Duluth native finds direction, joy in running tea shop


After graduation, a lot of college students face the same question: What the hell am I doing with my life? After graduating from Gustavus Adolphus with a Bachelor of Arts in English, Elizabeth Spehar found herself struggling with that question.

Spehar, a 28-year-old Duluth native, was injured in a car accident after graduation that had taken a toll on her mental capacity. She had plans to continue to grad school and become a college professor of English, but since the accident, it seemed fate had a different plan.

“It took a long time to figure out what I wanted to do,” Spehar said. “I was turned down for a lot of jobs and became pretty discouraged but decided that I was sick of waiting around and did something about it."

“The idea came to me on March 16,” Spehar said excitedly. “I was in Grand Marais with some of my friends and had just gotten a rejection for a job and said, ‘I should open a tea shop.’”

Spehar wasted no time, and by the next week, she was looking at a space on the corner of 19th Avenue East and 8th Street, where she proudly signed the lease for her tea shop.

“When I signed the lease for the building there was a dirt floor, and it was funky,” Spehar said. “So I came in here with mud boots on and got to work.”

Spehar’s next step was to name the tea shop. She wanted a name people would find peculiar and interesting.

During her time abroad in England, Spehar was interested in the imaginative names given to the pubs there. One of those pubs happened to be The Snooty Fox, which dates back to the 1600s.

Spehar combined that idea with her love of foxes -- she spent time caring for baby foxes while working at Wildwoods Rehabilitation Center in Duluth -- and, alas, The Snooty Fox Tea shop was coined.

“I think of one fox in particular as the snooty fox from Wildwoods,” Spehar said with a laugh. “She would turn her nose up at absolutely everything.”

So why tea?

“I will never know enough about tea,” Spehar said. “It’s such an historic beverage, and my love for tea goes back to my English heritage and their appreciation of tea."

“For my own choices and identity, I’m into health and putting good things in your body,” Spehar explained. “So that’s how I became interested in herbal healing and teas that do nice things for you.”

She illustrated how all tea comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant, and how the plant is used determines each tea’s individual taste.

There are many aspects that come with making tea. The taste can vary by pan cooking, firing, broiling, hand rolling and letting the tea sit in the sun or shade, along with many other techniques used for making tea.

“You can learn every day for the rest of your life and still won’t know enough about tea.” Spehar said.

“We’re able to receive our tea in small batches,” she added, “so we can have the tea that has those crazy variable differences.”

The Snooty Fox Tea Shop will be the first tea shop in Duluth to sell kombucha from tap. Kombucha is a fermented tea of a peachy color that has probiotic properties.

“Kombucha is naturally carbonated and has a zip and zingy taste to it,” Spehar said. “I’m excited to share that with people.”

She emphasized how hospitality was hugely important in her family as she grew up. Spehar wants the tea shop to be a calming place for customers to come so she can make them feel special and share something new with them.

“I want to share fun, happy, healthy things with people,” Sephar said laughing. “Oh my gosh, I sound so corny, but it’s true.

“We’re here to share an experience and these wonderful products. We’re not just here to sell you something.”

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