Women in Business Spotlight: Maria Uspenski

November 10, 2017   By The SOE Team

Women in Business Spotlight: Maria Uspenski

Highlighting green businesses around the nation

Second to water, tea is the most commonly consumed beverage across the globe. And there’s really no surprise, especially when considering its healing properties, flavor varieties and eco-friendly benefits. No matter whether you prefer your tea loose or bagged, there are producers in all parts of the world that value environmental responsibility above all else. One of those companies is The Tea Spot, founded 13 years ago by Maria Uspenski.

A B Corp-certified establishment, The Tea Spot makes reusable teaware as well as handcrafted, whole leaf teas. It also composts used tea leaves in-house and has included 100% biodegradable tea sachets and organic-certified teas in its product line.

“At The Tea Spot, we try to always maintain a critical eye for environmental outputs in the design and production of our teaware and loose leaf teas,” says Maria. “Our vision is to move the loose leaf tea industry toward greater sustainability through innovation. We develop and distribute Steepware® products for the preparation of loose leaf tea. We know that all our business activities – from transporting tea to manufacturing ceramics – create pollution as a by-product. So we work thoughtfully to minimize those harms. Our selections of product and packaging materials undergo constant evaluation, which allows us to evolve every quarter to lower carbon-footprint choices.”

A greener way of lifeHeadshot_MU_Crop-01

An avid tea drinker herself, Maria is familiar with whole leaf tea benefits. Not only did she prepare and consume it during her own personal health recovery, but she has had the privilege to try a variety of teas over time. Her favorite – Pu’erh – comes from Yunnan, China, and “is revered throughout the world for its reputed medicinal benefits, which range from reducing cholesterol and body fat to curing hangovers,” says Maria.

In addition, Maria finds creative ways to reuse tea leaves. “Just like we do at work, I compost used tea leaves at home. When I make tea, I don’t even put them in the compost pile, but just sprinkle them on plants. Plants love steeped tea leaves, and there are even tea-compost plant fertilizer products on the market,” she says.

We asked Maria what inspired her green mindset and how consumers should approach shopping for eco-friendly tea products.

Why is sustainability important to you?

“As a child, I was raised with a strong love and appreciation for nature and my environment. I remember living by the Hudson River when it looked like a coffee latte. Today, it’s a different river. That cleanup, which I witnessed over many years, taught me a valuable lesson which has stayed with me. Care and initiative which lead to thoughtful measures can yield brilliant results. Being in the tea industry, I’ve travelled to parts of Asia where tea grows which have even far more serious environmental situations than what I had been exposed to in New York.

Cradle-to-grave sustainability is my goal in my business. When we create and distribute products, it’s not only enough that the products benefit the consumers. We’re responsible for all our products from their inception, growth and manufacture, to their ultimate disposal at the end of their life cycle.”

What green qualities should consumers look for when they shop for tea and teaware?

“In selecting teaware, consumers should look for quality products made from quality materials. Ensure that your ceramics are tested lead-free and cadmium-free, that plastics are tested to be BPA-free and EA-free, and that silicone is certified to food-grade safe. With your teas, it’s easy – just buy quality whole leaf tea in bulk and steep it loose. If you’re in a hurry or really want the convenience of a tea bag, just ensure that it’s biodegradable.”