Elyse & John: The Love Story Behind Harney & Sons Teas

Harney & Sons
Elyse Harney with sons Michael and Paul Harney and daughter, Elyse Harney Morris, after planting a copper beech tree in front of the Harney & Sons tea factory in memory John Harney.

Then one day during a phone call, John told me he was renaming the business Harney & Sons Fine Teas, and I said, “But John, your sons aren’t in the business with you.” He replied, “Norwood, just wait—they will be.” Sure enough, first Michael dropped out of managing hotels, and then Paul soon resigned his commission as a captain in the Marines to join their father’s tea venture. The rest is history.

Now an octogenarian, Elyse Harney is best known for Elyse Harney Real Estate in Connecticut’s scenic Berkshire Mountains. She also takes great satisfaction in her children, her family, and her life with John. Devout Catholics, she and John lived together in love that only grew as it extended to include multitudes of others, like me. I have met tea friends from around the world at their table over the years and proudly disclose I feel entitled to consider myself an honorary Harney. 

Elyse Harney, mother of Michael and Paul and grandmother of Emeric, Alex, Finnegan, and Teagen—the third generation in tea—is the wife without whom there would be no Harney & Sons Fine Teas. She is the woman behind the man for whom the John Harney Lifetime Achievement Award in tea is named. Theirs is truly the romance of tea.

TeaTime Contributing Editor James Norwood Pratt, also known as America’s Tea Sage, chose to write about his dear friends Elyse and John Harney in this first in a series of sketches to illustrate the romance of tea. In upcoming issues, he will continue telling the love stories of committed couples for whom tea has been a bonding agent, you might say, and who have made a life together within the tea trade. There’s a great deal of romance in a chest of tea just waiting to be recognized!

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