By Emma Castleberry | Photos by Megan Authement
When you enter the apothecary and tea room at Alchemy, the enticing aromas of specialty chai and nourishing baked treats whet your appetite, and a genial young woman behind the counter greets you with a wide smile. This is Ashley Kuper, co-owner of Alchemy, a three-part business: tea room, apothecary and acupuncture practice.
Kuper and her business partner, Emmy Bethel, met at the Daoist Traditions College of Chinese Medical Arts in Asheville. Both are licensed acupuncturists and diplomates of Oriental Medicine, who practice Chinese herbology and Asian bodywork therapy as well as acupuncture.
During their training, Kuper and Bethel discovered they shared a dream. “We wanted to change the face of Chinese medicine,” Kuper says. Toward that end, Alchemy strives to make Chinese medicine accessible and approachable, rather than an esoteric mystery. “People don’t understand Chinese medicine,” Bethel says. “We grow up in a culture indoctrinated into western medicine from day one.”
Bethel and Kuper envisioned a way for people to explore Chinese medicine in the comfort of a cozy and uplifting tea room. Customers come in for a cup of “alchemical” tea or cocoa, and linger to learn more about what makes Alchemy’s ingredients so unique. Glass bottles of all sizes line the walls, displaying exotic herbs with names like dang gui and bai shao. Quite popular among patrons is the topical liniment zheng gu shui. A large chalkboard depicts a simple menu of teas and nourishing foods made with ingredients rooted in Chinese medicine.
The Alchemy apothecary differs from an herb shop. As Chinese herbologists, Kuper and Bethel use plants and herbs in much the same way that western medicine uses pharmacology. Like any doctor’s office, to obtain plant medicine, clients need to make an appointment—in this case, for an herbal consult. Following a comprehensive assessment and recommendation, the client may receive a prescription for one or more Chinese herbs.
Chris Silva was already familiar with Chinese medicine when he started visiting Alchemy and met the owners last year. “They really care about treating and educating people around Asheville,” he says. “I’m grateful for their time and investment in the community.”
Alchemy is located at 62 Clayton Street, just north of downtown Asheville. Discounted acupuncture is available at weekly CommuniTEA Saturdays between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. For more information visit alchemyasheville.com.
Emma Castleberry is a freelance writer and media specialist with a background in education and a love for all things adventurous and tasty. Her website is elcastleberry.wordpress.com.