Kratom Tea Back Home Festival - 2

What’s Better than Booze at a Festival?

The question above isn’t rhetorical, and we’ve got the answer to it. It’s often said that the only thing that could have made Woodstock any better would have been kratom tea. With that timeless wisdom in our minds, we set forth to ensure that no one could say the same thing about the Back Home Festival!

Kratom Tea at the Back Home Festival

It’s good to be back! Once again, Top Tree Herbs was proud to be part of the annual Back Home Festival in West Virginia. This 3-day bluegrass and rock festival in New Martinsville, WV has been crowned the best music festival in West Virginia, and it never disappoints.

In 2021, Top Tree made its first appearance at the festival. That year, we served hot, fresh-leaf kratom tea and our ever-popular iced kratom Arnold Palmer. We didn’t serve tea at the fest in 2022 and missed the experience greatly, so we knew we had to come back and make a splash this year!

Climbing & Kratom Documentary Premiere

Back Home Fest was more than just an occasion to sell kratom tea – Top Tree herbs was on the official festival itinerary! On Saturday, June 24th, we kicked off the day with the premiere of our short kratom tea documentary, Steep: The Story of Kiedaisch Wall

Kratom Tea, Unplugged

While we can help the greatest number of people by selling kratom tea bags online, we don’t get to have as many deep conversations with customers about the challenges they face and the questions they have as we would if we were in a kratom store or a kava bar.

We love serving kratom tea in person because it helps bridge the divide we often feel while serving new customers over the internet. We find that people are much more likely to try kratom tea when they can speak to someone knowledgeable about it and try it in a comfortable, carefree setting.

Circumstances Change, but Our Mission Stays the Same

The 2023 Back Home Festival was especially important to us for a number of reasons.

At the Back Home Festival in 2021, our tea-slinging team consisted of co-founders Sam Weber and Soren Shade, as well as Caro Freinberg (who at the time was our volunteer ice-runner, but is now our head of design and customer support). In the two years since, Top Tree has weathered many storms – namely, Sam’s tragic passing last summer.

Returning to our old spot in the festival grounds was deeply emotional and powerfully cathartic. We were flooded with memories of Sam sipping kratom tea and gracefully answering every question asked by curious festival-goers.

During Back Home Fest (and every day), Sam’s lively spirit and passion for kratom tea encourages us to continue our mission to create a positive image for kratom.

Steaming Hot Days, Ice-Cold Teas

Kratom tea fits in seamlessly with music festival culture. On its face, you might assume that there isn’t a lot of overlap between an Appalachian music fest and the traditional setting that kratom tea has been consumed in throughout history.

Yet that’s not the case – from the weather to the needs of the people the drinking tea, the similarities were many.

Each of the three days of the festival averaged 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with a humidity level between 60 to 80%. In the wetland forests of Southeast Asia (where kratom grows naturally and there is a long tradition of kratom consumption) temperatures often rival those of the Back Home Festival weekend.

Farmers and laborers in SE Asia turn to kratom tea as their go-to beverage for long days spent in the hot sun and evenings spent relaxing with their community. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that kratom tea was a hit at a hot summer festival in West Virginia, part of which is a temperate rainforest.

Brewing Up a Good Time

To accommodate the thirsty masses, we brewed three different iced kratom tea recipes, available every day of the Back Home Festival. We brought back our fan-favorite iced kratom Arnold Palmers, along with a creamy iced chai kratom tea and our classic kratom mojito.

Chai Red Kratom

For those who love southern sweet tea, the Arnold Palmer delivered that nostalgic-citrusy-and-sweet-with-a-hint-of-bitter flavor they knew and loved.

The cups brimming with strong kratom tea, sprigs of bright green mint, and succulent slices of fruit attracted dozens of curious customers who had never tried kratom before and were enticed by the looks alone.

Reports From Festival-Goers

Over the years, we’ve found that there are a handful of predictable responses people have to kratom. They’ll either say that “kratom saved my life” or ask something along the lines of, “isn’t this some synthetic gas station high?

Kratom tea is the traditional preparation and is generally more mild than other kratom products available on the American market, which makes it a great ambassador to those who have accepted anti-kratom propaganda as fact.

To make myth-busting easy, we brought along a few dozen kratom saplings to point to when people wanted to know what the tea was made of.

The two types of responses above constitute the extreme ends of the spectrum of peoples’ perceptions about kratom, and we try to serve both types of people – and everyone in between – as best we can. Our goal has always been to show how useful, though mild, kratom tea can be.

We view kratom tea as a handy tool to have in your cabinet for whenever the mood strikes you. Like coffee, kratom tea is something you can reach for with a function in mind. It brings a subtle boost and a slight advantage, and you can build a healthy relationship with it if you have the right mindset.

We estimate that about 30% of our customers at the Back Home Festival were new to kratom. They had never heard of kratom, let alone tried kratom tea. Many were excited to learn about how they could supplement their caffeine intake, dance longer on tired legs, or find a non-alcoholic beverage to socialize and cool down with.

Overall, it was great to simply speak to people who were both familiar and unfamiliar with kratom. We serve the kratom tea community from behind our computer screens 99% of the year, so we cherish the days we get to spend drinking tea with people at the Back Home Festival.

The Premiere of Steep

As we mentioned before, serving fresh kratom iced tea was just one part of Top Tree’s work at the Back Home Festival. We kicked off the second day of the festivities with the premiere of Top Tree Herb’s first short kratom documentary, Steep.

At noon on June 24th, the lights dimmed in the historic Lincoln Theatre in New Martinsville. This short, 8-minute-and-30-second film took place just a few minutes away from the festival grounds, along the sandstone cliffs of the Ohio River. The cliffs span across many sections of Kiedaisch Point Park, a spot that’s very popular for hiking but less well-known for climbing.

Kratom tea can be a great part of your routine as an athlete.

Steep documents the history of climbing at Kiedaisch Wall and how climbers have built community and instilled each other with a sense of purpose that many others in the area have struggled to find.

Building Community with Kratom Tea

Steep also tells the story of how the climbers who set the first routes at Kiedaisch decades ago are now getting older and slowing down. Yet instead of backing down from the sport as they age, these climbers are now drinking kratom tea and sending routes just like they did in the old days.

Kratom tea has allowed them to not just keep climbing, but also to keep teaching others to climb. Younger people in the community are learning from the experiences, mistakes, and success of older climbers, and are gaining that sense of purpose they otherwise may have missed out on.

Steep touches upon parallel between the freedom to drink kratom tea and the freedom to climb. Just as climbing has become more popular and subject to scrutiny and fear from people who don’t understand it, kratom tea has become more popular and subject to misrepresentation.

A Thermos of Tea can have an Outsized Impact

Underlying the story of Steep is the message that we shouldn’t be biased against one activity or the other just because we’re unfamiliar with it. Instead of responding to someone’s actions with fear, we should respond with curiosity and empathy to learn and make more balanced decisions.

For the most part, we kept kratom tea in the background of the film. We  draw about as much attention to kratom in Steep as contemporary media might draw to a cup of coffee in a television show.

The short film was well received, and most of the questions during the following Q&A were about climbing access and difficulty in the area. The first 40 attendees were also given a bag of our energizing hibiscus kratom tea blend, and many dozens more swung by our tea stand at the festival grounds to learn more about “the tea featured in the movie.”

Aside from raising awareness for kratom tea and providing people with a positive first impression of kratom, we’ve also been able to raise money to help conserve and grow climbers’ access to Kiedaisch Wall.

Back Home Festival Marks a New Beginning

While we were boogieing to the rhythm of Melvin Seals & the Jerry Garcia Band, Pink Talking Fish, and Ekoostik Hookah along the Ohio River, our website and tea products underwent major changes.

In the final days of June, our long term “spring cleaning” project to revitalize the website went live. Aside from delivering the same delicious and strong kratom tea, our website – toptreeherbs.com – has evolved into a newer and better version of itself.

That’s not all! That same weekend we put the finishing touches on our new tea packaging, part of our ongoing imperative to help kratom fit in among its fellow herbal teas. Instead of recyclable plastic pouches housing our crushed leaf kratom tea bags, they’ll be packaged in classic tea boxes.

Now that summer is in full swing, we hope you take a moment to browse through the rest of our new website and check out all that we’ve been up to. Share Steep with friends, and make plans to visit the Back Home Festival next year. We’d love to see you there!

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Soren Shade
Soren Shade is the Founder and CEO of Top Tree Herbs. He was the producer for Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia, and continues to produce the Hamilton Morris Podcast. He writes with a holistic look at natural and synthetic pharmacology, traditions-of-use, and a love for freedom of consciousness. You can find Soren rock climbing or advocating for sensible drug reform and anti-prohibition.

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