• Chad

The Spice & Tea Exchange Revisit Interview

With our July box, we did something that we hadn't done yet and revisited our friend Elizabeth Eldridge! Last time she made a custom tea blend for us and this time it was a custom spice blend. We spent some time catching up about adapting to COVID and what's new at The Spice & Tea Exchange.

How has COVID affected you and how have you adapted?

It has certainly been quite a ride for us. The heart of what we do here at The Spice & Tea Exchange is experience-based, and we had to take a lot of that away. So temporarily we’ve stopped letting guests open our jars to smell, no more sampling, and cooking classes have been reduced or postponed. At the very beginning, we moved to masks for employees and guests (we actually already used masks during blending because of peppers and powders, it really saves our noses!) and stepped up our sanitation procedures even further, although they were already pretty strict. We lost a lot of business in the beginning, even though we are an essential business because people assumed we would be closed. Once the word got out that we were open and had added both Curbside & Delivery options, that helped our sales recover. As other grocery stores have struggled to maintain supply chains, we’ve also met new folks that hadn’t used us before. We’re just rolling with it one day at a time.

Smelling all the things is one of the best parts of the experience, so I can see how that would change things quite a bit. I'm glad that things picked back up after people found out you were open and about the new options. Will the curbside and delivery options be something you keep in the long term?

While we’ve always had the Curbside pickup option, we didn’t really talk about it much. While we will probably leave delivery as an option, it may not always be able to be free as it is for the near future to help our guests during these uncertain times.

If someone's stopping in, what new spice blends or teas should they be on the lookout for? Definitely some of our new summer tea blends. My new fav is Mango Tango! It has mango, coconut, blood-orange, and papaya. It’s amazing. We always have limited time teas coming and going too, so don’t miss out on our Mandarin Spritz. For the spice blends, we have a new Salt & Vinegar seasoning, which is so great on our locally grown potatoes! Plus our Black Truffle Garlic Blend for all things meat-related.

Mango Tango sounds like it would be particularly good as an iced tea and you definitely don't have to twist my arm to give me another reason to make potatoes! Out of your new options, have there been ones that are particular go-tos for you?

The Mango Tango for sure, it’s one of the best iced teas I’ve ever tried (and that is saying something!). We also have a new Salt & Vinegar seasoning that is an easy one for making your own chips, fried chicken etc. I think my go to’s though are some old friends-Korean BBQ or Tuscany. I can make chicken, vegetables, pasta…and with one seasoning change my whole dish. I don’t just make these spice blends, I’m a busy professional who has to cook and eat too!! LOL

I saw a recent post on your Facebook about Steep And Go bottles for cold brew tea. Those are currently for sale?

Yes, they are. We have several types of bottles that let you steep tea (or lemons, cucumber, etc) while you are out hiking or on the water. They’re perfect for the gym, or just anyone who is on the go and trying to hydrate.

Are your Herb Iced Tea Cubes new? I don't recall seeing those before. They are one of our many recipe ideas! You can use our steepable herbs or teas to make brilliant ice cubes, whether you want them to add to a party drink-or to slowly melt in your water bottle for extra health benefits. We have recipe cards in our store, or online at www.spiceandtea.com

Is there anything product-wise that we should keep an eye out for in the near future? We have some amazing new teas coming out for the fall towards the end of August, plus we are going to be rolling out a “traveler’s map” in the next couple months. Think of it as a tasting your way across the globe type program with a prize at the end. Don’t forget we have candles now, and they have limited time scents as well. I’m loving my Coconut Oolong right now.

The "traveler's map" idea sounds so cool! So it'll basically be trying things from around the world and once it's complete you get a prize? Is that just for teas?

We’re going to have it for each section of the store. Teas, Spices, Salts, Spicy things….you can get a small prize for each section-but complete the whole map…it’s going to be great! Watch for that announcement this fall. We've talked about so many cool new things, but is there anything else that you'd like to mention that you haven't had a chance to yet?

Just that we are so grateful to our guests, to the Bear Box, and all our community food and restaurant partners for being part of our journey these last four years. It’s been a difficult time to grow, (pandemics, earthquakes, recessions) but I know that we are stronger and spicier for it. That we appreciate everyone who chooses to shop local and make us part of their tasty lives. We will get to Smell the Spices again, and in the meantime, we will be standing by to help you cook!

Thanks, Liz! If you enjoyed the new spice blends, make sure and check out the website. And if you didn't get around to it last time, connect with her on Facebook and Instagram!