Your know those two colorful blends from the February box, Cardamom Rose Mate and Little Bear? They were meticulously created by Amy, founder of Metolius Tea. A lover of plants with a background in herbs, Amy gives us insight into making tea and her dedication to the craft really shines through!
Cardamom Rose Mate, Source: metoliustea.com
How did Metolius Tea get started and how long has it been around?
I fell in love with plants when, as a teenager, I joined the forest defense movement to protect old growth trees from illegal logging in the Willamette Valley. My first night in the woods I realized I'd forgotten my toothbrush. A fellow activist pulled a bright gold root from the ground and said "chew on this!" After years of studies in other fields (writing, history), I immersed myself in plant medicine. I did not plan on starting a business... in fact, I was the last among my friends and family to catch on. Over the last six years my relationship with plants and tea has slowly evolved from a hobby business to a career, and I have evolved from an herbalist to a tea maker.
What goes into creating your blends?
We import organic teas, herbs, spices, and essential oils from all over the world. The standard in the tea industry, organic and non-organic, is still to smother cheap, old leaves in synthetic flavoring. That will change as high integrity tea reaches more people. When we design tea blends, we approach each plant as a whole personality, not just a flavor. Each plant has a flavor, of course, but it also has actions in the body. It may be a diaphoretic, which encourages your body to sweat. It may have a slight bitter component, which triggers digestion. Further, each herb has its own texture. Cardamom and cinnamon get me every time because they are more mucilaginous, i.e. slimy, than you may think. Every blend I put them in, I need drier herbs to balance the palate. The art and science of tea design grows more challenging and more rewarding as I evolve. Sometimes plants are forgiving and their combinations work for me in almost any proportion on my first try. Other times I’ll have a plan for a particular set of plants and I have to really work for it for days or weeks. Peppermint and hibiscus, for example, are commonly paired in tea blends by other companies, but I have yet to balance them in a blend of our own. Sometimes I wonder if they are playing a joke on me.
From where do you source your teas and ingredients?
We source from small production, high integrity farmers locally and around the world. While many of our ingredients are certified organic, the best ingredients are not. The reason is that small operations like Sakari Botanicals out of Bend, Meru Herbs in Kenya, and the tea farmers of Yunnan, China cannot afford (or do not need) the cost of certification. However, our 3rd party lab studies show that these ingredients are the cleanest and most vibrant of our entire palate of ingredients.
When I drink our Earl Grey I can taste the vibrancy of Italy, of the high mountains of China, of Madagascar. I can feel the presence of small, thriving communities behind each ingredient. I love being able to taste the world--and not the world we think of with so much fear and anxiety when we read the news. This world is full of bright people, rich soil, beautiful stories and an abundance of the best ingredients the people and planet have to offer.
Which Metolius tea is your favorite?
Earl Grey, as described above.
My favorite herbal blend is Little Bear. I designed and named it for two beautiful, imaginative children. I wanted them to enjoy a tea with a more advanced, dynamic flavor profile than I currently had among my herbal teas. Little Bear has floral, fruity, sweet, and spicy elements. I recently learned about the Canadian Children’s show illustrated by Maurice Sendak after the same name. The shows cast of forest each have something unique to contribute to the Little Bear's community and personal evolution. Our Little Bear tea has a similar theme, with lavender, lemongrass, pear, vanilla and ginger each hailing from a small, unique community from a different part of the world, combining into a beautiful and imaginative tea.
Thank you Amy! To learn more and go tea shopping visit metoliustea.com.