What better way to find out about a local Saratoga business than by interviewing one? This past week I decided to interview Hayley Stevens, the manager of Saratoga Tea & Honey, which has been in business since May of 2015.

Sarah: What skills are required to run this business?

Hayley: Being passionate about what you’re selling is most important for me. I come into work excited and motivated to continue to do what I love with people who can help me. The most important skill for me is being open minded and curious, especially about Tea and Honey, and then everything else will fall into place.

Sarah: What is your background?

Hayley: I studied both Italian and French as an undergraduate. I then decided to study abroad in Italy and go to culinary school. I then moved back to New York and teach as a chef/instructor in the Italian Academy at the International Culinary Center.

While I was working in NYC, I went through espresso withdrawal from all of those years in Italy taking my breaks with coffee. One of my colleagues recommended that I try tea from “In Pursuit of Tea” which was right behind the institute. I tried Iced Matcha and feel in love. I felt better and realized that I wanted to learn about the art of tea.

I then returned to Europe and cooked some more. I found myself in a small coffee shop in Romania where I had delicious hot cocoa, and I realized that I wanted my business to be just like this, a small shop where my work would become my lifestyle, surrounded by friends and family.

Sarah: What is your management style?

Hayley: I lead by example. I do all the same work my employee’s do. I consider myself to be very involved which rubs off on my employees making us all enthusiastic about working here. This type of so called management style works for this type of business, but I am not sure it would work in the business world!

Sarah: What is your favorite Tea and Honey and what food pairs best?

Hayley: I have no particular favorite! I love all types of teas and honey. I drink so much tea a day (around 6 cups a day) that it is too hard to narrow it down to one favorite! I have to taste a lot of tea in order to compare harvests and make sure we are selling the best teas! The dean of my culinary institute, Gualtiero Marchesi, even taught that tea actually pairs better with food than wine (which is rare for an Italian!).

Sarah: What section of your store are you most proud of?

Hayley: The varietal tea selection. Even though people aren’t familiar with these teas, they are the most unique in the whole store. Since we don’t have a strong culture of tea in America, but we have a strong interest in product, we find that people often migrate to scented and herbal teas, but we are particularly proud of our quality and offerings in varietal tea (white, green, oolong, yellow, black & pu er). Exploring our wall of varietal teas is like opening your eyes to fine wine or fine coffee, we have a whole world to explore. Your cup is then filled with a story, an experience. That is where are work is and where my passion is.

Sarah: Do you like where your business is located?

Hayley: Yes! This space used to be a glass gallery. Also, people always comment on how we are across from Starbucks, but I don’t see that impacting us much since our market is for those who seek special tea. It’s also nice to be a small business on the commercial end of Broadway.

Sarah: Where are your importers from?

Hayley: We get our tea from New York City, Montreal and Boston. We also blend some teas in house and some are blended for us. I believe I get tea from the best importers and I am so lucky to have such a great relationship with all my importers.

After interviewing Hayley, I learned so much about Tea and Honey. If you follow your dreams with passion everything will fall into place. So go after your dreams and never give up, I know it’s cliché but it's true!