Joy Wujek encourages visitors to explore her tea shop with their senses.
Before tasting any of the botanical blends with whimsical labels like "Strawberry Cloud," "Tropical Cove" and "Aussie Paradise," Wujek invites you simply to smell.
This method helps her to quickly identify your flavor personality: berry, citrus or spice.
Wujek specializes in reading palates, a talent she developed while blending the many varieties of loose-leaf teas that combine to make up her brand, Petali Teas. (Petali means petal in Italian.)
"It's my goal to always match a tea to a person," Wujek said. "I love that part of it."
Wojek, 48, credits her grandmother, a photographer of wildflowers and herbs, for inspiring what initially began as a "wild-crafting" hobby during hikes in the woods.
"She taught me all about the Latin names and the health benefits," Wujek said. "I would pick wild strawberry leaves and make wild strawberry leaf tea. At age 10, I was doing that."
Those childhood experiments have since evolved into a sophisticated business with a global customer base. Wujek makes all of her teas in small batches at Mootz Run, her retail tea shop in the rural village of Alexandria in Licking County. The serene shop, housed in a modern barn loft, is named after the creek that runs through the property. Wujek also sells wholesale teas and last year opened a tea boutique in Granville.
When creating new blends, Wujek draws on her love of nature and her travels around the world. She never skimps on ingredients, she said, to achieve artisan-quality results.
"I tend to look at the different cultures and see what we can bring in," she said.
Wujek imports all of her tea plants from China and Japan, and buys other ingredients from small farms and businesses. Some of the herbs found in her blends, including spearmint, lemon balm and monarda, are cultivated in Wujeck's own backyard.
Wujek opened her business in 2001 with 26 varieties of tea. She now offers 300.
Each contains Wujek's artistic touch. "It's such a happy business to be in," she said.