Tea-prenuer Stephanie Synclair shares how she is elevating the wellness game one cup at a time.
Making sure you are taking care of yourself is becoming more and more important every day. But what does that really mean? It can look different for everybody. But at its core, it’s about taking time for yourself. Whether that be meditating, slapping a mask on your face or simply as having a cup of tea.
Enter Stephanie Synclair, the founder and CEO of La Rue 1680, a luxury loose-tea and home lifestyle brand that focuses on the mind-body wellness connection. Her artisanal teas provide a high-quality solution for those who desire an organic and more nutritional alternative to traditional bagged teas while savoring their alone time .
Synclair launched her business during the pandemic, late in 2020, when she started to reflect on her own stress-reducing daily rituals. Immediately she knew that her custom blends of tea, that she had been making for the women she privately coached for years, was it. Within months, she was researching manufacturers the next day and La Rue1680 was born. With the help of pop culture's obsession with The Crown” and Bridgerton, La Rue 1680 became an instant success with a $2.7M valuation in a matter of months.
EBONY spoke with Synclair to spill the tea on how we can live out our "Bridgerton" inspired fantasies, and how to find the perfect blends that will support our wellness needs.
EBONY: What first brought you to the world of tea?
Stephanie Synclair: I'm a lifelong entrepreneur, and I've been running a consulting company now going into our 13th year. A few years into having the consulting company, I decided I wanted to travel the world and that was my first real peek into the world of tea. I spent a lot of time travelling throughout Asia. What occurred to me is that we really don't have a tea culture in the United States like in Asia, Europe, and the rest of the world. I thought it would be nice if someone brought that culture to the U.S., but at that time I really didn’t think that it would be me.
During the pandemic, I really started carving out more time for myself. I’m a mom and I need that sacred time and space. That means journaling and my tea time. The problem was finding really great tea. A lot of times teas would taste bitter or were just a flavor that I did not love. I found out a lot of that is due to the way that tea is processed here because Americans prefer the convenience and time-saving options. I began to do my own research on loose tea.
Why specifically did you want to create loose tea blends?
I like to say bougie people drink tea. I realized loose leaf tea was high-quality and the most flavor-rich tea you could drink. For me, being bougie is a feeling. It’s about getting the best that you can get at any given time. I want to offer the best product possible to provide the best quality and tea experience.
La Rue 1680 was created to not only make sure you are taking a daily tea break, but to provide a high-quality solution for those who desire an organic and more nutritional alternative to traditional bagged teas. What a lot of people don't realize is that there is no method to bag tea in a way that it can be put into hot water without falling apart without adding chemicals. A typical bagged tea has been bleached with toxins and contains chemicals such as dioxin and epichlorohydrin. Not only are loose leaf teas delivering the best flavor, they are better for the environment and our bodies.
How did you come up with the name La Rue 1680?
It came to me in a dream. One night, I dreamed ‘La Rue 1680’ and I woke up and wrote it down and it felt right. La Rue is the French word for ‘the street’ and I believe that tea transports you. When I drink La Rue, it transports me. I think about sitting in the office at your desk and you're sipping on something that literally takes you somewhere. It's an escape; it’s just up to you where you want to go.
What does wellness mean to you?
Wellness is not just a physical thing; I think of it as mind, body, and spirit. You can be physically healthy and together, but on the inside dealing with anxiety, depression, missing seeing friends and family, and even dealing with politics. Wellness is about being present, feeling, accepting, and loving where we are while also moving forward. Tea culture helps you do that, it allows you to slow down. In the time it takes to get the water hot and steep your tea, you slow down. When you take your first sip, you are stopping to appreciate the flavors.
Tea culture, when you really get into it, helps bring you to stillness and to being present. When I think of self-care, I do think of being present. We are in a time where it's all about the hustle, but what we’ve been going through in the past twenty months or so has really caused us to slow down, take account of what's important, and ask ourselves what we really want. It created a space for us to be still. What I really hope happens as we move forward is that we remember the importance of carving out 10-15 minutes a day of stillness.
How has embracing tea culture changed your life?
One of the things I personally was caught up on was rushing to my next goal. I was focused on reaching the next level of what I was doing and then rushing off to the next thing. However, it constantly kept me in a space of not being satisfied and not really being happy. I wouldn't take moments during the day to be still and just appreciate my life. In stillness, I'm not thinking about goals and dreams, which is what I do think American culture is. For me, stillness and being present is about sitting and looking at where you are currently and being grateful in that space and just sitting in that, not thinking about tomorrow, not thinking about what needs to be done later today.
About three years ago, I had a full blood workup and my physician told me my cortisol was through the roof, among a number of other issues. She explained that my body was acting like I was in a race all the time and she said I was stressed. I questioned her and actually denied it. She made it clear that my body was saying otherwise and I had to really think about it and sit with it. One of the things I realized is that I've been stressed so long that stress was the norm.
I spent time each day having my tea and maybe listening to music or reading a book. I'd still be doing something, but it won't have anything to do with what's happening later in the day. It won't have anything to do with a specific goal, dream, or ambition. It's literally me just being. When I went back to have my bloodwork done again about a year after, all of my numbers and levels were where they were supposed to be, just by me adding that practice of faith in gratitude and sitting in stillness.
How has the popularity of television shows like “The Crown” and “Bridgerton” made an impact on tea culture and your business?
I decided to do a “Bridgeton” inspired collection because I love the show and I binged that entire season in 1 day. I had the foresight and with a little marketing know-how, I was at the top of the search results within a couple of weeks. When people were becoming more interested in the time period and tea, I was the person that people found. Then La Rue started getting press and so many new customers. That's when I had to take my business from my home office and garage to a warehouse with employees. I'm very grateful for our customers who found us that way and they still love us.
What are some of your new tea blends?
Our Ginger Turmeric Blend is great for inflammation. Both ginger and turmeric have long been used to support joint health by helping with inflammation. The less inflammation your body has to deal with, the more it can focus on rejuvenating.
With the Ayurvedic Wellness Blend, the goal is to create balance within the body with an emphasis on herbs and plants that have various uses, like Peppermint to aid with digestion and Rosehip & Calendula to promote relaxation in the body. The ultimate goal is to keep you healthy and de-stressed.
What is next for La Rue 1680?
The business is barely 12 months old, and we received a $2.7 million dollar valuation last month. My plan is actually for us to now expand into retail, which was something that initially I wasn't going to do. I love being direct to the consumer, but the fact is there are still a lot of people who want to go into the store to see, touch, smell, and sample our tea. We will go into small stores, specialty retailers, and luxury department stores. I'm excited to see what happens.