A Cup of Nourishment

Mother Mullein Herbs crafts specialty teas

By Drew Myron

Brooke Spaulding, left, and Clare Boland grow, harvest and blend local ingredients for their tea company, Mother Mullein Herbs. Photo By Drew Myron

On a cold winter day, Clare Boland and Brooke Spaulding sip memories of summer.

In a hot cup of tea, they taste a garden of herbs and name each plant with keen sensory recall: calendula, bergamot, lavender, lemon balm, rose, chamomile.

“There’s something about drinking flowers,” Clare says with a sigh.

Mother Mullein Herbs, founded by the duo, is a Hood River Valley tea company growing its own ingredients.

While tea companies typically source their ingredients from faraway places, Clare and Brooke grow and harvest their own plants, flowers and herbs. They dry, sort and hand-blend formulations to offer a full line of loose-leaf herbal teas.

Mt. Hood Bloom—a bold, earthy, floral blend—is a bestseller. It includes bergamot, lemon balm, calendula and rose petals.

Lung Love, Brooke’s favorite, is a mixture of licorice, anise, marshmallow root and mullein leaf intended to soothe the respiratory system.

The company sells seven distinct tea formulations, retailing at $13 a package.

“Tea has changed my life,” Brooke says. “It’s a consumable product that brings nourishment. It’s art. It’s an experience.”

The 2 friends combined their maternal, nurturing natures with a valuable local plant to create the company’s name. Mullein (pronounced “mullen”) is a wild plant frequently seen in Oregon. Growing 4 to 5 feet tall, the plant has soft and fuzzy leaves, which hold emollient and astringent properties that offer support to
the respiratory system.

Brooke, 32, is owner-operator of Lady Fern, a Parkdale gift shop selling art and accessories from an array of Pacific Northwest makers.

Originally from Kent, Washington, she attended Seattle Pacific University, where she soared as a soccer star. In 2016, she and her husband, Paul, made their home in Parkdale. They have 2 young daughters, Mable and Ida.

Brooke, with baby Ida nearby, sorts herbs harvested from Neal Creek Farm.

Clare, 31, is from Cape Elizabeth, Maine. She attended Montana State University to study photography. With an interest in farming and community agriculture, she spent several years working in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

In 2019, she and her husband, Craig Kozeluh, moved to Oregon. They settled in the Columbia Gorge for a job opportunity at One Community Health, where Craig works as a dentist. The couple live in the mid-Hood River Valley on Neal Creak Road, where Clare tends sheep, and she and Brooke grow ingredients for Mother Mullein Herbs.

Farm work created a fast friendship when the two met in 2020. They were digging in the dirt at Tumbleweed Farm— an organic farm in the upper Hood River Valley—where Clare works full time and Brooke worked for that summer.

Along with strong hands and sunny dispositions, the two quickly realized they shared a similar lifestyle vibe—“handmade, organic, intentional,” they say—as well as an enthusiasm for medicinal herbs. Together they poured over “The Organic Medicinal Herb Farmer,” a guidebook serving as manual, inspiration and encouragement for farm entrepreneurs. A bond—and a business—quickly bloomed.

“We’re dreamers and doers,” Brooke says. The Mother Mullein season begins in April when the women plant seeds for more than a dozen herbs. In May, the seedlings are strong enough to transplant to the expansive field at Neal Creek Farm.

The summer months bring extensive weeding, mulching and composting, all done by hand and without chemicals. The initial harvest can begin as early as June and continue until the first frost.

Once plucked and gathered, the herbs are moved to a protective hoop house covered in cloth where they are dried, sorted and blended into specialty tea formulations.

“The smell is so good,” Brooke says.

“You’re covered in lemon balm. You just zen out.”

Clare Boland, left, and Brooke Spaulding, founders of Mother Mullein Herbs, share some custom tea. Photo By Drew Myron.

Clare agrees.

“Making the teas inside is just as medicinal as growing it outside,” she says.

Still, they say, the outdoor work is especially satisfying.

“I love working hard,” Clare says.

“Getting my hands dirty and feeling tired. It makes me feel grounded. When you’re outside every day you pay attention to the seasons. You’re just so in tune.”

Brooke shares the feeling.

“So many jobs today are incredibly cerebral, but there’s something about being physical,” she says. “At the end of the day you say, ‘I did it,’ and you feel so good.”

Buoyed with emotional—and sometimes physical—support from their spouses, Mother Mullein is a family affair. The men pitch in to lift and haul, and Paul helped with the package branding and design.

On serene days, Ida might nap in a field of chamomile while Mable tags along as farm assistant.

While Brooke and Clare have always enjoyed tea, their enthusiasm has reached a new level. They’re eager to pour a cup and share the passion.

“Tea is for everyone,” Clare says. “It’s an easy, tasty way to get the medicinal qualities of the herbs. It’s a cool way to tune into your body and find what you need.”

Mother Mullein Herbs products are sold at Lady Fern, 4959 Baseline Drive, Parkdale; TreeBird Market, 106 Highway 35, Hood River; and Farm Stand in the Gorge, 1009 12th Street, Hood River; or visit the Mother Mullein Herbs website.