IMAGES: ANNA MORTON
A NOTE FROM ANNA – JUNE 2020
"In regard to BLM and all that has happened since this interview was conducted, here are some organizations and individuals I’ve been supporting, books, films and educators I’ve been learning from. Initially I leaned on Instagram pretty heavily to stay engaged and informed, but then took a much needed break, and have been spending time quietly reflecting on my life – how much I’ve been asleep to. I’m seeking ways to engage locally, and support the voices that need to be heard.
People’s Breakfast Oakland
Revisionist History: The Limits of Power
On Being: Notice the Rage; Notice the Silence
The End of Policing, by Alex S. Vitale
If He Hollers Let Him Go, by Chester Himes
White Fragility, by Robin DeAngelo
My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending our Hearts and Hands, by Resmaa Manakem
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975
When They See US
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
OUR CONVERSATION WITH ANNA – MAY 2020
Tell us how Leaves & Flowers started.
Starting Leaves & Flowers was an intuitive process. I knew that I wanted to work with plants, but had no formal training. None of my previous work was relevant. In 2012, I enrolled in a herbal studies program in Northern California to gather knowledge and see what opened to me in the process. Leaves & Flowers was essentially born in a conversation with my now co-founder, Emily Erb. We were just becoming friends, and through our conversations realized that we appreciated the beauty and medicine of plants in a similar way. One day we were talking about different ways to offer this medicine to others. We agreed that infusing leaves as tea was the most elemental, beautiful, and accessible form. Before long, we had started Leaves & Flowers and were working with local farms to grow medicinal plants for us. That first summer we dried herbs in all corners of our homes. We’ve come a long way since then.
A few seasons ago we collaborated on your first tea blend intentionally made to be steeped on the go and infused by the sun, called “ Flower Sun Tea.” Do you have a favorite hydrating tea for drinking by the water? Or a favorite tea for winding down after a long day at the beach?
I thought Flower Sun Tea was such a special blend. I loved how savory it was, but also how fresh and floral. Sage was one of the ingredients in that blend, and it’s still a favorite herb of mine to help hydrate and replenish. Sage helps regulate the body’s temperature, so if I’ve been outside in the sun all day a cup of sage tea can bring me back into balance – whether I’m too hot or too cold – and it also soothes the nervous system. If the weather is much too warm for a hot cup of tea, a cold infusion is super refreshing, and will achieve the same effect.
Can you recommend a tea for different moods and emotions?
happy - Assam Chai
sad - Kirishima Sencha
energetic - Rosella Mint
sensual - Van Van
hopeful - Solidarity Tea
angry - Sleep Tea
exhausted - Paz
overwhelmed - Chamomile
confused - Candy Cap Puerh
in love - Shiso Daydream
What does being by the water invoke in you?
Life, love, mother, womb, oneness, connection, purification, power, movement, integration. I am a triple water sign (this has meant very little to me until this year when I started paying more attention to astrology, and now it feels like very helpful information) so I have a very watery and receptive nature. Being by the water is simultaneously soothing and enlivening for me. It reminds me of the importance of the fluidity that I feel so naturally, and the value of knowing when to transform and let things go – even parts of myself.
Do you have a special cherished memory of swimming?
Oh so many. A recent memory is from a few summers ago. My mother and I went to Corsica to visit some of her childhood friends. Their daily ritual included a long swim - the grand nage they called it. It involved walking from the house about 20 minutes to a rocky point, stashing our shoes, and then swimming along the coast back towards a beach near the village. We’d be in the water for an hour or so. Though we were right along the coast it felt pretty wild. The water was deep and cold and clear. I’ve never felt more like a sea creature. Afterward my whole body would be tingling.
Would you share your personal favorite body (or bodies) of water?
The Mediterranean Sea, The Metolious River
Do you have any swimming rituals, things you do before or after going to the beach, lake, pool, etc?
After swimming, if it’s warm enough, I like to lie down on a towel with my arms tucked under my body and my ear to the sand and feel my heartbeat. I’m always surprised at how physical swimming is. When I think back I realize I’ve done this since I was a little girl.
Do you have a favorite tea to bring for a day by the water?
Something fresh and hydrating - a cold infusion of our Rosella Mint (hibiscus, peppermint, stevia leaf) or Mintha (anise hyssop, peppermint, tarragon).
What do you bring with you for a day at the beach?
Swimsuit, umbrella, book, hat, sunscreen, blanket, towel, rosewater, everyday oil, water, sun tea, fruit or snacks. But often I just show up with a towel and swimsuit. Slowly learning how to be more prepared :)
How does where you live influence your relationship to swimming?
I live in Oakland, not far from the ocean. I’m not sure if where I live has influenced my relationship to swimming, but it has certainly influenced my relationship to water. After living by the ocean for over a decade now, I don’t think I could ever live away from it.
Do you have a favorite season?
Spring and late summer.
Do you have a relationship to swimming in the winter months?
I wish I had more of one. I’ve never been a fan of pools - or really chlorine - so if I swim during winter it’s in the ocean. I’ll dive under some waves and get out pretty quickly, but there’s really nothing more invigorating than a winter ocean dip.
What do you look forward to with warmer weather? What does spring/summer look like for you?
Long days, figs, stone fruit, picnics, sandals, a tan, camping, river swimming. Spring / summer is an inspired and energizing time for me. I let the sun dictate my rhythms and movements. I wake up early and like to be outside when the sun goes down. Business is naturally slower in the summer months for Leaves and Flowers, so I have more time for trips and weekend getaways. Emily and I usually take turns being away from the business, and gain lots of inspiration and rejuvenation through travel. I’m not sure what this summer will look like with our new reality, but I imagine I’ll be spending some time camping in the Sierras.
How do you wear Nu Swim?
I wear Nu Swim as a bodysuit as much as a bathing suit. The fit is so comfortable and I love the colors and feel of the fabric. I love the neck lines and wearing a one piece under a pair of jeans, or a set under a sheer dress. I’ve even worn Nu Swim to bed.
How have you been self isolating (or how did you self isolate if you are no longer self isolating)? Can you recommend some things that have helped you stay grounded? A ritual that brings you peace?
I was isolating, and have now been carefully opening up, seeing friends in mostly outdoor settings. Things that have helped me stay grounded and open: distance reiki, meditation, breathwork, reading, music, being in nature, candles, cooking, sleeping, recording my dreams, yoga. I don’t have a bath but if I did, it would be on this list. A ritual that brings me peace - in the mornings I try to spend some time quietly making tea and then sitting, being still. Sometimes this looks like meditation. Other times I’m more engaged and place my hands over each of my chakras and connect with the subtle vibrations. It helps me start the day aware of my body and breath, and feels like a simple but profound act of self love.
What are a few of your work from home or self isolation essentials? Specifically things that keep you going while in your creative mode.
Incense, socks, flower essences, tea (admittedly I also love coffee), fruit, cookies (a slight obsession), natural wine, natural light, open windows, essential oils (I often use scent to refresh me or my space. I put rose oil on my wrists, behind my ears, or spritz hydrosol all over), music, naps, my piano.
How has isolation changed your relationship with the day to day?
Isolation has made me more aware of my natural rhythms, and the ways I get distracted or procrastinate. I’ve tried to be gentle with myself and allow for deep rest and slowness, while also experimenting with my creativity and productivity. Before isolation my days / weeks were much more uniform, but a lot of that structure felt prescriptive, and I think unnecessary. Isolation has helped me reassess how I spend my time, and let go of routines that weren’t serving me. Now, I have intentions and a loose structure for my day, but I also try to adapt to how I feel in each moment. I’m experiencing this time as an individual and collective process of death / rebirth, or movement from chaos into form. So much is being revealed right now, and a lot of it is quite heavy. I’ve been in a heightened state of emotion and feeling with little to distract from it. I think what’s been most interesting is just observing myself, and nature. I learn so much from bearing witness to the natural world - her resilience, constancy, beauty, and presence. Apart from getting done what needs to get done, I’ve just been trying to make space for my experience and let it open my heart. “If we commit ourselves to staying right where we are, then our experience becomes very vivid. Things become very clear when there is nowhere to escape.” – Pema Chodron
What’s your favorite vegetable? Fruit? Herb?
Currently - Celery. Mulberry. Lemon Verbena
What’s your favorite color and why?
Right now I would say blue. During this time (especially earlier in March) I was struck by how vivid and deeply blue the sky became as we all quieted down. There were days when I thought I’d never seen the sky so blue. I couldn’t stop looking at it.
Can you share a recipe to make involving one of your teas as an ingredient?
Raw Matcha Tart
Ingredients for filling – 1 ¼ cup raw cashews soaked for 8 hours or overnight, ¼ cup canned coconut milk (full fat, no guar gum if possible), ¾ cup almond or hemp nut milk, 3 teaspoons matcha powder (culinary grade works great), ¼ cup coconut oil, melted ¼ cup coconut nectar or maple syrup, 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, pinch of sea salt
For crust - 1 ⅔ cup pecans and almonds (or other nuts you have on hand. I used walnuts and pecans!) 1 heaping cup pitted medjool dates ¾ c shredded or flaked coconut, 3 tablespoons coconut oil
Instructions for crust – Preheat oven to 350° and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Spill the nuts onto one and the coconuts flakes onto the other. Toast the nuts for 10 or so minutes (don’t overdo!) and the coconut until it’s golden (4-5 minutes). Gently melt the coconut oil in a small saucepan. Add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse until well incorporated (the mixture should stick together when pinched). Line the bottom of a spring-form pan with oiled parchment paper. Press the crust evenly into your pan and refrigerate for about 30 minutes (or freeze for 15!). And voila. Crust ready!
Tart assembly – Drain the soaked cashews and place in a food processor or high-powered blender. Blend till creamy. Add the remaining ingredients (except for matcha powder) and blend until smooth. Add matcha powder. Blend briefly to incorporate. Pour into nut / date / coconut crust. Smooth and even out filling. Refrigerate or freeze before serving. Serve with sliced strawberries perhaps?