Butterfly Herbs closes in on 50 years, fueled by Montana Tea and Spice

Sadye Matula

Sherri Lee stands in the back home of Montana Tea and Spice amongst barrels of bulk tea but to be blended. (Kevin Moriarty/Missoula Latest) Butterfly Herbs opened for enterprise in 1972 on Missoula’s trendy Hip Strip. It was just one of quite a few firms that operated out of what […]

Sherri Lee stands in the back home of Montana Tea and Spice amongst barrels of bulk tea but to be blended. (Kevin Moriarty/Missoula Latest)

Butterfly Herbs opened for enterprise in 1972 on Missoula’s trendy Hip Strip. It was just one of quite a few firms that operated out of what was regarded as the Butterfly Setting up, supplying medicinal bulk herbs and complete bean coffee.

The Butterfly Developing housed a collection of smaller companies all operate by formidable 20-anything hippies. Positioned exactly where GILD now sits, the Butterfly Creating integrated a fantastic-eating restaurant upstairs, a motion picture theater in the again, an import garments and jewellery shop, and Butterfly Herbs.

“It was just a little cubby on the primary flooring,” recalls Debby Barbario, who has labored at Butterfly Herbs considering the fact that the mid-1970s.

The retailer has considering the fact that moved downtown and is as common as at any time, and it is now celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Butterfly Herbs resembles a common retail outlet straight out of the 1920s. A rolling ladder sits along the back again wall with jars of teas and herbs. The lighting is dim and beneath the cashier’s counter are see-by bins loaded with espresso beans from about the environment.

Coloured labels for all of the exceptional teas made at Montana Tea and Spice wait to be placed on a concluded deal. (Kevin Moriarty/Missoula Latest)

One particular of the store’s most preferred merchandise – a tea dubbed Evening in Missoula – has received notoriety exterior of Montana and is now delivered all in excess of the environment. “That’s what place us on the map,” said Barbario.

The tea was made by the initial owner of Butterfly Herbs, Bruce Lee, who passed absent in 2004. Lee eventually bought Butterfly Herbs in the 80s after a fire in the basement induced sizeable damage to the shop.

Nonetheless, Bruce and his then wife, Sherri Lee, went on to build a effective business enterprise promoting bulk teas and spices that commenced as a little procedure out of their garage. Today, Sherri Lee however runs Montana Tea and Spice at 2600 West Broadway with about 10 workforce and ships orders all over the United States, which includes the Evening in Missoula.

A mechanical tea-bagging machine from Liverpool, England fills individual luggage of Evening in Missoula tea. The machine has to be adjusted in different ways dependent on the sort of tea currently being bagged. “You do not want too considerably tea in a bag for the reason that it expands with water,” stated Lee. (Kevin Moriarty/Missoula Current)

Sherri Lee said that Bruce was somewhat of a genius when it arrived to making tea and spice blends. She claimed he after set alongside one another an overall line of herbal teas in 1 working day.

“He had an unbelievable nose,” reported Lee. “He could scent items that I hardly ever could.”

Montana Tea and Spice has steadily developed about the a long time, generally by phrase of mouth. The company does little promotion and has designed a standing with prospects who preserve coming again.

A letter hangs in Sherri Lee’s business office from a customer who moved away from Missoula yrs in the past, but nevertheless drinks the tea.

“For persons that have lived right here that appreciated it and moved absent, it delivers back memories,” stated Lee. “We get these appreciate letters all the time from persons.”

Montana Tea and Spice blend, bag and package deal a broad array of teas including eco-friendly, natural and black tea, and it provides the tea for Butterfly Herbs. Lee gets shipments from distributors of tea, typically a few bins weighting 500 lbs.

Lees said the premier tea maker in North The united states, Celestial Seasonings, was started around the very same time that Butterfly Herbs opened its doorways.

“The operator of Celestial Seasonings tried to buy the recipe for Evening in Missoula from us,” claimed Sherri Lee, “Bruce said no, no, no.”

Kevin Moriarty is a graduate university student researching journalism at the University of Montana. 

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