Month: October 2013
Starbucks (Finally) Shows Up to the Tea Party

If there was a ever a sure sign that tea is all the rage in the United States, it’s Starbuck’s latest incursion into an ever-expanding market of loose leaf teas. The coffee titan revolutionized that way people think about their daily cup of joe, and now it’s trying to do the same thing for tea! A new article from Forbes outlines Starbuck’s plans for taking a big gulp of the world’s $90 billion hot and iced tea market, including thousands of tea houses aimed at filling a cuppa near you.

Starbuck’s big move has been a long time brewing. They recently acquired Teavana, which has made its own sizeable mark on the beverage market with its speciality tea offerings. In fact, new Starbucks tea houses will carry the look and feel of the Teavana brand, eschewing the kinds of markers that identify Starbucks coffee shops.

It’s no wonder Starbucks is trying to get in on the party. As Forbes reports, “Data from the Tea Association USA says America’s interest in tea has grown by 16% over the past five years.” But are they a little late to the tea party?

The short answer is yes, but that doesn’t mean Starbucks can’t still have a big impact on tea’s overall popularity. Small specialty tea shops (like yours truly!) have been building a tea culture and responding to a demand from U.S. customers for years, cultivating a love for loose leaf tea and tapping into people’s passions for the perfect blend. More importantly, we’ve been creating communities, building tea houses as gathering places and building lifelong relationships. 

As a huge worldwide brand focused on mass production, Starbucks may lack a bit of a personal touch. But its ubiquity means that it’s able to reach a lot of people at once and turn them on to tea. 

Some industry insiders question Starbucks’ ability to get customers as excited about tea as they are about coffee. However, that might be underestimating tea’s appeal. For lifelong coffee drinkers, there is certainly an element of novelty in switching to tea. For customers who love to geek out on the history, origin, quality and culture of their favorite beverages, tea offers a new opportunity get steeped knowledge. 

What do you think about Starbucks’ move towards taking on the tea market? Do you think it will do more to help or hurt tea’s popularity? How do you think it might impact other specialty tea retailers? We’re curious to know what you think, so make sure to share your ideas in the comments section below!

October Tea News Roundup

What’s going on in the wide world of tea? From health stories to exciting research that could change the way we grow tea around the world, here’s a look at what’s brewing.

Oolong Tea: Why It’s Good for You

How long since you’ve had Oolong? It might be time to make it your next cuppa. This article explores some of the best health benefits associated with Oolong, including its ability to give you a sugar-free energy boost, healthier skin, improved bone health and reduced risk for heart disease. Did we mention Oolong is one of our personal favorites? Now you know why!

Record Global Tea Output Likely This Year

Despite a year full of shifting climate patterns, labor disputes and political crises in tea-growing regions, 2013 is on track to be a record year for tea production! That’s right, this year could signal that highest volume of global tea production on record. With the global demand for tea growing, tea farmers and producers are rising to the challenge in a big way. What’s old is new again, and tea’s popularity shows no signs of stopping as consumers’ thirst for healthy beverages continues to grow.

Qing Dynasty Tea Brick Sells for US$1.2m

If you happen to have tea bricks from Ancient China sitting around, you might want to considering selling them! A tea brick dating back to the Qing dynasty just fetched a pricey sum at a recent auction in China, selling for $1.2 million. Even more remarkable, the lucky auction winner says its value is actually much higher–closer to $8 million!

Montana State University Professor Receives Grant To Study Environment’s Impact On Tea

Changing climate patterns in tea-growing countries like China could have a serious effect on tea’s health qualities, and not in the way you may suspect. A research team from Montana State University has received funding to study the effects of weather on tea production in four regions of China. One of the hypotheses they will likely test is the effect of heavy rains on tea’s health benefits. MSU health and human development professor Selena Ahmed suspects that monsoons could be detrimental to tea’s overall health benefits, reducing antioxidants by as much as 50%.

Have any news stories about tea caught your eye lately? Share your favorite headlines in the comment section below. 

Put a Tea Smith Spin on these Whole-Wheat Chai Apple Spice Muffins!

Smell that? It’s something delicious baking in the oven, just when you were craving a fall treat to go with your tea! This recipe for Whole-Wheat Chai Apple Spice Muffins, from the Lost Altos Town Crier, is a perfect way to dust off the old baking supplies and spend a crisp autumn day indoors with friends and family.

The recipe calls for 1/2 cup brewed chai tea, which gives the flavor of these muffins an extra bite. We recommend a loose leaf chai from the Tea Smith to make sure you get the best flavor! You could opt for a Traditional Masala Chai, if you want to go the standard route. If you want great flavor without the caffeine kick, go for the decaf version instead. Finally, if you’re feeling adventurous, why not try our Coconut Chai.

If that sounds delicious, chai it out!

Whole-Wheat Chai Apple Spice Muffins
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup milled flaxseed
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup dark-brown sugar, packed and divided
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup brewed chai tea
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 2 large apples, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 450 F. Grease 12 muffin cups and set aside.

Mix together flours, flaxseed, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices and set aside. In separate bowl, whisk oil and 3/4 cup of brown sugar until emulsified. Add egg and mix well. Whisk in tea and applesauce. Stir in dry ingredients and fold in apple chunks.

Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups, mounding slightly above edge. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar on top.

Bake for 10 minutes, then turn heat down to 400 F and bake additional 5-10 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean. Cool muffins for 5 minutes in tin, then turn them out onto wire rack to cool completely. Makes 1 dozen.

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Four Reasons to Drink Tea This Fall

Doesn’t it seem like fall comes as quickly as it goes? Close your eyes for a second and you just might miss it. Slowing down with a cup of tea is a great way to make sure you take in the all the autumnal sights, sounds and smells while you still can.

In all honesty, there are more reasons to drink tea year-round than we can squeeze into one tiny blog post, but here are four essential ones to remind you to restock the pantry before fall flits away.

Your Joni Mitchell Records Called…

There’s something about fall that really brings on a contemplative mood, don’t you agree? Another year passes by, the leaves start to change and you’re suddenly reminded that nothing lasts forever. Cue endless sighing. While you prepare to peer out the window for long stretches of time that leave even your cat worried, tea is the perfect companion. Don’t forget to bust out some of those old records to keep you company, too.

Falling Back in With Old Friends and Making New Discoveries

If you keep a close eye on our tea offerings throughout the year, you already know that we like to keep things interesting by introducing new blends every season. Are you excited to see some old friends back in action? Loose leaf blends like Pumpkin Spice Black Tea and Almond Apple Delight are like autumn in a cup. Drink up while you can!

Getting Spooky

Instead of a typical Halloween party, host a terrifying tea party instead! Brew a big cauldron of your favorite blend and tell your guests to come as Victorian-era ghosts for a seance and soiree. You can make things really fun with some ghoulish treats, too. Who says you can’t be sophisticated and scary at the same time?

The Gift That Keeps on Brewing

‘Tis the season to cozy up with your favorite brew, but a freshly brewed cup is even nicer when you share it in the spirit of giving. Fall means that the gift-giving season is rearing up again. But don’t let yourself feel overwhelmed by the idea of your massive to-do list! Instead, think of every gift as a chance to share something you love–like tea! There are lots of great gift ideas at our online store. Start planning now and get ahead of the game!

What do you like most about drinking tea as the year winds down? Share your thoughts below.

Don’t Miss the Art of Pat Morse this Saturday!

If you thought First Friday Artwalk was already brimming over with lots of great work from local artists, get ready, because there is more! On Saturday, we’ll be launching a month-long exhibition with works from Pat Morse at our Tower Store Location. It’s an art-packed weekend with lots to see and do while you enjoy your favorite Tea Smith brews and immerse yourself in the world of Omaha’s creators, innovators and artists. 

We’re excited to share Pats Morse’s work with you, especially since it’s such a striking contrast to the figurative photography we’ll be showcasing at our Old Market Location on Friday. Pat has always been drawn to abstract expressionism and has refined his own unique process over the years to arrive at some beautiful, psychedelic imagery with bold colors and dynamic compositions.

Pat is a true mixed media artist, pushing the envelope to incorporate all sorts of materials and approaches. He calls his approach Poxynamel Color Infusion (PCI) on glass, a method that is tricky to master for a few different reasons. First, there is the issue of working on glass. As the paint spreads on the slippery surface, time is always of the essence! Second, with oil-based and acrylic paints sourced from various places, there is always an element of surprise when it comes to mixing colors. By straddling the line between accident and intention, Pat arrives at these wonderfully abstract pieces.  

At the heart of Pat’s work is a playfulness, curiosity and love for experimenting with vivid color. Some of these works look like eerie alien landscapes from some remote galaxy. Others look like cells, muscle tissue or glowing microorganisms you might examine under a microscope. Think of them as an inkblot test; what you see in them could say a lot about you! 

You can check out more of Pat’s work at his online gallery.  Don’t forget to stop by the Tower Store on Saturday from 1-4pm. Pat will be there to talk about his work, mingle with guests, answer questions and enjoy the party with all of you! 

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