Part of what makes our products extra special is that each has a real story behind it. We work with so many inspiring artists and makers, and we love that our customers get a chance to meet them on the blog. One of our newest is Scout Urling, the creator of our Cold Weather Comfort Tea Gift Set, Good Morning Tea Gift Set, and Chocolate Lover Hot Chocolate Gift Set – all fresh additions to our assortment. Scout has always followed her own path, starting as a creative child and ending up as an entrepreneur. Now, she has her own business sending soothing teas and delicious hot chocolate sets all over the country. All of the ingredients she uses are sourced from local farmers, and she supports independent artistry with the packaging of her products as well. Read on to learn from Scout about becoming a business-owner, the goddess Athena, and the power of animal puns.
I’m generally a coffee-drinker, but following a string of over-caffeinated mornings that left me shaking at my desk, I’ve been looking for a lighter replacement. Enter our new Citrus and Ginger Tea Infuser – a unique to-go bottle with exchangeable attachments that allow you to enliven your teas with tang and spice. The infuser includes:
• Steeping basket – perfect for loose leaf or bagged teas
• Reamer – get those juices flowing!
• Grater – a two-piece attachment that lets you flavor your tea while keeping the grated fibers locked away, (no floaters!)
• Bottom compartment – anything you can’t juice or shred can be chopped up and placed in here.
It’s called the Citrus and Ginger Tea Infuser Bottle, but don’t let the name limit you – a whole produce aisle of fruits, roots, and veggies awaits! I journeyed to my local grocery store and put five flavor fusions to the test. Continue Reading…
We’re saying “So long, Summer,” which means it’s almost time to trade in those nice, cold pitchers of iced tea for steamy cups of the hot stuff. For centuries tea has been one of the world’s favorite drinks, and for millennia it has had a central place in the daily lives and culture of people throughout the world. With the hot, relaxing brew in mind, we’ve put together 10 uncommon facts you didn’t know about tea. Enjoy!
Tea is perhaps the single best traveled beverage in the world. It was allegedly discovered in about 2737 BC by the second emperor of China after tea leaves blew into his boiling water. It since spread West by way of Turkish traders and East to Japan, and was a major catalyst for the development of trade relations between East and West. Today, tea is the most widely consumed beverage worldwide, after water, and is cultivated in 42 countries, mainly in in Asia, Africa, South America, and around the Black and Caspian Seas – all well represented in the Tea from Around the World Set.
You might think that the need to travel with tea in a rush would be a uniquely 21st Century phenomenon, but it turns out that the scramble to bring tea to market way back in the way back was even more intense than your morning rush. After the British East India Company lost its monopoly on the tea trade with China in 1834 following adjustments to its charter, the tea trade suddenly became a free-for-all. Where there was once no rush, British Company merchants now had to compete with American merchants. Favoring newly designed, swift Tea Clippers, merchants in the 1860s would face off on an ultimate race around the world – beginning in China, ships would set out together and cross the Indian Ocean, round the Cape of Good Hope, and up the Atlantic to be pulled by tugboat up the River Thames. First to unload their cargo ashore wins! | Tea to Go
It seems that accidents played a major part in tea-related innovation over the years. The tea bag was originally “invented” by New York coffee merchant Thomas Sullivan in 1904. Though he originally intended them to be single-serving samples of tea, his customers found it easier to brew the tea while still sealed in the small, porous bags. The idea clearly took off – in the US today, the vast majority of tea is brewed using tea bags. The Tea Bag Holding Mug has you covered.
Despite thousands of varieties across regions and cultures, tea all comes from the same plant, and there are really only four varieties – black, oolong, white, and green – as determined by oxidation time after harvesting. Though black has historically been the most popular, the popularity of green tea is growing much faster, likely due to its widely revered health properties. Green tea can benefit weight loss, longevity, skin care, heart disease, cholesterol, tooth decay, depression … you get the idea. | Green Herbal Tea Kit
Tea leaf reading, or Tasseomancy (cup reading), is thought to have originally originated in China, and began to grow in popularity in Europe when it was adopted by nomadic Romany people in the 18th century, to whom it is regarded as an art form. Unlike some other “mancies,” even those who are not gifted with clairvoyance – like you – are able to read the symbols. Pro tip: use loose leaf tea rather than tea cut from tea bags – the coarser cut “reads” better. And if you see a black cat in the bottom of your cup, don’t take it personally. | Tea Leaf Reading Kit
Despite being mostly water, tea is actually one of the least water-intensive drinks, requiring less water per liter than coffee, beer, wine, or most fruit juices. To put things in perspective, 1,120 liters of water go into producing a single liter of coffee, whereas only 120 liters go into one liter of tea. The Tea Towel is still there for you during those rare spills mid-brew, packing more tea facts to boot.
It’s easy to think of iced tea as an auxiliary form of the beverage, but in the United States it’s actually the main attraction – approximately 85% of tea served in the US is iced! Cookbooks dating back to the 19th century indicate that Americans have been drinking the refreshing, iced beverage for a long time. But no American loves iced tea as much as Georgia state representative John Noel, who introduced legislation on April Fool’s Day in 2003 mandating that all restaurants serve sweet tea in “an attempt to bring a little humor to the Legislature.” Seeing as the bill didn’t pass, the Iced Tea Gift Set would make a great consolation present for poor ol’ John.
The relaxing, versatile aroma of tea makes it a natural additive to soaps – but did you know that you can use it to clean your house as well? Less harsh than cleaning chemicals, the tanic acid in tea can be used to clean and add a luster to weathered hardwood floors. | Tea Party Soap Set
It’s easy to imagine why tea appears so frequently in 18th and 19th century English literature – from T.S. Eliot to C.S. Lewis and Charles Dikens to Jane Austen, tea came forth as a vital expression of the times and a familiar, daily act that characters engage in. Yet in novels by famous female writers like Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell, tea becomes something more: a symbol of female power – and appropriately so. When it was first available in England, tea was only available in coffee houses, which only men were allowed to enter, as the smoke and noise was not fit for a lady. Finally, in 1717, the Twining family opened a tea shop that allowed women – a notable step in the social advancement of English women at the time. | Novel Teas
Which came first: the teacup or the teapot? The teacup. Though tea has been consumed for thousands of years, the teapot has only had a spot on the table for about 500 years – largely due to changes in the way tea is served. Instead of infusing the leaves, Chinese tea-drinkers originally ground the leaves into a paste that was then dried and made into cakes. The cakes were boiled with salt, rice, ginger, orange peel, and spices, making a kind of tea soup foreign to what we’re familiar with today. As tea brewing became a more refined process, the first “official” teapot appeared in about 1500 in Jiangsu, China. | Glass Teapot with Stand
I love summer, not just because it’s travel season or light and bright into the evening, but also because it’s iced tea season! There’s nothing more enjoyable to me than grabbing my favorite iced tea blend and walking around to explore a new city on a warm summer day.
When I founded Tea Drops, I wanted to make the ritual and preparation of tea easy for others without sacrificing the loose leaf tea experience. Sure, you could use a tea bag, but tea connoisseurs the world over agree that loose leaf preparation is more flavorful – some go so far as to condemn the tea bag as one of the worst inventions of the 20th century! The aim is to make loose leaf teatime easy to prepare whether at the office, on a camping trip, or simply relaxing at home. Simply drop a Tea Drop, stir, and sip a delicious cup of tea anytime, anywhere.
But – you can also make a delicious brew served over ice! It’s incredibly easy and fun to make an iced tea blend just for yourself or to serve at your next summer bash… or infused into your favorite summer cocktail!
Reach up to iced tea heaven by following these simple steps:
1. Add a Tea Drop of your choice and 3 tbsp boiling water in a cup until the drop dissolves. Stir.
2. Add a half cup of ice to a 8-10 ounce glass. Pour the mixture over ice.
3. Fill the remainder of the glass with cold water. Enjoy!
Makes 1 serving.
Another deliciously fun idea is to mix different varieties of tea together. Blend a Citrus Ginger Tea Drop with a Sweet Peppermint Tea Drop to create the ultimate refresher, or a Sweet Peppermint with Rose Earl Grey to create a unique, delicious twist. You can put your culinary imagination to the test and create a range of creative iced tea blends.
Right photo by Diego Jimenez/@dejota3
We’ve been playing around with some delicious & refreshing mashups. Here are some of our favorite iced tea blends, all of which can be made with the teas in our Tea Drops Sampler Box.
- Citrus Ginger & Sweet Peppermint: Ultra refreshing! Follow the steps above using these two Tea Drops.
- Vanilla White Coconut: Follow the steps above with a Vanilla White Tea Drop and add a splash of coconut milk for a delicious, creamy treat.
- Rose Earl Grey London Fog: After following steps 1 & 2 above with a Rose Earl Grey Tea Drop, substitute water for milk in step 3.
- Minty Rose Earl Grey: Spruce up your Rose Earl Grey Iced Tea by mixing in a Sweet Peppermint Tea Drop. Follow the steps above using these two Tea Drops.
I’m excited to see what Iced Tea creations you’ll come up with next – there’s just so many! Make sure to share your iced tea creation on social with #TeaDrops so that I can try your recipe too.
Max is a budding entrepreneur who created a slam-dunk design: The Mug With a Hoop™. It’s no surprise that he’s a fan of playing with his food—after all, he was just 8 years old when he stepped out on the court to get in the design game!
The young inventor presented his product at the Babson College Center for Entrepreneurship, and in the Product Pitch at Fenway contest—so he could then tell his friends he had “pitched” at Fenway Park! Max’s mug was named one of the ten finalists in the contest, encouraging him to stay in the game.
Great publicity soon followed, including stories in the Boston Herald and Boston Business Journal. Max and his team (mom, dad and brother) then mounted a successful crowd-funding campaign, and their full court press put the mug into production.
The Mug With A Hoop™ isn’t just an addictively fun product; it also serves as a model success story and celebrates the creative focus found on the upside of dyslexia, a learning disability that’s affected Max from an early age.
Max (chief creator for MAX’IS Creations, now 10 years old), his brother Sam (13 years old and VP of product testing), and their mom, Jen (chief creator’s creator) took some time out from juggling school, entrepreneurship, and sports fandom to give us more detail on their uncommon venture, insight into the inspiration for the mug, and a glimpse of what’s next.
Q.) What was it like starting a business at a young age?
It was hard but I got it done. I like that I get to make money by doing my job. Other kids make money by doing chores, but I sell mugs. It’s more fun than doing chores, but it’s hard because I have to do a lot of work. And I’m proud to be donating 5 percent of the profits from MAX’IS Creations to charities that support learning disabilities like dyslexia because I’m dyslexic.
I made my original mug in art class at school. But then to turn it into a product to market, I had to work with design people to turn it into a prototype for a mug we could manufacture. I had to decide on what it would look like, what shape it should be, what color, and how big it should be. Then I had to decide where to make them. We had to talk to lots of factories until we found the right one. And now I do a lot of work going places to sell my mugs.
I’m very happy for Max and his business. He’s very entrepreneurial, and our whole family is helping him succeed. I like seeing the reaction of the people buying the mugs. Everyone seems to really like it. And it’s great to see places like UncommonGoods wanting to carry it.
Q.) Your company motto is “The world would be better if we could play with our food.” Did you get in a little trouble?
Sometimes…I like playing around but this is a good way to have fun at the table! I really like to play with my iPad at the table. But my parents don’t like me to do that because then I’m not part of the conversation. The Mug With a Hoop™ is a way for kids to play and be part of the conversation. It’s something you can do as a family. And the world is better if you can play with your food because it’s more fun!
Q.) What came first, the motto or the mug?
The mug came first. As our family connected with other entrepreneurs, we quickly learned the adage that successful products solve a problem. Looking at Max’s invention, we asked ourselves what problem it solved, and realized that Max’s value proposition in his own words was rather simple but true: “it makes eating fun.” And for many families, the dinner table is not seen as a place for fun. So we came up with the tagline “the world would be better if we could play with our food” to address the problem Max’s product solved and how his way of looking at things could make a difference in the world.
Q.) Now that The Mug With a Hoop™ is doing so well, do you have something new in the works?
Yes, my baseball mug—The Mug With a Glove™—is in production and should be available next spring! I 3D printed a prototype this spring at Fenway Park. The Mug With a Glove™ has baseball colors: the bowl is white in the shape of a baseball, with red baseball stitching with a brown glove attached that you throw the marshmallows into. It’s fun because you can throw marshmallows into the glove. It’s going to be great for small kids and big kids—any kind of kid, because it’s easier to get it in than The Mug With a Hoop™, which may be harder for little kids. I also have mugs coming out for football, hockey and soccer!
Q.) It must have been cool to visit Fenway a couple of times related to promote and develop your products.
I’m a Red Sox fan and love going to Fenway Park! I was excited to be able to go to Fenway to pitch my Mug With a Hoop™. And then they invited me back and I got to 3D print my baseball mug. It was fun to be on the Jumbotron. My favorite player is Dustin Pedroia, because he’s really good in the field.
The Mug With a Hoop ™ and The Mug With a Glove ™.
Q.) Do you have any advice for other young entrepreneurs?
Don’t go too big at first because you may not sell that many. Keep it simple. And then if it’s good keep doing it. Also, you should get other people to help you. If you’re a kid, you don’t really know what to do, so get someone to help you. My mom and dad are helping me, and my brother Sam and his friends Bobby and Marc also helped me a lot.
Starting a business takes time and effort. If you put in time and effort you’ll have a good product and will be able to sell more and more until you make enough money to create another product and you keep building up.
You don’t really need to be an expert. If you want to be successful you just need to put time and effort in.
When Max made his first product, we chose to take a lot of time out of our regular activities as a family to try to make this product successful. And if you put in enough work and effort you will have a great product and it will be able to sell well.
Max and his team have every reason to be proud of their record so far. You can become a fan by picking up a Mug With a Hoop™ for yourself or for your favorite sports fan.
Do you know that person who wakes up with just enough time to brush, shower, and dress and barely catch the train? Well that’s me. I’m all about getting things to go, in order to save time – typical New Yorker, I know. Hence the reason I chose the Tea to Go for my experiment, figured it would make the difficulties of staying warm on the go, a thing of the past.
I am hoping that this keeps my tea warm without burning my hand, as well as keeping it hot for at least an hour. With public transportation being as unpredictable as it is, this would be a big thing for me.
I’m going into this with no knowledge of how the glass apparatus would hold up against the traditional metal thermos that I’m used to. The plan is to use the Tea to Go all the ways that it has been advertised and to see if it meets the needs of someone who’s the definition of a person on the go.
First, I got everything prepared: a kettle of boiling water, 1 peppermint tea for those frigid mornings, 1 peach tea with ice for the playful days, and some loose White Riesling tea for those sleep-in mornings that you can only dream of.
The body consists of very a thick glass tube and a heavy duty rubber grip. The inner body includes a small perforated section for the tea, then a long portion where the liquid will flow through. I didn’t realize how tall it was until I put it next to my jar of Linguini noodles and, as you can see, it’s right up there.
According to the instructions, I poured the hot water through the small compartment for the tea bag – that was a no go. The water took really long to fill up the tube and I wasn’t about to wait. It made sense if you had to time to allow your tea seep and brew a stronger tea, which wasn’t what I was going for. Instead, I filled up the tube from the larger side and things went smoothly. After letting it sit for 10 minutes, I gave the bottle a slight tilt to allow everything to diffuse evenly and off we go.
The rubber grip was hotter than I expected, but definitely manageable. After being out of my house for 20 minutes the tea was still extremely hot, and I had to implement the blow-and-sip method, which worked just fine. After being in public transportation for an hour, my tea kept hot (and this is with me keeping the top off so in order to drink). It didn’t really cool down at all, I still had hot tea after an hour and half – that’s a plus.
I also gave it a try with loose leaf tea. From looking at the perforations you can tell that large loose tea leaves are the best choice, so that you don’t have leaf residue floating around. I didn’t take that into account until much later. Even though some of the excess tea got in the drinking tube, it was not a big deal. But it’s just something to keep in mind for those who don’t like things floating in their drinks.
The Tea to Go certainly holds up for hot tea 100%. NY Winter – here we come!
Next I gave the bottle a try with iced tea. I let the Peach tea bag seep in a little bit of boiling water before adding filtered water. The water was still relatively warm so I decided to add some ice cubes, which quickly melted but were able to provide me with a cold drink. Took my book, iced tea and an orange and enjoyed the break from freezing temperatures and read for a few on my stoop.
I came back in after an hour with very little tea gone (Harry is just that captivating!), and I was amazed to find out it was still very cold, like a beverage right out the fridge.
Being a person who lives in New York and has experienced the wonders of Jack Frost first hand, the Tea to Go has become my accessory for those cold rushed mornings. It’s a pretty simple but effective device that will keep my hands and tea warm.
Not only is it good for those frigid mornings we’ve come to love, but it’s versatile enough to keep tea cool for those strolling days. I’m thinking it’s going to come in handy as summer approaches, since it has officially been added to my morning check list – keys, metrocard, money, and Tea to Go.
This week our top comments come from voters telling us what they think of a little book that lets kids have fun with food, porcelain bowls that look good enough to eat, a kit that’s sure to be a cup of tea, and special pillows to celebrate new babies.
Speaking of scrumptious, another item up for voting this week, My Food Passport , makes trying new foods fun. But Kimberley isn’t so sure it would do the trick.
If it were full of foods like ice cream and pizza, you probably wouldn’t need the passport. Although some of the foods may seem strange to kids, they’re worth a try! We think this handy book might just help your picky eater discover that they love mangoes, mushrooms, or avocado. We’re glad to see that Liane and Cassandra agree.
Since we’re on the topic of having fun with food, we’ll also take a look at a comment from Patricia, who’s ready to have fun with a drink.
Thanks for the comment, Patricia! We want to see your vote as well. If you love the Tea Leaf Reading Kit don’t forget to give it a “Thumbs Up” in our voting app. You can also leave your email address, if you’d like, and we’ll let you know if we decide to carry this product.
We offer the notify feature on all of the products up for voting, but Summer isn’t interested in an announcement.
It didn’t take long for Jana to step in and explain why these Birth Announcement Pillows would make great gifts.
Which of our top commenters do you agree with? We’d love to hear your opinions on these (and many more) potential products up for voting in our community voting app this week!
ETA October 10, 2011: Congratulations to our Fall Giveaway winner, Joanna Z!
Joanna said, “I love the smell of ripe apples on the trees, the crisp, cool mornings, and pumpkins showing up at every grocery store, every produce stand, and on just about every front porch.”
Thanks to all who entered for your fabulous fall stories!
Colorful leaves, warm beverages, new fashion, and Halloween. What’s not to love about fall? To celebrate our admiration for autumn, we’re giving away some of our favorite fall goods! Read on to find out how you can win.
Vawn and Mike Gray aren’t novices when it comes to creating kiln-formed glass art. In fact, they developed their own process to turn old glass bottles into fused-glass masterpieces using an energy efficient, computer-controlled oven.
We love Vawn and Mike’s recycled glass nightlights. Their Recycled Pelican Nightlight and Recycled Sandpiper Night Light are so popular, we added another bird to the lineup, just in time for fall!