As an innovative business woman, beekeeper and chef, Freda Wolfe has many strings to her bow. None of which should come as a surprise, however, considering her upbringing on a mixed farm on the Mizen Peninsula, surrounded by breathtaking views of Cape Clear and Mount Gabriel.

While on a foraging expedition with Irish Country Living in the glorious grounds of Kilruddery House and Gardens in Co Wicklow, Freda describes her childhood as being filled with memories “of bottle-feeding lambs, scoffing warm apple tarts, showing cattle at Ballydehob, picking blackberries and crab apples and eating fresh scones and jam in the field during harvest time”.

“We grew all our own spuds, vegetables and fruit, so we were pretty much self-sufficient,” says Freda of her food philosophy, which no doubt inspired her early career as a chef, starting in the 1990s in Ireland’s first organic and wild food restaurant, The Strawberry Tree in Macreddin, Co Wicklow, under the talented eye of Evan Doyle.

“Evan was producing food with a total seasonal emphasis and had established a culinary approach focusing on purity and simplicity,” she says, explaining how they would spend much of their free time foraging for sorrel, wild garlic, elder, nettles, red clover and berries to complement the wild salmon, mountain lamb, wood pigeon, game and seaweed on offer from the local area.

Continuing with her training, Freda spent two years working with the late, great Gerry Galvin at Drimcong House, who was also a pioneer of using wild and indigenous Irish foods.

“Gerry was a huge fan of copious amounts of fresh herbs, which we picked daily before service,” says Freda of his influence.

Intelligent Tea

It was under the guidance of these mentors that Freda was able to explore different flavours and vastly improve her culinary skills: all of which she has used to develop her own brands, Intelligent Tea and Clever Honey.

In 2011, Freda qualified as a master herbalist from the School of Herbal Medicine and so began identifying, collecting, drying and blending native Irish flowers and plants, having identified a gap in the market for herbal remedies for aliments such as hangovers, cold and flus.

After testing the market at a stall in Dublin’s Temple Bar, Freda launched her Intelligent Tea brand – so called to reflect the “intelligence” of plants – with funky packaging designed by Laura Dunne.

While herbal teas have health benefits, under European Union labelling regulations, Freda is unable to make health claims regarding products and therefore can only advise individuals to read up on specific herbal teas.

Yet, Intelligent Tea – which comes in a loose leaf format – has obviously proven popular with the public at home and abroad, with a number of repeat customers in countries such as Australia, Germany, Spain and the USA.

Love of BeeKeeping

Not content to rest on her laurels, Freda has also created her own range of honey, known as Clever Honey.

While many readers may shudder at the thought of working with bees, Freda explains how she has been fascinated with them since childhood and, in recent years, has become very concerned about the decline in these important pollinators due to a combination of circumstances, including climate change. The harsh weather in recent years has played havoc in flight days for bees, consequently reducing the honey output, though Freda has high hopes this summer for her Clever Honey, which is raw, natural and unprocessed.

“I want to keep it small, pure and natural. It really is limited edition and seasonal,” says Freda of her product, which ties in with her vision to develop an ethical, enjoyable and sustainable small business.

Indeed, keeping her business to a specific scale is important for Freda.

Success of The Business

That said, it still takes time, tools and dedication to develop Freda’s business. Getting sales is down to pounding the pavement and making connections. Delivering the products to customers is a vital part of the business, with Freda often delivering products herself, and using a courier for longer journeys. Currently, Freda does not use a distributor, but is lucky that tea is non-perishable, light in weight and does not require refrigeration.

She offers three key pieces of advice to readers in regards starting up a food business.

“Love and believe in your product, find a good graphic designer and take advantage of social media and the internet to get your product well-known,” she says.

And, of course, try to make time for tea too...

For further information, visit

Read More:

Meet the wild Irish foragers preservers