Following a brutal journey, Jackie Hirsch came to realize that she would never give birth to a second child. Desperate for some sort of healing tonic after her trauma, she perused the shelves of a local health food store. That single shopping excursion ultimately launched the Orlando native into the business of creating and selling flavored matcha teas. The enterprise, now booming, became a baby of another sort. And the name? That came from her then-5-year-old, Malena.
During that retail excursion, Hirsch picked up some matcha tea, a powdered bright green substance that is claimed to be a superfood. She mixed it with hot but not boiling water, as instructed, and started sipping. Maybe it was the caffeine, perhaps the antioxidants or the micro-nutrients. Whatever the cause, the Maitland-based entrepreneur began gaining strength. She got hooked … but bored, which led to her to seek out flavored varieties. They didn’t exist. Instead, she discovered a niche.
“Why don’t they have chocolate, Earl Grey, mint?” Hirsch wondered. And so, this graduate of Lyman High School and the University of Florida started importing a high-grade matcha from an organic family farm in Japan. Back home, she hired a tea formulator (aka a tea sommelier) and began experimenting. “We’ll go through 20 versions until we get the flavor we want,” she says. After hiring a factory, five months later, in April 2017, Healing Butterfly began selling its first packs of tea.
This is no Lipton. It’s not even Tazo. “This is stone-ground tea that is grown a certain way, under shade, and harvested certain times of year,” Hirsch explains about what sets matcha apart from other green teas. “Certain leaves are picked and de-stemmed, and the amount of chlorophyll is huge,” she says. “Matcha has 137 times the antioxidants of a regular cup of green tea, plus it helps boost your metabolism—a main factor is that it contains L-theanine, an amino acid that has medical benefits.” Plus, it gives a gentle, lasting kick of caffeine without affecting sleep, Hirsch claims. “One serving has 30 milligrams of caffeine versus 120 in a cup of coffee from Starbucks.”
In the beginning, Hirsch sold two flavors: plain and vanilla. Today the line comes in seven varieties including pumpkin spice, mint and ginger. “It’s not cheap,” she admits, noting that the silky powder is pricey for the farmers to produce. “It takes two hours to make a couple of ounces,” she points out. Bags of 25 to 42 servings go for about $30 a pack on amazon.com, depending on the flavor. (Some flavors cost more to produce, so Hirsch sells them in smaller quantities.) Still, orders have been steady and reviews have been positive.
A career-long businesswoman who is new to food but not to commerce, Hirsch also started selling wholesale. Today Orlando-area food providers incorporate Healing Butterfly matchas into doughnuts, macarons and lattes. As she expands the product line, Hirsch is also moving toward selling in bulk via kilo bags to high-end hotels, and bundles of 3.65-gram single-serve “sticks” to spas and to consumers who might want to drink an energy booster while on the road.
In Japan, serving matcha involves a whole ceremony that includes whisking the powder and water together, Hirsch notes. That’s lovely but not essential, she says. In fact, Hirsch finds matcha delightfully of-the-moment. “You stir it into hot water and you’re done. It’s just so easy,” she says. “To me it is just so uniquely American. It’s instant. It’s amazing. It’s now.”
On a personal note, Healing Butterfly filled a gap in Hirsch’s heart. “It has been an incredible healing journey,” she says. “When one dream ends, a new dream begins.”