By Tanya Henry
“Unlocking plant love” reads the tagline of Cristian Ellauri’s Key Tea operation. I say operation because Ellauri’s offerings include more than simply selling tea. An impressive custom-made mobile cart, and specially blended decoctions, shrubs and tonics prepared with locally grown herbs are all on this farmers’ market vendor’s menu.
Hailing most recently from Oahu, where he completed a master’s degree in theater, the Washington, D.C.-born actor is now onto his third career. “I realized that all of my acting performances included themes about the earth and sustainability, but I really didn’t know that much about it,” Ellauri says.
More than a year ago, Ellauri, who lives in Lagunitas, completed his custom Tea Kart that allows him to set up shop at farmers’ markets and private events. The uber-efficient design transforms from a rectangle shape (that attaches to a bicycle) into a three-section counter with two sinks, countertop space and a propane burner. The roomy counters are ideal for displaying the line of teas attractively packaged in glass Mason jars with labels sporting a large skeleton key.
“I’m learning to listen to the plants,” explains Ellauri. He purchases nettles, dandelion and roots from local farms to create concoctions designed to help tea drinkers with things like calming nerves, sleeping and digestion.
“Da bomb chai” is a favorite blend, and isn’t cloyingly sweet like so many others. A “drop-in” (nerve tonic) is offered chilled or warm and is designed to calm the nerves. A slightly tangy “iced hibiscus kefir” is prepared with marshmallow root, yaupon leaf and honey cubes.
Though Ellauri hasn’t quit his day jobs—he’s a massage therapist and gardening teacher—his blends are available at many local shops and farmers’ markets. One day, he hopes to unite all of his interests and have a space where folks can perform, create art and, of course, drink tea.
For more information, visit keyteacart.com.