Cherie Conliffe, a registered dietician, started CherVitality to help bring Moringa tea benefits to others in her community. Photo courtesy of Cherie Conliffe.

Cherie Conliffe grew up in Brooklyn’s Brownsville area surrounded by corner stores stuffed with junk food. It was hard to even find her family’s traditional West Indian foods outside her household. It boggled her that no one was really speaking about Brownsville being a food desert. 

When Conliffe began learning about the link between junk food consumption and the signs of hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder, she noticed her classmates would mostly buy chips and candy.

These learnings were the jumping-off point to eventually start , a wellness company that makes tea blends using herbs and spices, in 2021.  

Her own wellness journey

While at the University of Connecticut, Conliffe took an elective course in nutrition where she reflected on the gaps in nutrition education in public school. 

“I said, ‘wow … this is bad, because at a young age, you should learn about what food you should eat,’” she said. “They taught us to say no to drugs, but nothing about nutrition and how the body works.” 

Conliffe was the only Black person in the dietetics program during the class of 2007. She remembers non-white food cultures were nonexistent in the curriculum. Recommended diets included foods she didn’t grow up eating, like hummus and quinoa. 

So Conliffe looked into other sources of proteins and starches, like breadfruit and plantains, that are common in the Caribbean. Foods like these had nutritional value but weren’t being taught in school. 

After earning a bachelor’s in dietetics, Conliffe started working in a hospital in her hometown. At Brookdale Hospital Medical Center, she was able to educate people who looked like her. In 2015, she started looking into herbs that could help with conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. 

“When you go to the doctor, they [say], ‘oh, both of your parents have hypertension, so be prepared, you’re gonna get it too,’” she said. “That didn’t sit right with me.”  

She tapped into her mother’s knowledge as a native and resident of the island of Saint Vincent: “I [told] her, ‘I don’t like pills. I want you to find the most nutrient-dense herb that doesn’t taste bad,’” she said. Her mother brought back . 

Conliffe tapped into her mother’s knowledge as a native and resident of the island of Saint Vincent to learn about the best tea leaves. Photo courtesy of Cherie Conliffe.

That was the beginning of Conliffe’s own wellness journey. She says moringa helped lower her blood glucose levels, which some early studies suggest is a benefit of the plant. Conliffe also credits Moringa for boosting her immune system and stabilizing her mood throughout the pandemic. 

“If you want to call me unbothered, that is me,” she said, laughing. “And it helps you focus, like if you’re really distracted or an overthinker, which I was — it really changed my life.” 

The tea behind CherVitality

During the pandemic, Conliffe started packaging her Moringa tea blends out of necessity. She needed her Moringa fix, so she would walk into restaurants with her herb blends and even take them on flights.  

“They used to make fun of me, calling me bush woman, because I would go to restaurants with tea in Ziploc bags,” she said. 

CherVitality saw a boost in sales after its owner started making iced tea with sea moss blends. Photo courtesy of Cherie Conliffe.

Conliffe would source herbs from the Caribbean and other warm places. She would choose the least bitter ones and clear them with the government. When she moved to Southeast Queens (she needed more space, and Brownsville had overcrowding issues) Conliffe started selling them at the Laurelton Farmers Market. CherVitality was born. 

Her mother initially didn’t think the tea blend business idea would make it.

“She just thought, ‘it’s just bush,’ … because they are surrounded by so many herbs, so many different fruits, that they have no idea what it can do for them in the Caribbean,” Conliffe said. “They didn’t even realize that people would spend top dollar to have this shipped out because they can’t grow it.”   

Conliffe’s mother changed her mind on a recent trip during a visit to the farmers market. 

Incorporating sea moss, which grew in popularity during the pandemic for its decongestant properties, gave CherVitality a boost. Conliffe started curating sea moss blends and making iced tea beverages. 

After selling tea blends at the farmers market, Conliffe started making pre-made tea drinks for her business. Photo courtesy of Cherie Conliffe.

“That’s when things really started to change, because people like ready-made products,” Conliffe said. “So after I presented it at the farmers market, I thought, ‘what are we going to do after the summer?’”

Tasting some collaboration

Earnest Foods, a grocery store in Jamaica, Queens, offered an answer. The store, which was also born out of the farmers market, stocks Black-owned products and hosts events for small business owners to chat with customers. At these events, and tea parties  she hosts,Conliffe puts her nutrition education skills to use.   

She also collaborates with the city and schools on nutrition workshops. During a recent interactive session at York College about flavonoids, which incorporated her teas, she says a 7-year-old ran over to tell her “the tea really makes you feel calm and good inside.” 

“Kids don’t lie,” she said.  

Conliffe is also following in the food-steps of her father. Her parents retired in Saint Vincent after working in New York for most of their adult lives. Now her father, who grew up on a farm, is back to his roots, growing his own corn, potatoes, and a myriad of fruits and vegetables — and Moringa, which he exports to Conliffe for CherVitality. 

He is also selling produce to supermarkets in Saint Vincent. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” Conliffe said, laughing. 

CherVitality is hosting a high tea party on Sunday, June 23, at 116-24 Lovingham Place. To buy tickets, click

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1 Comment

  1. Amazing article my dear friend. You inspire me and my family and I love all of your teas and sea moss. Thank you for keeping us healthy.

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