The Story of Piper & Leaf


We are a family-owned, family-operated, local tea company. Creating gourmet blends that are simply divine to sip - iced on a steamy summer day or hot on a long winter evening - and Serving the Joy are our passions.

All of our teas are blended with as many local ingredients as possible - straight from the garden, farm, forest, and briar patch.

A dozen family members milling around the front porch of a farmhouse

If you are looking for a cup or jar of our delicious brews, come to almost any farmers market in the North Alabama area; visit one of our Tea Shops located in Huntsville; or find one of the quality 'Piper Partner' businesses that carry our tea all over the nation.

We also sell tea at many events and festivals, even some outside of Alabama! Or you can hire us to come to your event. One of our specialties is a Full Service Tea Bar: perfect for weddings, corporate events, parties, or any festive occasion.

Come by our locations to say 'Hi' and meet the Piper & Leaf family! Let us have the chance to share something special and serve the joy.


Our founders are all family: Connor, Brigette, & MaryClaire (three siblings) teamed up with Brigette's husband Caleb for the start of this venture. It wasn't long until many more family members got involved in the business, along with all the friends that we could rope into the operation. There's a lot of love in this little tea company!

MaryClaire Thomas

Caleb Christopher

Brigette Christopher

Connor Knapp


The Idea

During his college years, Connor somehow underwent a change: from a Taco Bell and Mountain Dew junkie to a granola-munching, community-minded free spirit. He had been living in and exploring Northern California, much of the West Coast, and North Pole Alaska. But then he decided to turn down his next adventure - a job offer in Antarctica (no joke) - for adventure of a different kind. Connor, by this time Physical Therapist Dr. Knapp, chose to move back to the homestead and try his hand at making a difference in the Huntsville AL community.

At that time, Caleb and Brigette were running Caleb’s lawn care company and pouring every ounce of their time, money, and heart into a new business concept that Caleb had dreamed up when he was a teenager. They were just on the verge of getting it off the ground when Connor came home and started going on about farmers markets and how he wanted to sell something at one. At first they paid little attention but as he kept mentioning it, Caleb and Brigette decided to do something about the idea. Ever ready to jump into a new business concept (by this point in their lives they had had several different ventures between them), they did something they had sworn to never do… enter a partnership. Their justification was that it would be just a little side project that would never really get anywhere; just a way to have some fun and get some much-needed grocery money for their growing family.

A baby with a bow on sitting on top of an excavator


The First Market

So one wintery day, Caleb & Brigette called up Connor and said they were going to start a farmers market booth (selling compost and compost tea) and did he want to be a part of it? Connor probably answered with his now-iconic “sure” and, with $850 of his cash, he did a bunch of running around to come up with concepts and plans from the other two. Thus Samovar Gardens was born.

Why compost? Well, from years of lawn care, Caleb had amassed a mountain of wondrously dark, rich compost. Several of the farmers at the local markets heard what the family was planning and were enthusiastic about the success they thought it would be. There was only one problem though: on their first market day, farmers kept coming up offering to buy truckloads of compost, which would have cleaned out the entire supply in a week. Meanwhile, the market customers were trying to figure out what on earth they would even do with a bucket or jug of compost.

Luckily though, the three had brought a side product to the market... and it turned out to be the dark horse champion. Connor very much wanted to sell something in a mason jar, and Caleb had been mixing teas all winter for his own consumption. Ever since he was little, Caleb had an incredible knack for mixing and making drinks that everyone loved. Just a few months before the market venture started, he'd had resounding success at mixing his own specialty sodas for a party; ever since, people told him he should sell his drinks, but he had not given it a second thought.

Now, however, Caleb mixed up a few special tea blends using herbs from his garden. The first night at the market made it obvious what the true product was. Caleb's tea sold out, while confused people kept asking if they could drink the compost tea. So compost was quickly removed from the picture and tea in mason jars became iconic Samovar Gardens.

A photo of the early Piper & Leaf booth in 2013 run by three of the owners, a sibling, and a friend
Three old


What Happened to Samovar Gardens?

Only a few short months into our tea adventure, we began receiving letters demanding that we “cease and desist” using the term 'samovar.' For several months we tried to figure out a solution. But, at the end of 2013, we were compelled to abandon our original company name of Samovar Gardens. Our attorney told us that a generic object such as a samovar cannot really be trademarked in the industry within it's used and that we could win this fight, but we believed our creative energy, time, and resources could be used for much higher things than years of petty litigations and proving points. After much deliberation (and sifting through over 500 new name options), we settled on the name: Piper & Leaf.

The word 'piper' is an old, English term for a singing tea kettle, which is also where the phrase “piping hot” originated. 'Leaf' symbolizes the tea leaves and the herbs used in our blends. Coupling the English word 'piper' with our icon of a Russian samovar brought a more multi-cultural feel to the brand, keeping it from being restricted to a strictly Russian look. To us, serving tea is about Serving Joy to all people. We believe that choosing to steer away from the fight and our new name choice both reflect our true company goals.


Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.

– Isaiah 26:12

These words are written in Hebrew in the chalk drawing on the wall at the Lowe Mill shop (our very first location). Despite the wild ride that was starting this company, the Lord has brought us peace through it all. None of what Piper & Leaf is today could have happened by our own power.

First and foremost, we are a family who loves working together and sharing the talents, joy, and love with which God has blessed us. We love being a part of creating community, growing local, working as family and friends, and serving delicious tea.

Caleb and Brigette with their 5 children
Several groups of family members hang out in the yard near a barn

Our goal is to learn and grow as a company while we work together to improve and brighten the culture, health, and education of those who come in contact with our tea. And we are always looking for ways to use even more local ingredients to blend with the amazing tea leaves that we import from farmers all over the world. Our locally blended and brewed teas are created with so many fruits and herbs that we grow, pick, and forage for or that we obtain from nearby farmers and friends.

We mix these local ingredients with high quality tea leaves and with heaping doses of happiness, love, and joy. Piper & Leaf Tea Co. is truly the unique taste of Alabama in a cup (or jar) of tea.