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Joann is keeping Bermuda folklore alive, through tea

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Joann Adams of Tea Bar enjoying a sip of herbal tea (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
Joann Adams picking aloe from her garden (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
Joann Adams of Tea Bar (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

Please, no coffee for Joann Adams she is an avowed tea drinker – preferably herbal and made with ingredients picked from the backyard.

Some are for pure enjoyment while others are to help with various ailments.

“I was taught a lot about Bermuda herbs and teas by my parents and grandparents,” said the retired teacher whose garden produces lemon grass, peach leaves and stinging nettles along with many other herbs. “Back then I didn’t think anything about it. It was just a way of life.”

Her mother would give her lemon grass or the liquid from boiled cherry leaves to ward off a cold. Her grandparents would boil paw paws and drink the water, to lower blood pressure.

For years she mixed teas for friends and family, but resisted their urging that she start a business.

“I didn’t want to be bothered with bottling tea,” she said. “For me doing something like that has to be a passion. I didn’t want to be committed to sell so many bottles a week.”

During the lockdown brought on by the coronavirus pandemic last April she changed her mind, deciding that she wanted to “leave a legacy” for her three children.

The Tea Bar was born. Among the more than 25 mixes on offer: lemon balm, said to relieve headaches; focus pocus, an infusion of peppermint, ginko, orange turmeric and other herbs said to help with memory; elder flower is said to protect against heart disease and other chronic illnesses such as diabetes.

Ms Adams sells her teas at the Farmers’ Market in the Botanical Gardens. They are also available 24/7 on Facebook.

Her plan is to travel the island as a pop-up shop come summer. In the meantime she is offering tastings, mixology classes and other tea-based events and accessories.

“I think people are looking for more natural remedies,” she said. “People have been moving that way in the last few years.”

The dry tea mixtures she sells are made from imported herbal ingredients as she did not think there was a reliable local supply.

“You used to see a lot of fennel then suddenly you didn’t see it any more, anywhere,” she said. “Now I think it is making a comeback again. It’s the same with stinging nettles. You don’t see them so much any more, when they used to be everywhere.”

Ms Adams taught for more than 30 years. She then helped civil servants develop in their careers before taking early retirement in 2015.

She is frequently asked to speak about traditional Bermuda medicine and folklore for schools and educators.

Her mission is to keep the old ways alive.

“People say, ‘I don’t know anything about herbs.’ But I have found that, collectively, the knowledge is still there.

“At a primary school one child might say, ‘Oh my grandmother used nettle tea on my chickenpox’; another might say, ‘My grandmother gave me lemon grass tea when I had a cold.’ By the time I have been through a class we have been through six or seven things that they know.”

In 2001, Ms Adams represented the island at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington DC, talking about traditional medicine and Bermuda folklore.

She is also mentioned in Bermuda Connections, a cultural resource guide for classroom teachers and has also been featured in a short video that airs regularly on CITV.

Complete strangers sometimes come up to her asking her opinion on various ailments.

“One lady said, ‘I am always tired, what can I take?’ I said, ‘You are probably tired because you are not resting properly and you are not eating properly and probably need to drink more water.’ I thought those were very obvious solutions, but she came back to me later and said she did as I suggested and she was feeling much better.

“I am not a doctor. Neither do I consider myself an herbalist. I just know a lot of stuff about it and I have used it.”

She readily admits that much of what she sells could be compiled by just about anyone with a little knowledge.

“One day someone came to my stall at the Farmers’ Market and wanted to buy some hibiscus tea,” she said. “There was a man standing there who said, ‘Don’t buy that. You can just pick that off the tree and boil it.’ I wasn’t mad. It was true. I tell people all the time how they can make these drinks.”

Most people tell her they don’t have the time to hunt for their own herbs, or they don’t feel confident enough to try.

“I just say put some leaves in and boil them,” she said. “I don’t say how much. It depends on your taste preference. It is not called folklore for nothing.”

Ms Adams also loves cooking and said a lot of the herbs she uses can also be used to make delicious meals. She has made a sorbet out of ripe paw paw, used nasturtium bulbs in salads and infused lemon grass bulbs into an Asian chicken dish.

Contact Joann Adams on: 799-7979 or teabarbda@gmail.com. Follow Tea Bar on Facebook, @teabarbda

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Published January 22, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated January 21, 2021 at 8:59 am)

Joann is keeping Bermuda folklore alive, through tea

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