Close up of a glass-jarred candle in front of a Christmas tree

Craft the Perfect Gift at Cuppa Candles Candle Bar in Syracuse

Have you ever met an advanced perfumer? Yes, it’s a thing, and I’m lucky to have met one and she’s pretty incredible. Sarah Seib is the creative mastermind behind Cuppa Candles, the first candle bar in Syracuse. With years of experience in crafting scents and making candles, Sarah has developed a one-of-a-kind experience. Visitors can come into her quaint shop and make a custom-scented candle… or a few!

So to celebrate National Candle Day, let’s take a look at this unique spot in downtown Syracuse. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to create custom candles for all of your friends and family.

The History of Cuppa Candles

Cuppa Candles as first established in 2015 when owner Sarah Seib was on a mission to find a more environmentally friendly way to enjoy candles. Her first endeavors included soy wax creations in up-cycled mugs (hence the name “Cuppa” Candles). Sarah sold the candles through Etsy as well as Wildflowers downtown.

Over the years Cuppa Candles evolved to include more modern designs (jarred candles) and flameless home fragrances. In 2023, the business made its biggest impact yet with the opening of a brick-and-mortar location in McCarthy Mercantile. At the shop visitors can create their own custom-scented candles to take home. Or head upstairs to Wildflowers and purchase one of Sarah’s premade candles.

Meet Sarah Seib, the Owner of Cuppa Candles

To start, scent-master Sarah Seib is a lifelong resident of Syracuse. And her passion for her city is obvious. In addition to single-handedly owning and operating her own business, Sarah also serves as the board vice president for Wildflowers. When she’s not mixing up new fragrances, she’s handling logistics for the fellow artisans of Syracuse.

Sarah’s previous experience ranges in a variety of art and tech fields. But what makes someone qualified to own and operate a candle making business and candle bar? A whole lot of knowledge about scents, that’s what. In fact, Sarah just finished up classes this week for her Advanced Perfumery Certificate from Pratt Institute.

On a personal level, Sarah is very open about the impact grief has had on herself, her mental health, and her business. I instantly felt a kindred spirit with Sarah when I learned that she lost her husband after a long battle with ALS. Because instead of letting herself wallow in the difficulty, she has turned it into something positive. She has donated much of the medical equipment her husband required to others in similar situations. Sarah also carries on her husband’s legacy by working with biomedical engineers at Syracuse University to help develop assistive technology for mobility impairments.

Sarah Seib, owner of Cuppa Candles, standing in front of shelves filled with candle scents at her candle bar in Syracuse

Looking for more locally-owned businesses to support in Central New York?
Check out these shops in and around Syracuse.

What is a Candle Bar?

You’ve heard of a cocktail bar, a taco bar, a s’mores bar, and even a potato bar. But a candle bar? It’s a thing! And it’s something that has been growing in popularity over the past few years with the virality of social media. Just instead of crafting tacos or cocktails, you’re crafting candles.

Following several years of making candles for the public, Sarah envisioned a more interactive business model that fostered community and creativity. So in 2023 Cuppa Candles Candle Bar opened, accomplishing exactly that goal. Now folks are invited into the intimate space of the candle bar to browse scents and vessels to design their perfect candles.

Creating the Perfect Scent

Along one wall of the shop is shelves upon shelves of scents to choose from. Each scent resembles a small candle in a metal tin, just without the wick. Sarah invites customers to dive in and smell as many of the scents as they would like, and to mix and match them as they go. One of the things that stood out most about my candle-making experience was how thoughtful Sarah was throughout. She was determined to make sure that I had a great experience and was 100% confident in my choices before we solidified them in wax. So whether you go in knowing what you want, or you need a bit of guidance, Sarah will direct you along a scent journey to achieve your perfect blended scent.

Pro-tip: When you’re at the candle bar sniffing dozens of different scents, it can be a little overwhelming for your senses. But Sarah has a solution! Take a deep breath into the nook of your elbow and you’ll cleanse your scent palate. Since you are already used to your own scent and the scent of your clothing, that deep breath serves as a refresh. Then you can go on testing out which scent combinations you love best.

My Old-Fashioned Candle

Inspired by one of my favorite cocktails, I was immediately drawn to the warm, cozy scents. My mission? To create a candle that smelled like a smoked old-fashioned. While I’m keeping the exact blend of scents a trade secret between Sarah and myself, I can confirm that the fragrance is spot on.

Once you’ve settled on your perfect blend of scents, it is time to pick out your vessel (container). There are a variety of beautiful glass jars, both prismatic and opaque. And there are a handful of vintage mugs, in true Cuppa Candles style. Sarah will create you a sticker with your exact scent blend for the bottom of the candle. That way when you love it so much, you’ll know exactly how to recreate it once it has burned completely out.

Then, Sarah will fill your contained with hot wax before literally pouring you a ‘shot’ of fragrance oils to mix in. Use the stir stick for 2 minutes to fully combine the scent in the wax, and that’s it!

Taking Home Your Custom Candles

Once you’ve poured the wax into your vessel and added the scents, the wax will need 90 minutes to soft set. At that point, Sarah will trim the wick, pop up a cover (if necessary), and package up your candle to go. You have three options for picking up your candle:

1 – Wait at least 90 minutes to pick up your candle the same day you make it. During that time you can browse the other vendors at McCarthy Mercantile, Wildflowers, and around downtown Syracuse.

2 – Choose a day to come back to the shop to pick up your candle(s).

3 – Have your candle shipped to your home. This option does required an additional fee for shipping.

Once you get your candle home, do not light it for at least a week after it was poured. This give the molecules in the wax plenty of time to properly bond with the scent molecules, providing a more potent and longer-lasting scent.

The Future of Cuppa Candles

As Sarah comes up on her 9th anniversary for Cuppa Candles next April, she has big plans in store. Some of the plans she’s keeping hush-hush for now, but the biggest piece is hard to keep secret. In addition to having a candle bar, Cuppa Candles is going to add a perfume bar. Visitors will be able to come into the shop to craft their very own, custom-scented perfume.

Did you know… a candle-maker is known as a chandler? As we chatted upon my return to pick up my candle, Sarah and I reminisced on the memory of Matthew Perry and his iconic role. But Sarah made a great point. As chandlers, we can carry on the legacy of Chandler Bing – through carefully crafted scent stories.

Tell me your thoughts!