Brand Spotlight: BlendBee

BlendBee is a Lake Tahoe-based tea business that has amazing tea blends to choose from and even lets customers create their own! Battle Born, their spicy green tea, made an appearance in the Tea Box Express October box. Jamah, BlendBee's founder, shares more about her company and her blends.

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Source: BlendBee on lnstagram

Tell us a little about BlendBee and how it got started.

I have studied and immersed myself the health & wellness industry for the last 20 years. Natural remedies have always fascinated me. I love concocting blends of herbs and teas to help myself and my friends/family reach certain health goals. I decided that everyone should have the option to create their own perfect tea blend, and BlendBee was born. My customers LOVE that they are able to create their own perfect blends for themselves.  BlendBee has grown from just an idea of mine to a full functioning company in Lake Tahoe, it is very exciting. I found a wonderful space that we created into a commercial kitchen right by the lake, surrounded by forest, we call it the "Tea Hive". Every season in Tahoe is gorgeous and inspiring, and I'm lucky enough to be able to hike to the Hive (or snowshoe in the winter), you will often find my inspiration in the names of our blends "Tahoe The Mornin' To Ya"! I'm very excited for the future of BlendBee, we are just getting started!

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Hello Tahoe! Source: BlendBee on Instagram

You have tons of delicious sounding tea blends and even let customers create their own. Can you explain more about the creative process that goes into making your blends?

My customers are the best, and daily we are creating their custom blends, which also give us a ton of inspiration. Our "Make Your Own" feature is often used to create personalized gifts, as well as promotional blends for brands and companies. Often within that process we create a blend so great, it has to go up on the site for everyone. More often than not, I create a blend based on my own personal cravings. Take my blend Thin Mintea as an example. I had a craving for Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies, but I didn't want to indulge (I follow a strict plant based diet). So I created a healthful blend that tastes just like the cookie but is beneficial for people with diabetes, or people that are wanting a sweet treat without the guilt. Creating a delicious tea blend is like creating a great recipe, it takes knowledge and expertise of each ingredient. Most importantly the quality of every thing we use, we are very picky where we get our ingredients, and it makes all the difference within our blends. We don't cut corners, you get the best of the best.

From where do you source your teas and other ingredients?

All over the world. We work with a few suppliers here in the states that have contracts with some small farms as well as organic and fair trade farms worldwide. We are very picky about each and every ingredient we use within our blends. Some of our ingredients aren't certified organic, yet they are not grown with any harmful chemicals or pesticides. Some of these smaller farms in other countries can't afford our organic certification, it is a very expensive and daunting process.

They take pride in their land and their farming practices, and it is reflected in their crops. I love supporting the "little guys" when I can.

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Source: BlendBee on Instagram

Which BlendBee tea is your favorite?

Right now, I honestly can't get enough of Burn Baby Burn, my spiced turmeric infused white and green tea blend. It is the newest BlendBee blend that I created in conjunction with Chill Baby Chill (reduce stress & detox herbal blend).

It is kind of our take on a weight loss/detox combination, without the "hype". I absolutely love the spiciness of Burn Baby Burn, and the anti-inflammatory properties are out of this world. It tastes like a rich, spiced chai, but with white and green tea. I have been on a mission to look my best in a bikini for my 40th Birthday and I am thrilled with my results using this combination. My other favorites lately have been Mountain Matcha, Sierra Sunrise & Tahoe The Mornin' To Ya!

Thank you Jamah! Try other BlendBee teas (even create your own blend!!!) and receive 15% off with the code TEABOXEXPRESS at blendbee.com.

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Brand Spotlight: JusTea

The August box includes a unique tea from a special company. Purple Leaf Tea from Kenya is brought to us by JusTea, a forward-thinking company that provides jobs and sustainable wages to rural farmers. Paul from JusTea shares more about Purple Leaf Tea and the amazing they're doing in Kenya.

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Source: justeakenya on Instagram

What is Purple Leaf Tea?

Purple Leaf Tea is a natural cultivar of “Camelia Sinensis Assamica.”

Over 25 years ago the TRFK (Tea Research Foundation of Kenya, now known as the TRI, Tea Research Institute) began research on a ‘Purple Tea’ cultivar. The TRFK was able to successfully develop a new Purple cultivar by naturally crossbreeding it with the tea’s anthocyanin rich cousin “Camelia Irrawadiensis.” In 2011, the Tea Directorate finally began to encourage local farmers to plant the first of the purple tea bushes. This project could turn out to be the most significant and influential that the TRFK has ever undertaken.

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Source: justea.com

Does purple tea only grow in certain locations?

Purple Tea grows in less than 100 tea gardens across Kenya. The Purple Leaf Tea in the August box grows West of the Rift Valley in Nandi Hills - from the highest elevations of tea gardens in all of Africa at 2,047 m above sea level. 

Is purple leaf tea a new thing or just new to us?

It is not new in Kenya but it is definitely new to us here in the West! It is a very special tea and the farmers are very excited to share it with you!

What is your relationship with tea farmers in Kenya?

We work directly with small-scale farmers in Nandi Hills led by the Katah family. We travel back and forth to Kenya every year and have been there over 11 times. We were fortunate to host Boaz and his wife Jamila (our key partners), on their first trip to Canada earlier this year! Our teas are Fair Trade Federation certified and we have already created over 200 jobs in rural Kenya for women and youth.

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Source: justeakenya on Instagram

What purple tea blends do you offer and which one is the most popular?

We offer 4 different Purple Teas:

  • Purple Leaf Tea (Pure, unblended)
  • Purple Rain - Fruity blend
  • Purple Mint - Refreshing blend
  • Purple Jasmine - Floral blend

So far the most popular is Purple Rain but my personal favourite is the Purple Jasmine :)

Thanks Paul! Want to try more AND take advantage of a special offer?

Use the code TeaBox for 20% off all Purple Teas at justea.com.

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Brand Spotlight: Pearl Soda Company

Who tried the Vanilla Rooibos tea syrup by Pearl Soda Company in the June box?! Tea syrup is a fun and unique tea product. To make a drink, you just add to seltzer water or follow a simple recipe to create a cocktail. Liz, co-founder of the company, shares more about her company and their products.

How did you get the inspiration for starting Pearl Soda Company?

Like many people, we stumbled on the idea and just couldn't get our minds off of it. The first tea soda was made on a hot summer day when I was working at our sister company, The Jasmine Pearl. I kept wanting to make Dancing Dragon into a stronger, more refreshing iced tea because it was so close to tasting like old fashioned root beer. I realized it would be never be exactly what I hoped without bubbles. So we pulled the soda stream out of the break room and started trying to make sparkling Dancing Dragon. Pretty soon we were sharing with customers and the idea just kind of took hold. It was such a fantastically fun group project to discover awesome flavors and perfect the whole idea. We hope that fun shows in our final product. 

Image courtesy of Pearl Soda Co.

What is tea syrup and what can we do with it?

Tea syrup is a simple concept with a lot of creative possibility. We carefully blend and brew tea at a very high concentration and then add a little pure cane sugar.  Think of it as a simple syrup packed full of flavor. Although our original vision was to make syrups that would eventually become sparkling tea, one of my favorite things is seeing all the awesome ways people use them. You can use them to make mocktails, cocktails, tea flavored desserts, floats- anything! Just keep in mind that one ounce of syrup is enough flavor for a pint sized glass and start experimenting.

Do you have a simple recipe that uses the Vanilla Rooibos tea syrup?

Sure! Vanilla Rooibos has such a nice, creamy flavor that it unsurprisingly pairs well with creamy things. I love love love Vanilla Rooibos with sparkling water and a scoop of butter pecan ice cream on top. It's a grown up, extra yummy, crazy smooth and decadent float. You can take it one step further by adding a shot of bourbon. 

In a pint glass, add:

  • 10 oz. sparkling water
  • 1 oz. of Vanilla Rooibos syrup
  • one generous scoop of butter pecan ice cream
  • 1.5 oz. bourbon (optional)

Give it a little stir and dig in!

Also, our website full of other fun ideas, www.pearlsodaco.com

Source: pearlsodacompany on Instagram

Which tea syrup flavor is your favorite?

I get this all the time, and it's always a difficult question because I sincerely love them all. I'd say, I reach for either Dancing Dragon or Blue Mt. Sunshine the most often. Dancing Dragon is so unique and its also the flavor that sparked this whole project so I have a special place for it in my heart. It's made from some of my favorite things; Sarsaparilla- the dominant flavor in root beer, Puerh- aged earthy tea from Yunnan province in China, and Honeybush- a cousin of rooibos that tastes like honey. Blue Mt. Sunshine, on the other hand is very classic. It's made from Nilgiri black tea from the blue mountains of southern India, lemongrass and lemon myrtle. The flavor is kind of like a very gentle Arnold Palmer and it's so fun and easy to make cocktails with. Just a little dash of vodka or gin and you're done!  

Thanks Liz! Learn more and order your syrup at pearlsodacompany.com.

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"Tea Talk" with Writer Lu Ann Pannunzio

Tea blogger and writer Lu Ann Pannunzio knows a thing or two about enjoying the tea experience. In fact, she's written a whole book on the subject! I have long admired her appreciation for tea and her gorgeous pictures on social media. Lu Ann is also the curator of our April box, which will include her book, Tea-spiration, and four more special items she has chosen. Lu Ann was nice enough to chat with me about her blog, her book, and her tips for exploring the world of tea.

Source: teaaholic Instagram

I love your Instagram name, teaaholic. How did you become a “teaaholic?”

I think I have been labelling myself that since I was in high school, haha. I’ve thought about changing my Instagram handle to brand it with my blog and other social media accounts, but I can’t let it go. I discovered tea at a young age because I remember my mom and older sister used to always enjoy it together. One day my sister brought home a wooden box that contained strawberry flavoured black tea bags and I was finally allowed to have my first sip of tea at the age of 7. I didn’t know much about tea back then but I started to fall in love with it because of the connection it brought me with my mom and sister. The best part of my day would be when I had the chance to be “so adult” and sit and sip tea with them. Since then my love for tea has slowly been growing and I have been slowly learning more and more about it.

You have a beautiful blog, The Cup of Life. What kinds of things do you discuss over in your corner of the internet?

Thanks so much! I want The Cup of Life to be a spot on the Internet that tea lovers can visit and slow down with their own cup of tea. The blog is filled with some tea infused recipes, crafts, reviews, and anything else I learn during my tea journey that I wish to share. My most favourite part about tea blogging is the wonderful tea community online! I have connected with so many awesome tea lovers around the world and I hope to continue to!

Writing a book is a big project! Can you tell me more about your book and what inspired you to write it?

I have always wanted a book that didn’t teach me about tea and how to properly make it, but instead celebrated all the moments we experience with tea since that’s the reason why I fell in love with it in the first place. There is a quote I love that goes something like, if you can’t find a book you want, write it yourself and that’s just what I did with Tea-spiration. My thoughts for Tea-spiration were to take readers back to when they first started to drink tea and why they loved it then. In Tea-spiration I highlight all the great tea moments us tea drinkers can experience — big or small. For instance, that moment when you first open a freshly sealed package of tea and take in that aroma, or even the moment when your tea leaves begin to unfurl.

This book was written with all tea lovers in mind, too. It doesn’t matter if you’re a tea enthusiast or a casual tea drinker, every tea drinker should be able slow down and relate to some of the book. The size of the book should be noted too because it’s meant to be the perfect book to have during your tea time, fitting easily on your tea table or packing up with your tea ware. 

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Source: teaaholic Instagram

What can you recommend to someone who is just beginning to explore the world of tea?

Drink all the tea! AND drink it however you like it. I think one of the best advice is to not be afraid to explore tea your own way. You can follow the instructions on a package of tea that tells you how to prepare it properly, but after that you should experiment with your own ways of making it and see what you like best. There have been a lot of teas in the past that I thought were the worst things ever, until I started to “break the rules” by steeping them another way and notice the difference that made. This little bit of advice is also discussed in my book. 

How many cups of tea do you drink each day?

I usually have 2 mugs of tea and then several tasting cups of tea each day. My first mug of tea is usually right in the morning and a bold black tea such as Assam, sometimes I will also whisk a bowl of matcha later in the morning. Later in the afternoon I’ll try to actually sit down and have tea with my gaiwan and sip from tasting cup sizes. The last mug of tea is usually before bed and it could be any kind (caffeine doesn’t really bother me at night!).

You have an hour free from responsibilities and chores. Can you describe your perfect “tea break?”

No responsibilities and chores? Ahhh…that already sounds so perfect already but, of course, tea can still make it better. A perfect “tea break” for me would consist of a tray of fresh baked scones (I really like my scones, haha), a fancy tea cup, big pot of tea to keep refilling, jazz music playing softly in the background (sometimes I’ll even have my boyfriend play live jazz music for me, haha), all technology far away (!!!) and Tea-spiration by my side for whenever I need to flip open a page and connect with my tea a little bit more :) 

Thanks Lu Ann! I strongly recommend visiting her at The Cup of Life blog and on Instagram as teaaholic. You won't be disappointed!

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Brand Spotlight: Nepal Tea LLC

The March "St. Patrick's Day" tea box included a unique pot of gold: gold tea! Kumari Gold is a special black tea from Nepal Tea LLC, a social business venture that imports tea directly from its own tea estate while providing farmers with a sustainable income and free housing. Nishchal Banskota shares more about his company, including its background, tea, and farmer first approach.

How did Nepal Tea get started?

My father started a tea estate in 1984, which was Nepal’s First Certified Organic Tea Garden. The factory works on a co-operative model, which means the farmers are the owners themselves too. Eventually the tea was exported globally. Fast forward three decades, and here I am graduating with a liberal arts degree from New Hampshire. I soon realized that the Nepali tea we get in the US were brought through Germany, who bought their teas from middlemen. The supply chain was inefficient. The farmers have no choice but to agree to the price demands of these middlemen – if they pulled out, the estate and the farmers would have no revenue at all. Secondly, most teas from Nepal get mixed with Darjeeling teas due to their similarity, and we often lose our identity in the process. I started Nepal Tea with the vision of getting fair prices to both consumers and farmers, creating a simple and lean supply chain and creating an identity for the teas from Nepal.

Source: Nepal Tea Instagram

Tell us more about tea from Nepal. What is special about tea from that part of the world?

Nepali teas are produced in mountainous regions at an elevation of 3,000 – 7,000 feet above the sea level. People are familiar with Darjeeling teas. They are called the champagne of teas, and rightfully. Well, the only thing separating the teas from Nepal and Darjeeling is an imaginary national border – the tea farms are next to each other. The climate, elevation and growing conditions are pretty much the same. However, we have received feedback that Nepali teas taste fresh and are more aromatic since the crops of Nepali teas are newer, while tea plants from Darjeeling are centuries old. Our teas tend to be more floral as well. Another major distinction with our teas is the cultivation style, which features sustaining and complementing the natural cycle of the plants with various other complementary plants. You will need to visit the garden to see what I am talking about :)

Furthermore, we and many other tea farmers are experimenting with various different kinds of tea as well and in the coming days you might even expect some sophisticated oolongs and pu-erh teas. 

Can you tell us more about the ingredients you use and your commitment to avoiding artificial flavors?

We mostly specialize in orthodox teas produced through Camillia Sinensis and are specifically hand-plucked for this purpose. For our blends, we use organic spices grown in our garden itself such as cinnamon, cardamom, ginger turmeric, rose petals, lemongrass and so on. We're not experts on herbal teas but we do know which tea blends well with the organic spices that we grow and hence have been very successful with our blends such as Buddha's Blend (White Tea base + Spices) and Mystique Melange (Green Tea base + Spices). We have not in the past and will not in the future use any form of artificial chemicals and or flavors to make our teas. Our commitment to being organic since inception can be traced back to all of the certifying bodies. 

Source: Nepal Tea LLC

Nepal Tea works hard to be socially responsible! Can you tell us more about those initiatives?

We operate on a farmer’s first approach. The farmers should get the most benefits, but most in Nepal still live in poverty. The teas they produce are excellent. Tea has such a profound economic impact, and we aim to direct that economy and give power to the farmers themselves. Our social models try to improve the lives of the farmers and their families, which creates a better community. Here are some highlights of our social impact:

1) Free Housing and Daily Necessities to the full-time farmers. 

2) Educational scholarship to all of the children of our full-time farmers. More than 2300 children have received education till date and have increased the number by 96 students last year. You can read more about the project and sponsor a child here.

3) Cow-Bank Project: We distribute cows to our farmers and  they earn extra income from them by selling dairy products from them. We only have one condition that the first calf it gives birth to is returned to the factory itself; not for our purpose but to distribute it to other farmers. We started with 36 cows and now we have more than 176 cows in total. You can read more about the project and even donate a cow to a farmer here.

4) We have many other projects in the pipeline such as thrift shop, rice mill and so on that will impact the farmers in a sustainable way. You can discuss them directly with me. Also, if you have any projects that you would like to initiate at our factory, please contact me. 

Source: Nepal Tea LLC

Which tea from Nepal Tea is your favorite?

My favorite tea is Kumari Gold. Not only does the taste take me back directly to the factory in Nepal but the name itself is very dear to my heart. I named the tea after my mother. Her middle name is Kumari and it means "Living Goddess" in Nepali. She was the first person who believed in the vision of my father in creating this organic tea garden and she planted the first tea bush in her backyard. The same garden has extended to hundreds of acres today and has provided employment to more than 600 farmers and educated more than 2300 children. Indeed, to me and all the farmers and their children she is a true living goddess. 

Thanks Nishchal! You can learn more and tea shop at nepalteallc.com.

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P.S. Nepal Tea just completed a successful Kickstarter campaign! See their story here:

Brand Spotlight: My Tea Bling

Did you receive My Tea Bling in your November Tea Box Express box? If so, you were in for a treat! This handmade item is certainly something special. My Tea Bling's founder, Tara, tells us more about her product and how she came up with her unique idea.

Source: myteabling on Instagram

What is My Tea Bling?

MyTeaBling is a handmade, stainless steel, Swarovski Crystal charm made to clip onto any tea bag!  Not to be confused with a tea infuser it is a truly unique idea!  The idea being that there is nothing in existence that "replaces" the usual string on your average bag of tea!  

Not only is it made to be fun and a celebration of how wonderful Tea makes us feel, but it is functional too!  Often times you may run across a bag of tea that does not have a string, but this solves that problem and can be used to help in a variety of ways!

Can My Tea Bling be used with all cups/mugs?

Yes it can!  The chain of the bling comes in 2 sizes:

One is made for average size mugs that are often used at home. And the other is a smaller size, known as the "Shortie,"  which is made for more traditional fancy style tea cups. 

I even use mine on the go to add some excitement to my tea when grabbing a cup to-go at my local coffee shop!  (Although, I would like to note to do this at your own discretion and to be super safe about it being careful that the lid is secure)!

Source: myteabling on Instagram

Can you use it with loose tea as well?

This was traditionally invented for the average American tea drinker who grabs their usual tea bags when shopping at the grocery store. However,  since using MyTeaBling I have found that loose leaf tea drinkers often use single-use tea filters for their tea.  These filters do not normally come equipped with anything to seal the bag closed.  So now, with MyTeaBling, you finally have a go to product that securely clips the bag shut with no mess or fuss that just happens to be blinged out with Swarovski Crystals!

What gave you the idea for My Tea Bling?

One day I was enjoying my usual afternoon cup of green tea to pep me up. I was at a coffee shop surrounded by people ordering things that sounded so fancy when I was handed my plain cup of tea with the little string hanging off of it.  I was struck with a feeling of wanting to fit in and feel special too!  After all, tea is so good for us and just makes you feel amazing when you drink it!

Then it hit me! I had a vision of a beautiful sparkling pendant hanging from my tea cup!  I thought to myself, "Wow! wouldn't it be cool if there was something more than this boring string hanging from my cup?!  Then my tea would certainly look as great as it makes me feel"!

I figured there must be something out there to replace this string and add some more excitement to tea time! But when I found that nothing like that existed... I created it!  

What colors do you offer and which one is the most popular?

Currently I offer Classic Clear, Pink (which I figured every girl could appreciate),  Amethyst Purple, and a Brilliant Vibrant Yellow. (I find that the Classic is the most popular probably because it would look beautiful on any variation color of cup).

But I knew that when I started this whole concept the idea was to really make each person smile and feel special and show their true selves!  So I am working on adding new colors every day!  In fact I am certain that as you are reading this a whole new batch of colors and concepts have probably already been made available! 

I aspire to have a full color spectrum!  People are truly unique and I feel everybody deserves to celebrate that with a color that sparkles and is something that they really love!  

What is your favorite tea?

My Favorite tea is Green Mint Tea.  The cool thing about that is that I realized that now when I use MyTeaBling I can add some fresh mint leaves to it by just simply clipping the mint along with my bag of tea!  The more I use it- the more fun things I find I can do with it!  

What is your favorite thing about having created this new invention?!

Ya know, I never really labeled myself as a "Tea Drinker" but what I didn't realize is that many people, such as myself, really are all along!  Because even if we sit down to a cup of tea a few times a week at work or at home- we all are really "Tea Drinkers"!  

Now that I created this product and dove head first into the world of tea out there I have not only tasted so many delicious flavors and tried so many fun things - but I have also met so many amazing people along the way!  It's so much fun just really enjoying this whole experience in the communiTEA!

Thanks Tara! To learn more and go Christmas shopping visit my-tea-bling.myshopify.com.

As you can see below, My Tea Bling made a fun and sparkly addition to the November box where it paired nicely with Nunshen tea sachets (mug not included).

November Box Photo Credit: katietdoodle

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