just our cup of tea: a cosy chat with Sarah Munro of Fine & Dandy

Born and raised in Wairoa, Sarah Munro studied sustainable development and travelled extensively in India, between roles working in environmental planning and sustainable business. She met her partner – in business and life – Adam, in Melbourne at a work Christmas Party, and they lived and worked in Japan before returning to New Zealand together. Their travels inspired a love of tea’s history and rituals, and Fine & Dandy was born (between the births of their two gorgeous children). These days they live near Narrow Neck Beach with Freddie, three, and Clover, four months. We caught up with Sarah this month for a cuppa and a cosy chat.

How did Fine & Dandy come about?

I took off to India in my early twenties. I felt like I needed to just live spontaneously for a while after graduating from university and working in environmental planning. Post India I ended up meeting my partner Adam in Melbourne and together we ventured off to live and work in Japan. There’s so much love, care and ritual around tea in both Japan and India and it quickly became our everyday brew. When we eventually came back to Auckland we just couldn’t find the kind of farm fresh leaf tea we craved, so we started going direct to producers ourselves. We were just really passionate and curious, and of course things just took off from there. 

Tell us what you’re up to right now.

So much! We’ve spent months working on a new Fresh Chai blend and we are pretty excited to share that. We hand grind and roast ethical organic spices, blend with tea, fresh ginger and of course honey. The process of making it is complex, but the result is completely delicious. I go to bed every night looking forward to waking and brewing some up with a dash of coconut milk. All that chai drinking around India has finally come in handy!

Another huge project for us is a refresh of our brand and packaging. We’ve kept this pretty tightly under wraps so far, but we are getting close to completing it now. The creative process has been so rewarding for us to work on and we are beyond excited to have packaging that not only reflects our ethos but is 100% plastic free!

What’s a typical day for you at Fine & Dandy?

It’s so varied and I love that. There’s definitely a chunk of the day where I’m working from my laptop – catching up on emails, getting updates from our tea producers, or making changes to our website. I love to contrast that by being really hands on and working with our beautiful, abundant tea ingredients. I don’t do so well bolted to a desk and screen, so I love the diversity that running the business allows me. 

What are the hidden gems you love to share with visitors to Narrow Neck?

Just a few doors down from our house is a hidden beach! There’s no signage, you just venture down a driveway leading down Westwell Reserve. The great thing about this beach is its calm and still in summer, but completely wild in a winter storm.  I feel so calm and refreshed being close to the ocean, so I’m grateful to have this hidden little alcove close to home, and we visit and share it with others whenever we can.

What are you reading/watching/listening to?

The reality of combining two little people with a business is that there isn’t much time to watch things! But for that reason, podcasts are great. At the moment I’m listening to ‘How I built this’ at every opportunity. I love a good business story and there are some epic tales told there. A favourite is this chat with Yvon Chouinard, founder of outdoor clothing brand Patagonia.  I love listening to Devendra Banhart when I’m working, and I really appreciate RNZ for quality news. On Sunday mornings our family ritual is to listen to The Kids Show on bFM. It’s super cute and a great source of kid’s music that parents can appreciate too.

Presuming family and pets are safe, what are three items you’d save if your house was on fire?

  • Sourdough starter – we’ve recently discovered this delicious gluten free sourdough bread recipe. So much better than commercially made stuff, packaging free and so easy. Our little jar of sourdough starter is well fed and much treasured.
  • elanor renka tea bowl – I was gifted this by the lovely people at my old pottery school Auckland Studio Potters after doing a tea and ceramics event there and love its earthy beauty.
  • My son’s drawings – he’s four and his creativity and enthusiasm for life astound me every day.

With two little germ magnets at home, how are you all staying well this winter?

Our life with two little children and a business is full to say the least, so prevention is a big priority for us. We’ve found that it’s the simple everyday habits that are most helpful in staying well. Quality sleep is priceless, we make sure we’ve always got lots of fresh organic fruit and vegetables in the house, and we also make time to get outside and wander barefoot at the beach. Tea for me is a fundamental in living a healthy vibrant life. It’s a nourishing daily ritual for yourself and lovely shared with others. 

We all have at least one spoonful of manuka honey a day – most medicines don’t taste great, whether they are herbal or otherwise, but even the fussiest toddler loves honey.  (Please never give honey to babies younger than one-year-old. The True Honey Co.)

How do you like to use Mānuka honey?

I’ll often add a spoonful in tea – usually chai or with our Chamomile + Cinnamon before bed. And even in hot water, Mānuka honey’s amazing beneficial properties stay intact. There’s nothing like wrapping your hands around a big cup of tea with a spoonful of Mānuka honey at this time of year.  

For a deliciously refreshing range of organic, fair trade teas, pay a visit to fineanddandy.co.nz