Stephanie Synclair wanted to create a sensual experience with her tea brand, LaRue 1680. And just two months after its launch in October 2020, Netflix's romantic drama "Bridgerton" captivated audiences around the country. Suddenly, everyone wanted to sip floral flavors from porcelain cups dressed like Regency-era high society — and Synclair couldn't be happier.
Synclair, a business coach and single mom to Caden, 14, always had a love of travel. As a girl in Birmingham, Alabama, she often spent afternoons romanticizing her way through the library's travel section. When she got pregnant, friends said her dream to jet set around the world were over. But Synclair took that as an invitation to defy others' expectations.
"I knew when I had him, we were gonna experience it together. I decided I was never gonna look at my child like a hinderance, but the fuel for me to do this," Synclair told TODAY Food.
In 2012, when Caden was 7 years old, Synclair packed their bags and they spent the year living throughout Europe and Asia. She called it her "Eat, Pray, Love" journey — though the love was solely between she and her son and the cultures they were introduced to. They were captivated by the exquisite luxury of Versailles and delicate tea ceremonies that are part of daily life in Indonesia. During their time in Bali, Synclair and her son became particularly infatuated not only by the ritual of drinking tea, but also making it.
"For his 8th birthday, he requested a Balinese sipping class and used a life-sized mortal and pestle making his own tea: the fruits, spices, herbs," Synclair said, adding how the experienced shaped him. "He has become more tolerant of other cultures, belief systems, people — that’s really what we need more of today."
When they returned to the States in 2013, Synclair brought the ritual back with them. She often made fresh ginger and honey tea, a common offering at stores and spas in Indonesia, throughout the day. Over time, the enjoyment she felt showing others how to savor the herbal and floral aromas evolved into a business idea for an e-commerce brand.
After spending 2019 in and out of France conducting research, Synclair had LaRue 1680 ready to go in January 2020, but because of the pandemic, the launch was postponed until October. Still, Synclair was grateful for the extra time to organize, enjoy the stillness at home and ensure LaRue was perfect.
By October of last year, her high-quality, loose-leaf teas were online, available nationwide for $10 to $19 per 3-ounce bag (about 40 to 50 cups).
"Generally, the way you see tea marketed is flat, not sexy. When it's done right, it's so sexy. This is not your grandmother's tea," said Synclair. "Listen: Grab a beautiful cup and let's put our pinkies up."
Naturally, when she watched Shonda Rimes' Netflix series "Bridgerton" in December, she saw the same steamy essence of her brand's image mirrored in the characters' style and storylines.
Since then, Synclair said she's seen a huge surge in sales, growing about 500% compared to October through December. She's also received increasing amounts of customers requesting in-person LaRue 1680 stores so they can enjoy tea like the powerhouse Queen Charlotte. In response to these requests, Synclair posted Instagrams detailing which of her teas each character might drink. For example, the Duke of Hastings, played by Regé-Jean Page, she says, would enjoy sipping a cup of New Orleans Praline and Cream.
"Never one to sit still and moves around to the next 'hot' location with booze and lots of sex, the Duke prefers the tea that is the next exciting offering," wrote Synclair. Tradition disgusts him and New Orleans for sure is a wild one."
Like the Duke in much of the series, the quick-witted entrepreneur hasn't settled into one brick-and-mortar location. However, pending pandemic restrictions, she is planning to open lavish pop-up experiences around the U.S. by LaRue 1680's anniversary in October, where people can enter entrancing English gardens and lose themselves in another time — and lots of loose-leaf tea.