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Interview with Elizabeth Eldridge of The Spice & Tea Exchange

Here's our interview with Elizabeth Eldridge of The Spice & Tea Exchange! If you've never been there, you definitely need to stop by. So many good smells! We chatted about her work within the community, her passion for cooking (and helping people cook), and much more. And we're off!

Tell me a bit about The Spice & Tea Exchange and how you got started?

I came across The Spice & Tea Exchange during a Florida vacation and fell in love with the experience of being able to smell everything, and the way things are handmade in-store. A few years later, after the company I worked for sold, and during a time of a medical diagnosis, I decided to follow my passion for helping people cook, and convinced TSTE to let me open a store here. They are a unique franchise, where they source the ingredients from all over the world, organic and fair-trade wherever possible, and we as owners can create the spice recipes and share them. It’s like a family of foodies!

Tell me about some of the community events that you're involved in?

Our motto is “The creating and sharing the experience of a more flavorful life”, so we do a lot of community based things! We are a school-business partner with South High School and Northern Lights ABC currently, we work with the King Career Tech Entrepreneurial program as well. You will find us at booths like Making Strides against Breast Cancer, the Heart Run, and find our donated products at local charity events of all kinds, especially ones that benefit children and the hungry.

Tell me about some of the awards that you've been nominated for?

I’ve been nominated for Two Goldpan Awards by The Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, for Entrepreneurial Excellence in 2017 and 2018. I was the Chamber of Commerce YPG Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017. I was also Women Entrepreneurs of Alaska Member of the Year winner in 2016.

What are your favorite teas? Favorite spice blends?

It’s so hard to choose!!! It depends on what I’m making and what mood I’m in. My all time favorites have to be White Tropical Tea and Black Chocolate tea. I’m biased on the spice blends towards the ones I’ve created, so it would have to be our Rustic Garden Ranch!

Rustic Garden Ranch sounds awesome! Do you have any dishes that you recommend it for in particular?

I created the Rustic Garden Ranch to make a healthier Ranch Dressing option, without preservatives or MSG, which is really hard to find! We’ve tried it on many dishes, it’s especially great on popcorn and home fried potatoes. 

What's your process for creating unique tea and spice blends?

It’s part science and part mad genius I suppose. There is blending, measuring by ounces, and then “quality control” at the end. We love that term. It means we get to do lots of taste testing!! It all begins with either a guest asking for something, or an awesome idea however.

What's your favorite part about this whole journey since you first started it?

The amazing connections with the dinner table of others. I’ve heard so many stories, and gotten to see pictures of what people have created, or become excited by their new cooking skills after a class I taught. It’s amazing to watch something like that grow and ripple, like a stone in a pond.

If someone wanted to take a class with you, how would one go about that?

They can follow our Facebook or sign up for our class newsletter. Most cooking classes are taught in the Allen & Peterson kitchen.

Do you have a favorite customer story?

I do. We had a guest who needed us to recreate a BBQ spice that had been made by a friend who passed away. It was a gift for the friend’s son for his birthday, who lives in another state. It was pretty old, and not easy to put back together, but after I was done with it, he told me it was like having his friend with him again. <insert tears> We made a batch for the whole family, and heard afterwards how touched everyone was.

A non-business question! When you're not working, what do you do for fun?

I was a music major, so I love to play piano and sing, and I’m an avid gardener. I also enjoy chilling out with movies with the family and our assortment of pets.

Is there anywhere we can catch you playing piano or singing by chance? (I had to ask!)

Haha, not so much these days, I don’t have the time. I used to do local musicals and things, but if I’m invited to karaoke.....

What was it about The Bear Box that made you want to be a part of it?

I love the idea of introducing different products from a region to friends and family, what a great idea! Who doesn’t love a surprise present? Plus, the Bear Box has really high quality standards, so we’re proud to be a part of it.

Anything else that you'd like to mention? Any wisdom?

I believe that food is like a language. It passes down tradition around the dinner table, we share stories and recipes, and it brings people of different cultures together. I feel completely blessed to be a part of Alaska’s food language, and hope to be able to do so for many years to come.

Three pieces of wisdom:

Always work on inspiring your team and yourself, as you all are the face and heart of the business.

Like Mark Cuban says, have some skin in the game. If you don’t have something to lose, you won’t work hard enough to make your business succeed.

There are two ways to succeed in business: tear down those around you, or work together and be lifted upon each other’s shoulders.

Lots of quality wisdom there! We're happy and thankful to have Liz as a part of this box. If you want to see more of what's available, here's the website (or drop by the store!). You can also connect on Facebook and Instagram!