It was 2020 when Milla Wood, from Elrick, blended two long-standing loves — foraging and mixing herbs — to launch a tea-making company.
The now 49-year-old had no prior background in the food and drink industry, but it didn’t put her off the idea of turning her hobby into a business.
Named Leaves and Snails, it sells infusions from locally grown leaves and herbs.
“Some of them [the leaves and herbs] I forage or grow myself, while others come from the local big gardens, woods and farms,” Milla said.
“I have a permit to forage for wild leaves — including Rosebay willowherb, blackberry and raspberry — in a couple of places.
“Infusion blends can be used as herbal teas or can be used to infuse alcohol, kombucha, etc.”
Spilling the tea on Elrick born business Leaves and Snails
Preparation of tea leaves consists of four stages — withering, rolling, fermenting and drying.
Milla does this process, which takes around three to four days, from her home in Elrick, near Westhill.
“During the production period it’s a bit non-stop,” says Milla.
“I collect, clean, wither and hand-roll leaves throughout the day, as well aas monitor the fermentation and drying.
“I can only process 1kg of leaves at a time, which makes around 120g of dry product.
“After the production it’s less busy, but packaging can take a couple of days before a market.
“It’s mainly myself [that runs the company], but I do have a couple of friends who help me from time to time.”
The entrepreneur launched Leaves and Snails in November 2020. This is when she first joined the Westhill Farmers’ Market with her teas.
Milla added: “I always liked herbal teas. My cupboard is full of all sorts of little boxes with herbs, flowers and leaves.
“I grew up drinking different kinds of teas and blending herbal teas had become a hobby of mine.
“During the pandemic, I had some time on my hands. That’s when I decided to start blending teas for other people. Then I took a few online courses and got more inspired.”
Blooming good infusions: The items on offer and where you can buy them
Out of all the infusions Milla has sold to date, it is a winter blend — named Cup of Cosy — that has proved most popular.
It features fruit tree leaves and winter spices, including cinnamon and cardamom.
Her Tyrebagger mix, inspired by Aberdeenshire woods, has also been in demand. But the business owner’s personal favourite is named the ‘Currant State of Mind’.
“This is the mix with blackcurrant leaves,” she went on to say.
“I really like the flavour of blackcurrant anywhere. I also like drinking the blend with thyme and lemon balm, it helps me to relax after a busy day.”
In terms of where you can purchase items by Leaves and Snails, Milla occasionally attends local markets and fairs. She sells her products via the business’ website too.
And if you’re up for learning more about the tea-making process, keep an eye out for future Leaves and Snails workshops.
Milla said: “I enjoy running workshops as I have the opportunity to share my knowledge and teach people how to create their own personal blends.
“[Looking ahead] I am planning to collaborate more with other local businesses, and create signature blends for events and tourism venues, cafes, etc.”
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You can also read Karla’s latest articles in the P&J’s Food and Drink magazine, which you’ll find inside your Press and Journal newspaper every Saturday.