Q & A with HannaH Mills, Owner of NEAKITA
Where do you call home?
I’m originally from Northern California, but today live in Southern California so I guess you could say I'm a California girl through and through. I’ve lived with the ocean for most of my life and I feel boundless amounts of gratitude for that. Currently home is in Venice, CA.
Why tea? What inspired you to become a tea artisan and where did you learn about tea?
My love for tea developed naturally along the various paths I’ve journeyed down. In my first career, I made wine and grew vines internationally for renowned wineries and vineyards. It was a beautiful way of life. When I went to New Zealand to work on a Biodynamic farm and vineyard, my whole world shifted in a way I didn’t anticipate. I think this is when I woke up spiritually and became curious about the deeper meaning of life. Every day we would eat food straight from the garden and farm and I started to become more interested in learning about food and health than I did about wine. At first, it was just an interest, and then it felt like an undeniable calling. Around the same time, I was offered two of the most desirable jobs, and I declined both to go back to school and study holistic nutrition, meditation, and metaphysics. After graduating, I co-founded a private health coaching practice which was rewarding, but it wasn’t fulfilling my deep-rooted passion for experimenting with flavors, balance, and structure. Blending is an art form I spent years refining and I was yearning for it again. Creating tea was a way for me to express my art, but this time in a way that I believed truly nourished people. The first blend I made was for a dear friend of mine. She was struggling with anxiety attacks and I wanted to help calm her nervous system. She came back in awe of the effects the tea had on her and asked for more. That tea is now called Freedom. This same story kept happening where my loved ones would come to me with an ailment and leave with a curative tea. It filled my soul up to bring light into people’s darkness – it still does. I believe in listening to signs and this felt like my calling.
How did you come up with the name NEAKITA?
I am a Cherokee-Choctaw Native American so using an ancestral name was important to me. A neakita is a Native American wild rose, white with five petals and a golden center. As legend goes, where a mother’s tear hits the earth, this wild rose will grow – a sign from The Great One to remind her of her strength and all of the beauty that is still left in the world. These are the ethos upon which I created NEAKITA. These teas are intended to bring us back home to ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It’s an invitation for us to slow down and remember that even on the most stressful of days, there is beauty all around us.
What is the most important component of creating your teas?
That it’s a complete sensorial experience! My intention is always to enchant both the mind and body. The tea must smell and taste incredible, but it also has to FEEL euphoric!
What is your perfect cup of tea?
That totally depends on the day. I believe our bodies know exactly what they need to nourish themselves and it’s up to us to listen and respond. So I let my nose decide what my perfect cup of tea will be. I usually smell a few teas and pick the one that stands out to me. This allows me to intuitively decide which herbs my body needs in that moment. There’s a lot of information constantly being transmitted to us, we just have to slow down and listen. But I must admit that lately I’ve been all about the Wisdom blend! It’s an organic brain tea with Ginkgo, Gotu Kola and Cinnamon. It’s heavenly with some pasture-raised butter and coconut oil stirred in. I call it the organic version of adderall. Crazy focus happens after this little ritual.
What does a NEAKITA tea ceremony look like? What can one expect?
A NEAKITA tea ceremony is a time to slow down and receive. In a small and intimate group, we sit together in meditation, reconnect with our breath and receive the tea’s offering. As the herbs heal the body, the experience heals the mind and spirit. In our most recent ceremony, tears of joy rolled down a woman’s face, because she experienced a breakthrough in her relationship with her family and could finally forgive them. Another woman stated this was the most comfortable she had felt in a room full of people that should feel like strangers, and realized that she was much more supported in her life than she entered the room believing. So while most of the ceremony is silent, there is a lot happening and the experience is really personal. You feel the support of the earth and the sisters around you and you slow down long enough to finally hear yourself and reconnect with who you are and what you really want in life. Each time is a different experience, not because of what is happening on the outside, but because of what is occurring on the inside. It’s such a beautiful moment to be a part of. If you would like to attend one, I update the schedule here.
Where do you hope to take NEAKITA in the future, and what impact do you hope to make?
My current mission is to continue creating healing moments for people through the ritual of NEAKITA teas. As people receive the nourishment of the earth through their cup of tea, NEAKITA simultaneously replenishes the earth by planting trees. For every tea sold, a tree is planted through Trees for the Future. Trees for the Future travels to impoverished farming communities all over the world to provide four year programs for farmers to learn how to use sustainable farming practices. In many of these areas, the farmer’s main objective is survival and they often turn to the use of chemicals, because they think this is the only way to accomplish their goals. Trees for the Future rewrites this paradigm so they can get up to ten times more from the land while concurrently substituting their chemicals for sustainable farming methods.
My greatest dream is for NEAKITA to provide Native Americans with a platform to express their voices and share their stories and wisdom. I believe this is a positive way to reinstate the respect and honor that indigenous peoples deserve. We have much to learn from them and my goal is to create a respected platform for them to do so effectively while ensuring they are regarded with reverence. One of my first contributions to this cause is the recent launch of the Directions Collection which is based on the Native American Medicine Wheel. I recently released Rose, the first tea in this collection, and I will continue to release the others slowly over time. This is just the beginning of the conversation and education I hope to provide.
When did you acquire this connection to Native American culture and what is the Native American Medicine Wheel?
Native American is in my blood. I am Choctaw and Cherokee. My mother grew up in Oklahoma near the Choctaw reservation. My grandfather was the generation of kids that were unwillingly sent to the American boarding school to forcefully strip the Native American culture out of them. Family was forbidden to visit him and unfortunately for us all, this was devastatingly effective. I grew up going to some pow wows, but for the most part, I have lived a life quite removed from my heritage. NEAKITA is, in part, a personal pilgrimage to rediscover this stolen piece of who I am.
The Medicine Wheel has been used by generations of Native Americans for health and healing. The pillars of the Medicine Wheel and the Circle of Life are the cardinal directions. It’s a complex topic to summarize, but the directions, most simply, correlate with east, south, west, north and the fifth direction is at the center. However, each direction represents much more than that: East is spiritual, south is emotional, west is physical, north is mental, and the fifth direction is the sacred space within. These directions create everything we are and everything we experience – Seasons, universal elements, the different parts of living beings, and every other part of life. Beginning in the east and flowing in the sun-wise direction, we establish balance by syncing with the rhythm of life.