When wild food and organic chef Freda Wolfe went to study natural medicine, she learned that a lot of the tasty plants she used in her dishes were actually full of healing properties too. During the four year Master Herbalist training course she started foraging, drying herbs and making infusions for friends and family to treat common ailments like hangovers, headaches, colds, flus and tummy trouble.
With her natural flair for balancing flavours she was a dab hand at this and her blends proved popular, and effective. Starting out with a tea stall at Temple Bar Food Market in Dublin, Freda met customers every Saturday and over the course of two years responded to their feedback and requirements to develop the range of teas and tisanes.
The ‘Intelligent Tea’ name was also born at the market stall, as discussions often centred around the ‘intelligence’ of plants and the wisdom of those who used them like the Ancient Greeks, Romans, Native Americans, Chinese, African’s, Mayans and the Irish of course with traditional healers down through the ages, like Biddy Early (1798-1874).
A born and bred foodie from the wilds of West Cork, Freda’s career as a chef began at Ireland’s first organic and wild food restaurant, The Strawberry Tree, Killarney working alongside Evan Doyle (Brooklodge, Macreddin Village)in the 1990’s. While training under pioneering chef and Euro Toques Ireland founder, Gerry Galvin, Freda honed her foraging skills collecting wild flowers, hedgerow plants and berries for dishes at Drimcong House in Moycullen, Co. Galway.
Expanding her plant knowledge from culinary to medicinal, Freda undertook a four-year course at the Irish School of Herbal Medicine and graduated as a Master Herbalist in 2011.
To begin with Freda went out picking all the plants herself, but as the business expanded she convinced Irish vegetable growers to branch out and grow wild plants. Along with friends and family, Freda continues to forage for ingredients.
Freda has been buzzing with the bees since her childhood on the family farm in Ballydehob, West Cork. Having expanded her hobby, she now has native black bee hives dotted around Dublin and Wicklow, producing limited amounts of 'Clever Honey'. Wanting to play her part in the protection of these pollinators, she is a member of both the Dublin Beekeepers Association and the Native Irish Honey Bee Society.
On his small holding in rural County Carlow, Nick was growing vegetables and salads for supply to local chefs and a market. And then along came Freda and persuaded him to welcome weeds, herbs and wildflowers into his patch. While many gardeners live in fear of some of these perceived pests, Nick connected with the power of the plants and now grows Nettle, Marigold, Chamomile, Lemon Balm, Meadowsweet, Marshmallow, Mullein, Peppermint, Fennel and Yarrow.
A clever move as it turned out, because he is supplying large quantities to Intelligent Tea. Nick’s land is certified organic.
For the past 14 years Frank Jesper has been kitchen gardener at the historic Killruddery Estate Gardens, County Wicklow, supplying the tea rooms with seasonal vegetables, salads, herbs and fruits. The 4.5 acre high-walled garden is not only beautiful and bountiful, but used as a recreational space for visitors to the estate as well. The aromas of the chemical free gardens are now enhanced with the Peppermint and Lemon Balm that Frank is growing for Intelligent Tea. And in turn, the beautiful Killruddery environment is lending a stately flavour to some of the blends.
Freda continues to forage herself and two Irish gardeners grow specifically for Intelligent Tea, with surplus herbs sourced from growers around the British Isles when required.
Imagine growing and harvesting a field of nettles? “Yes it is certainly more challenging than cabbage and lettuce” says Freda who appears to be immune to stings herself.
All ingredients are chemical and pesticide free, with the mainstay certified organic. Intelligent Teas are hand blended by Freda. No preservatives are used.
As well as ensuring that all growers get a fair price for their produce, giving something back is important to Freda and her family.
Freda’s mother, at home on the farm in Ballydehob, West Cork, hand knits tea cosies with 100% of the revenue donated to Tearfund Ireland, a charity that runs United Against Poverty and Together for Transformation.
To date over €2000 has been raised from the sale of tea cosies, for the Indonesian Earthquake Appeal and Sudan Famine and Children in Crisis.
When available, Tea Cosies will be on sale on this website.