By Chelsea Chambers
Photos Emma Thomson
A light rain drizzled out the windows of Awakenings Coffee House on Overland Road. Patrons sat happily around us, deep in conversation or admiring the unique and handmade items that lined the shelves. A fresh pot of Orange Pu’er steeped in a French Press between Toni and I as she began to tell her stories—of passion, of experience, and her long love of tea.
The intricacies of tea extend far beyond a simple teabag and are far more beautiful than I could ever imagine. “Life is too short to drink bagged tea,” she says, smiling with her eyes as she pours the first sip.
“You always start by smelling the tea, breathing in the aroma, watching the steam rise. And when you drink, try slurping the tea, feeling it in your mouth.” I inhaled the unique aroma of my first Pu’er, slurping loudly as instructed. “The culture of tea is about the slowness of the process.”
Toni Hodge has been making teas for decades. As a self-taught herbalist, she started Divine Lotus Teas with her husband nearly 20 years ago. But before there was the Tea Mistress Toni, she was actually in a completely different world: the fashion industry. She was a successful clothing designer but discovered it wasn’t her calling. Instead, she chose to explore her passions of natural healing and herbal remedies.
Her first tea blend, Fairy Flower, came about when she was designing clothing for the CEO of an affluent company. As was the nature of her career, Toni noticed that the CEO was often anxious and stressed, so she offered her an herbal blend she had been sharing with her family for years. Months passed and no new orders had come in from the CEO—Toni reached out and found that she had quit her job, found a loving partner, and had bought a boat with plans to set sail soon.
“There’s magic in plants,” Toni coos lovingly over her teacup. “And I’ve learned to blend plants to create a space of healing.”
The warmth of the Pu’er filled me with a sense of calm. Our conversation quickly lapsed hours and I found myself with a deep desire to know more: about her processes, her hosted tea ceremonies, and what the future holds for Toni the Tea Mistress and Divine Lotus.
“I’ve been working with members of our local community to create custom crafted teas for places like the Idaho History Museum.” And let me tell you, The Northwoods Tea, blended with pine, blueberry, and citrus is something I cannot wait to get my hands on.
Keep an eye out for Toni as she plans to continue sharing the many beautiful essences of tea with Boise and beyond. Explore the many facets and uses of herbal healing through teaching, cooking, art, tea ceremonies, and more—there is so much to look forward to with Toni Hodge and Divine Lotus Teas.
Her teas can be purchased all over the Valley, at Awakenings Coffee House, Goldy’s Corner, and more. Or online at divine-lotus-tea.com.
Follow Toni on Facebook and Instagram @divinelotustea.