Alisa Burns doesn’t seem like your average tea drinker. You know, someone mellow.
She gives firm handshakes, talks fast, and moves quicker than the Roadrunner cartoon. She strikes me more as a coffee gulper than a tea sipper. At just over five feet tall, her bubbly energy could fit a person twice her size. Her secret? She drinks lots of matcha—the highly-caffeinated powdery green tea that’s almost as strong as a cup of coffee. She’s hooked and swears by the multitude of health benefits it provides, including a high level of antioxidants and vitamin C.
Burns is the new owner of Sangha Teahouse, a mobile tea company started in Durham. This Sunday, Sangha will launch its new TeaBox Trike at the The Bazaar Craft & Art Market in Carrboro, serving tea from noon to four p.m.
Her journey into the tea business began in 2014 as manager of Honeysuckle Tea House in Chapel Hill. There, she crossed paths with tea guru Jeremy Lipkowitz, the founder of Durham’s Sangha, a mobile tea shop he started three years ago. He laid the groundwork for the company, branding it as a pop-up with merchandise in stores around the Triangle and as a regular stand at the Durham Farmers Market. Lipkowitz decided to leave North Carolina for a new life in Thailand, passing the torch to Burns in March of last year.
“Jeremy’s view of community and awareness aligned with mine, so it was a good fit,” says Burns.
She runs the company with Morgon Williams, also a former Honeysuckle employee, while drawing in new customers.The duo balance each other out with Burns’s infectious energy with customers and Williams’s vast knowledge of tea and its products.
“I want Sangha to be accessible to everyone,” Burns says. “We even have tea blends for toddlers and the health benefits are great—whether you’re ninety-nine or four, whether it’s actual tea or herbal.”
Looking forward, Burns plans to sustain the pop-up nature of Sangha by continuing to participate in farmers markets including the soon-to-be Blue Dogwood Public Market in Carrboro, and bringing the trike to Durham.
In the meantime, she is focused on melding the original intent of Sangha with her own family-friendly twist. Having a wife and two kids of her own, Burns says being able to share this new experience of running her own tea business with her family has been the most exciting part. She even points out that her five-year-old daughter knows what matcha is, and that’s exactly the point.
“I want Sangha to be very community and family-oriented,” Burns says. “I’m trying to put some love back into the world, you know?”
And right now, who could argue with that?