Teas That Take You Places: featuring Firepot Nomadic Teas
at her business pop-up in 12 South last year! While sharing bucket-list travels, I learned of her immense background in tea blending and cultural studies. At the 2016 Porter Flea Holiday Market, Sarah and the gals at Bread & Butter PR set up a beautiful "Tea Blending Station" with a ready-made latte bar. One of my go-to's, the Firepot Matcha was up for grabs and can be found at Frothy Monkey and online!
You should also know that Firepot donates one percent of all sales to the empowerment of women and preservation of wildlife in tea origins! In Summer of 2017, Sarah will open Firepot Tea Bar with the help of Nashville creative Handy Dandy Productions. The seasonal menu will include traditional teas, made-to-order hand-crafted drinks as well as a number of teas offered on tap.
In my interview with Sarah you'll get a taste of her expertise on various tea flavors and their benefits, the recipe book she's designing and her favorite tea bars around the world! I was excited to learn how this common plant-based drink has influenced culture and lifestyle for thousands of years.
This tea cocktail you've made for us to enjoy is incredible. Can we start off by talking about the recipe?
This is a lemon verbena from the backyard that we picked yesterday and dried overnight. We then combined a few cinnamon sticks, some local honey a couple of splashes of bourbon and hot water. It's a fresh, local Hot Toddy great for your immunity and perfect for the winter months!
And we've got a snack here too that you just came up with today?!
Yes, I've decided I'm calling this the Rustic Puerh Bourbon Panforte. Firepot recently launched a Puerh Blend and it's is one of the six types of tea blends. Puerh is a green tea that goes through a post-fermentation process which means it's full of probiotics. Aside from that it has a really unique flavor profile. I thought the Puerh was very "autumny" so I added Olive and Sinclair chocolate, orange peel, then infused it into the panforte with bourbon. You can use any nuts and dried fruit of your choice! Add a little bit of rice or almond flour if you are gluten-free. Stir, mash it into the panforte and bake it for 20 minutes! Super easy to make and it lasts for a month!
Firepot Nomadic Teas was founded when you were 26. Can you talk about the experience of beginning your own start up?
I was working at a Tibetan teahouse in Montana and I had worked in agriculture throughout my 20's. I always thought that I would end up having a big farm growing up but I ended up back in Bozeman. My friend and I were just always experimenting with spices and flavors and I came up with a chai recipe made in the style of the Tibetan traders that we already were serving. When the tea house closed I kept making the chai, so it just naturally turned into a business. But it was a pretty inspiring moment because I was really into travel culture and making a difference in people's lives from tea growers to tea drinkers. I just felt sort of like everything aligned perfectly. Fast forward 16 years and I've got three other startups behind me. I've had businesses from Australia to New Zealand to Alaska and Nashville. Four years ago when my older son was born I found myself for the first time without any work and I thought that would be a really good time to pull Firepot back out and rebrand the brand and packaging.
Any advice for someone in their mid-20's pursuing their own creative path?
I'd say to start and just trust that you can do it and don't be discouraged because you don't have the experience. You maybe don't know what you're doing but don't look at other people whom you think are doing it bigger or better. I think there's room for everybody. And I think the thing that I would credit to any amount of success that I have had is loving what I do-being passionate about what I do and just going for it. Do what you love and then if what you love doesn't really work that's ok and it remains an enjoyable, creative process.
You've been talking a lot about the geographical location where your ingredients are found. Describe those different tea-making processes and what you've experienced in your travels?
At Firepot we we try to direct-source everything. Because I've been in tea for 16 years I have pretty good relationships around the world from Japan to India, Nepal, China and more. We look for rare, limited-edition or seasonal teas so I'm going to be doing much more traveling just for that purpose. We have our Himalayan Mountain green tea that's sourced directly from producers in Nepal and our Japanese Peasant Tea sourced directly from producers in southern Japan (that's again my chai blended with toasted rice). Our breakfast blends are sourced directly from organic and pear tree gardens in India and Sri Lanka. I love visiting the Rooibos producers in South Africa. We give 1 percent of sales to women and wildlife. Our mission has always been about improving the lives of tea growers and tea lovers.
What does tea contribute to various cultures?
That's a big question because it truly is something different in every culture. And that is what I love so much about tea because it can be everything from meditative to medicine or enjoyed as a teatini cocktail. It can be chai or a street food in India. It can be a get-together with friends to chill or it can be a formal situation like a high tea in London. The tea plant itself from the very beginning for the last 5,000 years since people have been drinking it has always been somewhat spiritual and medicinal and has had this unique quality that I would say no other plant that I know of really has. It' become an integral part of so many cultures. Moroccan mint tea and the British sense of afternoon tea, the Japanese tea ceremony are a few examples. Tea is the number one most consumed drink in the world besides water.
People celebrate by it. They meditate by it. They pray by it. They heal themselves with it.
What are a few of the health benefits of tea? You have a Tea Flavor Wheel on your website that shows the ingredients in each?
There are flavor wheels for tea like there are for coffee or wine. There's the taste and the flavor part. And then there's the health benefits part. So for example green tea is known for having anti-cancerous agents and antioxidants. The flavor notes on green teas are usually floral, vegetal or sometimes lighter. Black tea which is known to be great for the eyes and the bone and it also does have antioxidants but not as much as the green tea because it's oxidized where as green tea is not oxidized.
nd you can find you know different recipes for these cocktails tea combinations on your blog.
Yes! The Nomadic Tea Party is my blog associated with Firepot. And it's actually a book project that I'm working on as well. It's a recipe-driven book that's going to be all about the cultural traditions and the geography of tea. I will include everything from demson China tea to southern fried chicken and southern sweet tea recipes and tea cocktails.
Why do think Matcha has become a popular tea drink of choice?
Matcha is sort of dubbed as the "green espresso." It has lots of caffeine, more than a regular cup of tea. The antioxidants, slimming qualities, the beautifying, everything people drink green tea for, Matcha is
10 times that!
Matcha is grown under a shade cloth which means that the leaves can't photosynthesize so they get really rich and bright green. They store an intense amount of antioxidants. The leaves are then processed a day later and ground between two large granate slabs. Matcha is the only type of tea where you're actually consuming the tea leaf. So you're getting this really condensed green tea. Here, people are getting creative and making everything from matcha lattes to smoothies and baked goods.
You're best known for your Chai concentrate. What makes a really good Chai?
A few things. Our chai starts with our ready-made Masala blend of spices. This original Firepot recipe has carried the business because it's our best selling product. We start with a really good blend of spices and then we use fresh batches instead of pre-ground spices. Everything's brewed in house, extracting maximum flavor and health benefits.
Our blend is also not too sweet. A lot of people think they don't like chai because it's so sticky, sweet. Ours has way less sugar than any other commercial chai's but I feel like it's just the right amount. You miss the whole fun in the flavor and the spices otherwise. We include a very high-quality organic vanilla in there as well. And just a little bit of salt to bring out flavors.
You can make chai lattes, cocktails, ice cubes even. Pour some soda on top easy!
You've collaborated with other small businesses in Nashville, particularly MEEL?
Yes, MEEL sells local food kits with everything you need for dinner. Marti beautifully curates local organic produce, meats and cheeses and she does a phenomenal job pulling all of that together to come up with flavorful, creative recipes. She launched her marketplace section and it includes everything from eggs, bread, and cheese. It's like going to the farmer's market. She's selling art chai concentrate and breakfast tea.
Let's get back to the travel side of things. If I were to make a bucket list of tea bars to visit around the world what would you recommend?
That's such a fun question! I love that the tea bar concept is really just taking off right now so I've been spending a lot of time lately checking out tea bars all over the world. It's basically a modern tea shop concept where you can go and get an expertly crafted cup of tea or tea latte on tap.
SARAH'S FAVORITE TEA BARS ON THE MAP
Good and Proper Tea in London - They're relatively new. They do a fantastic job in a really hard market because British people know how they like their tea they don't mess around with it. They don't want it be fancy. It's just tea. So they've broken through that market and it's such a well designed space.
Tea Bar in Portland, Oregon - I got back home from my trip to Portland and this tea bar was all I could think about. Definitely a stop on your list when you visit again!
Rabbit Hole Tea in Sydney, Australia- They're doing really beautiful things with tea as well! Another great tea bar to visit out of the country!
We're opening one in our spot on 12th south and that's why I've been focusing so much on the tea bar concept lately. It'll be a little space, so it'll be very clean with seasonal, expertly-crafted drinks to-go or to stay. But we're going to have tea on tap and seasonal infusions.
Where can people find Firepot besides your website?
In 2017 we're working on some big accounts like Wholefoods and other specialty groceries. Coffee shops in Hawaii and Honolulu also carry our tea. In Nashville, you'll find us at Frothy Monkey, Kore in Edgehill and dose on Murphy Road. Follow Firepot on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!