By Jill Draper
Did you know there’s a French tea room in Waldo? Located on the corner of 81st Terrace and Wornall, it’s easy to miss. But inside Centered Spirit, a cultural and holistic center co-owned by Emilie and Alex Jackson, the front of the building features a tea room and shop, while the back holds a therapy room, classroom and infrared sauna.
Emilie’s French Teas sells premium loose leaf teas by the ounce, by the tin, by the cup or by the pot. With large, streetside windows and pictures of France and tea plantations on the wall, it’s a pleasant spot to enjoy a cup of one of the world’s favorite beverages.
A native of Nantes, France, Emilie Jackson traveled widely as an international business and marketing professional, living for a time in England, Portugal and Mexico. She met her husband in Guatemala while she was on a weekend getaway with a friend. Alex was there to teach a workshop on traditional Mayan medicine. After a year of long-distance romance, Emilie moved to Kansas City where Alex was working. In May they’ll celebrate their 10th anniversary.
Six years ago they wrote out their dream business plan—a holistic health clinic paired with tea—and two years later they opened Centered Spirit at 8131 Wornall Rd. A former bridal shop, it’s the same place where Emilie purchased her wedding dress in 2011. “It was meant to be!” she says.
While the teas in her shop are grown around the world, especially in Asia and Africa, they’re mostly finished in France to achieve subtle flavors and fragrances by blending the leaves with essential oils, spices and flower petals to create a smooth and unique tea flavor. “Six types of tea can come from the same plant,” Emilie says, citing black, pu’er, oolong, green, yellow and white varieties. “The difference is in how it’s been finished.”
Her favorite tea depends on her mood. She often drinks Earl Grey in the morning and Jardin Bleu, a black tea flavored with rhubarb and wild strawberry, in the afternoon. For those avoiding caffeine, she recommends herbal blends (tisanes) made with rooibos, peppermint, chamomile and hibiscus.
Tea produces a calm focus, says Emilie, who adds that studies have shown it can benefit the nervous system, play a role in weight control, dental health, bone density and heart disease. She teaches classes at Centered Spirit and the Midwest Tea Festival on tea benefits and rituals, the history of tea, masala chai history, and basic 101: tea vs. herbs. She offers private tea parties as well.
For Mother’s Day and other gift occasions she sells an assortment of teas, accessories (including cups and strainers) and gift certificates. For an especially rejuvenating event she recommends a sauna and tea session. One or two people can spend 30-40 minutes inside the infrared sauna room (towels are provided) and enjoy a cup of tea.
“It’s a dry heat, much different than steam saunas,” Emilie says. “It’s good for detox and some runners like to use it between marathons.” Sessions are $35 for 30 minutes or $37 with tea, and $45 for 40 minutes or $50 with tea. She does not charge extra for a second person. The sauna room also has overhead lights that can be used for color therapy. Red helps with inflammation, she says, while green is good for the heart.
In a separate room Alex Jackson works as a holistic health practitioner and massage therapist, specializing in digestive and reproductive issues. According to Alex, many health problems stem from tension in the body. He works in conjunction with two other health practitioners who have their practice at the center, Janet Lee, trained in traditional Chinese medicine and Shawna Patton, trained in prenatal and postpartum massage therapy.
“In traditional medicine we look at the whole constitution of the person, both medical and emotional history,” he says. “Everybody is going to be a little different.”
And for everybody there is a tea, says Emilie.
“Not because I’m French (but maybe a little bit) I always like to compare tea to wine. It’s just as fascinating and complex. It’s something you can learn about forever.” More information is at emiliesfrenchteas.com.