Pureblend: Pure. Tea. Period.

As promised, I spoke with another tea company that sells only Fair Trade and organic teas, except this time I hit closer to home.

I spent some time on the West Chester Grower’s Market website and scrolled by the name Pureblend, a local tea vendor located in Downingtown, PA (20 minutes from my hometown). About two weeks and a few emails later, I was set to interview the winner of Main Line Today’s Critic’s Choice for Tea.

Kari Dandrea, the creator, owner, and tea blender genius took some time to sit with me and talk tea, fair trade, herbs, and remedies at the Downingtown Kimberton Whole Foods café.

“I grew up in a household that was really geared toward holistic and natural remedies; my mom had all kinds of herbs and spices. At the time I wanted soda and cereal like my friends, but now that I am older and have my own child, I am very glad to have had that type of upbringing,” Kari reflected, “So when my daughter was about five, I started noticing she when would say she has a stomach ache, or a headache. I didn’t want to give her over-the-counter medication, so instead I started to buy herbs and spices and make teas out of them; so we had a belly tea and a headache tea and so on.”

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Kari at the West Chester Grower’s Market.

She took a moment to collect her thoughts between my questions and opened a bottle of Kombucha, a fermented tea shown to help with digestive needs over a prolonged period of time—talk about a tea/herbal remedy; she swears by its enzymes and probiotics.

I continued to ask her about how “Pureblend” came to be. She said that after creating about eight blends for her family and friends, they encouraged her to take her teas to a farmers market. She applied to the West Chester Grower’s Market in 2009, figured out her branding, and from there Pureblend snowballed into a full-fledged business.

“I chose the name Pureblend because I wanted to keep it a company that only used fair trade ingredients and organic ingredients: pure product, nothing artificial, no refined sugar, no gluten, just something that people could rely on and trust that it was whole and real.”

Kari said that life changes dramatically when you own your own business; she became her own boss and the face of her company. Her personal values became intertwined with her values as a businesswoman. She has experience teaching elementary school, being a yoga instructor, and sales. Other than that, Kari claims to have been “winging it” as a business owner for the last few years.

After another sip of fermented tea, she added, “I represent the company, I’m the face of it, so who I am and how I handle things, my value and moral system, is very much [a] reflection of the type of company that I want people to feel that I am running. It is definitely a spiritual journey to operate something that you also are creating an income for yourself and a livelihood for.”

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Alice in Wonderland: one of the most popular and complex blends (white peony tea, lemon balm, peppermint, lavender, orange peel, lemon peel, strawberries, and blueberries).

 

The process from a blend to a finished product is time-consuming (naming, labeling, designing), but it’s the creative process that is the biggest reward for Kari, a so-called “life force” that drives her to continue.

“I have 25 blends right now and they all started out as an idea. I would go back to the shop and just start playing. I pretty much use black, green, and rooibos (never decaffeinated tea); we only use full tea or herbal and then I’ll add, slowly but surely, bits and pieces of things that I think go nicely with it until I feel like the flavor is complete.” Thus, a new blend is born.

Kari elaborated on her Alice in Wonderland blend, a tea that is exceedingly popular with her customers. This light, crisp, and flavorful tea is full of antioxidants.

“It was probably the tenth blend I ever put together and it is a very complex blend. It has the most ingredients of any of my teas, the most expensive to blend, and people like the name.”

At the end of the day, what makes Kari passionate about Pureblend is that it has a purpose and a positive goal.

“I’d like to offer people an alternative to over the counter drugs—I’m not saying Western medicine is not fantastic, but just little things, like blood pressure, weight loss, anxiety, digestive issues— through a sustainable and organic tea that is produced through fair trade ingredients that’s, in turn, helping to sustain an economy where tea is the vital income.”

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Kari invited me to her shop to take some photographs of her blends. These are a few more favorites.

 

Kari is at the West Chester Grower’s Market year round on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month. Check her website for more details on other markets and locations where Pureblend is sold.

Herbal Tea at Home

After two all nighters in one week, I decided to call it quits and go home for a weekend. I spent some time outside appreciating how fall looks in my own backyard and I enjoyed some herbal tea outside as well (that’s why all my tea photographs are taken outside).

This brings me to the topic of this post: herbal tea. Believe it or not, herbal tea is not actually tea!

Herbal tea is not made from tea leaves (Camellia sinensis) but composed of many things like herbs, fruits, seeds or roots. Though its antioxidant level is lower than that of green, black or white teas, it is a good caffeine-free alternative along with its own set of benefits.

The three herbal teas I have featured in this post are from Numi Organic Tea. Not only do I love their tea, they have USDA Organic and Fair Trade tea. I bought their Chamomile Lemon, Rooibos Chai, and Moroccan Mint as a good start to the herbal world.

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I used to hate the taste of chamomile as a kid but now I drink it for many reasons. It is good to drink during a time of stress, or before bed.

Chamomile Lemon
Chamomile Lemon

I bought their chai because it is a tea I am not very familiar with. It tastes just like late fall should taste, and that color is perfect for November, so I decided now was the best time to experiment. I must have had three cups over the weekend.

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Rooibos Chai

I bought mint because I love mint teas. It takes me back to a time in London when I was really sick. It was the primary tea I drank in the beginning, so I guess you could say it gives me a sense of nostalgia. I chose to make this an iced tea, primarily because I was rummaging through my mom’s dishes in our dining room chest…and fell in love with this glass. While it was chilly outside, iced tea still worked (especially after two cups of hot tea).

Moroccan Mint
Moroccan Mint

Herbal teas can be made up of many ingredients. For example, ginger helps with nausea and car sickness, ginko helps with memory, ginseng promotes energy. Ginseng has become popular to put in drinks, such as iced green teas. Chamomile often helps promote sleep and can be used to calm an upset stomach. Please also be aware that chamomile has a very minor blood thinning effect after long time use, so check with your doctor if this could potentially be problematic. Echinacea, while research is inconclusive, is good for immune health and is good to take when you start to feel under the weather.

I had a little help with my information from WebMD.

 

 

More than loose tea

Okay, I know I was so against using tea bags when I started this blog, but I have come to realize my “budget cannot survive on loose tea alone.” And I’m pretty sure some people can relate!

It is cost effective to reuse loose tea leaves, trust me, I do that all week long. But, what about convenience? I live a fast-paced life and sometimes cleaning out my infuser takes up time if I’m running late to class, have a lot of dishes to do, or it’s late and I just want an easy clean up. Or, maybe I’m just lazy and a newbie to loose tea.

Anyway, the point here is to give tea bags a chance and to include people who do not have access to a tea gallery or if ordering loose tea online is not appealing.

Sometimes using a tea bag sounds so easy, so convenient and portable! But, that is a lot of “throwing away,” so keep in mind that tea bags can be environmentally friendly. When I buy tea bags not only do I try to make sure the brand uses organic and fair trade tea but also biodegradable packages and tea bags.

This weekend I went to the Whole Foods Market near me to go tea shopping, in light of my re-acceptance of tea bags.

I bought four different brands, two I think are well known and the other two I’ve never seen before. I think that’s a pretty fair balance, don’t you?

Four tea bag brands

Mighty Leaf Tea

These tea bags aren’t really tea bags at all. They’re little mesh pouches with loose tea! I’ve bought this brand before and loved the variety pack. This is a pretty good step for tea drinkers that are curious about loose tea. Mighty Leaf Tea has many organic teas available and has a compostable tea pouch.

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Numi Tea

I’ve had Numi’s Jasmine Green Tea before but I wanted to try something different this time. The Golden Chai is perfect for fall! I think it should go right up there with the pumpkin spice latte. While I did not add milk for that creamy chai taste, it will be happening next time. Numi is USDA Organic, Fair Trade Certified, and has Eco Responsible Packaging.

Numi

Teatulia

This is a new brand to me, but I thought the packaging was different so I decided to give it a try. The package was right, the black tea does have a unexpected sweet finish. This brand is USDA Organic and is a Certified B Corporation, which means they aim to help solve social and environmental problems.

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Guayaki

This brand, also new to me, is all about the environment! This green tea was just as good as some of the loose green tea I own. They are Fair Trade Certified, USDA Organic, don’t have GMO’s, are Kosher, and a certified B corporation.

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