with us tea's connection with mental health, how the tea and coffee worlds intersect, and her favorite morning ritual.
We love MoodTea’s mission of making an impact on the quality of mental health in our communities. Tell us about your journey and what inspired your mission?
I had the opportunity to stay home during the pandemic for 3 months having the chance to just sit, meditate and digest my feelings and thoughts. I asked myself what can I create that is meaningful and also make it a scalable idea. I had already had the passion for tea, but I never had the chance to reflect and realize how tea has helped my mental health journey. With self-work, therapy, and just being more self-aware, I have had the space to start feeling better. I wanted to be able to give this gift to others.
Why do you think tea is so deeply connected to mental health?
The purpose for tea was always connected with tapping into our minds. [I wanted us to] come together as a community to take in this physical element, but also to bring awareness to our mental health. In a world where we are forced to be immune to horrible events, sometimes a break to focus on you and your mind is priceless. I can't sell that, but I can at least create the Mood for others to get there even if for a moment.
We hear that you are also a barista and coffee trainer! How do the tea world and coffee world intersect for you?
In 2015, I left the coffee industry for retail management thinking the salary was worth the stress. I have since returned, but while in the retail space I obtained a position at a tea company where they sent away all the store managers to a retreat. Here is where I first experienced a cupping— it was tea. That weekend away at the retreat, I was able to connect to a new level of understanding and love for tea. Although I am still involved in the coffee industry, it's for a purpose. I want to change the perception that quality tea doesn't stand up next to a great cup of coffee. Give some respect to tea!
How did you go about creating the formulation for your signature Chai Concentrate?
MoodTea Chai Concentrate was created in the kitchen of LinkedIn NYC. I spent 3 months playing with ingredients, brewing the tea using different methods, and then finally said this is it! I used to host "Chai Day Fridays " at the coffee bar, and we always sold out. I've since formulated the recipe a tad differently, but I'll never forget the origin.
What is your favorite way (or recipe) to prepare your chai drink?
I've been baking with MoodTea. I made some Vegan Nutter Butter Chai Brownies— and wow! But as far as a drink, pairing chai with a citrus fruit with a little buzz does the trick every time. I want to eventually get feedback from others on how they've been enjoying the Mood. Stay tuned for our recipe book on the website too.
Do you have other favorite go-to teas to help lift your mood or nurture your mental spirit?
There is something about matcha tea in the morning that does it all for me. I am also a fangirl for a good cup of mint tea with a dash of oat milk.
What are some things about the tea community that would surprise people?
That there is actually community! Also, I was surprised about how easy going everyone was— the coffee community is a bit intense at times, so that shift was comforting for me.
What does your favorite tea ritual look like? What are you currently drinking or enjoying the most?
I wake up in the morning, fill up my kettle with some spring water, stare at my tea wall and decide my mood expectations for that moment. Based on that self-assessment, I brew something up and take it outside to the balcony. I sip tea and listen to the birds sing and notice what tree has suddenly grown its flowers for the season. I am currently blending herbal teas for a new product line, so I've been mostly sipping on those.