Lori Judge: From Realty to Real Tea: 15 years of Business Success


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Fancy a cup of tea or a new home in the heart of Savannah’s historic district? Lori Judge is a pro at both real estate and the subtle science of plant medicine. At the root of all her endeavors is a simple mission of sustainability and a sense of place. 

If you were to look at the many business ventures of Lori Judge from a distance, they might seem a bit like puzzle pieces that have fallen into each other’s boxes. There’s Judge Realty, the firm she founded in 2005 that has garnered a reputation throughout the region for their commitment to ethics and their whip-smart savvy when it comes to area residential and commercial real estate. There’s the famed art collection housed within the firm’s offices, which has been a tremendous showcase for local and regional artists.

And then there’s the tea, both the farm that grows it and the teahouse that sells it. 

From a distance, it might be odd that a successful trailblazer of the arts world might also be one of the area’s only yaupon tea farmers. It was Judge’s husband, Lou Thomann who initially began looking into the unique properties of the humble yaupon holly, the only caffeinated plant in North America. Together, the couple founded Temples Farm in Metter, Georgia and began cultivating this plant. And together, they sell its miraculous tea out of the Yaupon Teahouse right next door to Judge Realty.

“We grow a little bit of everything,” Judge said of Temples Farm. Beyond the aforementioned yaupon, you’ll find various medicinal mints, St. John’s Wort and yarrow, along with fruit-bearing plants from pears and peaches to blueberries and blackberries. In keeping with Judge’s commitment to sustainability, much of it is grown through permaculture, which eliminates harmful chemicals by mimicking how plants grow naturally. “Obviously, you have to weed, but I don’t do any herbicides or pesticides. It’s completely self-sustaining.”

Real Estate maven, farmer and server of natural medicinal brews. It would seem an interesting blend of ambitions to anyone else but Judge.

“It wasn’t really a jump,” she said. “Lou has been investigating yaupon for 10 years. I’ve been interested in natural medicine my whole life … It’s an natural extension of my personal interests.”

Look closer and you’ll see that what initially seemed like the odd bedfellows of her varied interests is actually a reflection of Judge herself: multi-faceted, multi-talented and ever interested in contributing to Savannah’s diverse and multi-faceted culture. 

It’s that last piece of the puzzle that has been her bread and butter for more than 21 years. “I came from a rural farming community in Illinois, and I was drawn to Savannah for its history and its art,” she said. “Savannah was a bigger city with a small-town feel, which I loved. I’m small town farm girl with farther reaching vision.”

Allowing both commerce and nature to guide her business practice. Lori seeks to share her knowledge and expertise with her community.  

 

The Empire at a Glance:

 

Judge Realty

Judge Realty is a full-service boutique real estate firm active since 2005, the firm specializes in residential and commercial sales, leasing, and property management. “Acting with integrity, exceeding client expectations, acting as a collaborative team, challenging traditional modus operandi, and enriching our community” is the core of Judge Realty’s values. Check out Judge Realty here

 

Yaupon Teahouse

Yaupon Holly is a tree native to the Southeastern United States. Its leaves were used for thousands of years by Southeastern native tribes as a stimulating beverage, medicinal plant and ceremonial drink. Among the most time-tested of our native traditional medicinal plants, it is the only indigenous source of caffeine in North America. Yaupon is in the same Ilex family as Yerba Mate and Guayusa, sacred plants of South America. 

 

Judge's Art Collection

The Judge Realty art collection represents the passion Lori Judge and husband Lou Thomann share for local and regional art works. The opened their collection to the public in 2014, create commissioned public art works on the facade of Judge Realty and have sponsored several community art centered block parties. 

 

PHOTO: Cedric smith

 

Temples Farm

The combined dream of Lou Thomann, Lori Judge and their son Albert, Temples Farm incorporates Judge’s expansive permaculture orchard with Thomann’s work cultivating yaupon. Beyond simply growing yaupon for the teahouse, these 10,000 wild selected plants represent the first attempt to adapt Yaupon, a wild plant, into a traditional row crop.

 

photo: Tim Johnson

 

Lori Judge's famous "snake cover" -  South magazine 2011

Lori Judge was selected as a feature cover for South magazine in August 2011. Little did we know that it would be one of the most talked about covers in the history of South magazine. "Welcome to the Jungle" was an article that featured the fight for realtors to survive through the recession years. Lori's unstoppable passion for her industry has helped her thrive through the good and bad and her commitment to expanding her operations speak to the success that she has achieved as she celebrates 15 years in business. 

 

Lori Judge’s husband, Lou Thomann initially began looking into the unique properties of the humble yaupon holly, the only caffeinated plant in North America. Together, the couple founded Temples Farm in Metter, Georgia and began cultivating this plant. And together, they sell its miraculous tea out of the Yaupon Teahouse right next door to Judge Realty.

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