Category Archives: Eco-friendly

Go Green or Go Home!

Happy Earth Day this Sunday! We’ve always big fans of Earth Day here at The Tea Spot. Over the years we’ve investigated our company’s carbon footprint, done a Life Cycle Analysis of our new to-go tea filter, and followed industry studies on the carbon footprint of tea. Cliffs Notes version: Packaging really really does matter, and the more loose leaf in large bulk bags you incorporate into your tea drinking habits, the smaller your carbon footprint. In other words, the bags, tags, strings, wrappers, and boxes inside of boxes really adds up – so steep it loose if you love your Mother (Earth)!

We try to put our money where our mouth is as much as possible. As a company, we get Eco-Passes to encourage riding public transportation, we compost all of our tea leaves (a ridiculously HUGE amount of tea leaves, you can imagine) in the company kitchen, and we recycle in the warehouse like nobody’s business.

To celebrate this year, we’re promoting the ease of Green Tea drinking by giving away a Green Tea Sampler & a Steeping Mug to one of our Facebook Fans. We’re opening up the contest to all fans, new & old. One winner will be chosen at the end of the month. And I have to say that we’ve got the coolest community growing on Facebook with lots of participation from tea lovers all over the world. We even had to bust out our spanish translator recently to respond to a fan. ¡Que chido! You can join our community and can sign up for the contest here. Good luck!

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About the Author

Jessica Kochik

CMO Jessica Kochik manages digital marketing and ecommerce at The Tea Spot. A scientist by training, she’s a keen analytical thinker, project manager, and our design eye. Jessica geeks out on spreadsheets, lives to travel, and is the proud parent of a baby girl. This queen of shavasana is also obsessed with yoga.

Innovating Tea – or, where there there’s a will, there’s a way…

0.brewlux-cup-1000x

The Brewlux™ product that The Tea Spot is distributing is a concept patented by my brother and me. The initial inspiration for the product, however, came out of a brainstorm that included his wife Karen and my daughter Laura as well. And the funniest part of the story is that Brewlux™ might never have come about if Ohio eisweins were more to my liking.

Ashtabula County, Ohio

Ashtabula County, Ohio

My brother Alex lived midway between where my daughters were doing their undergraduate work, in Oberlin, Ohio and Rochester, New York. I liked to take the opportunity to visit them all in one trip, and particularly enjoyed our Fall gatherings in this beautiful, rural area of Northeastern Ohio. Two years ago, we were enjoying a gorgeous brisk and sunny day touring the wineries in Ashtabula County, who specialize in eiswein, which is a kind of extreme form of the late harvest wine. The grapes are left to hang on the vine long after the usual moment of harvest. But whereas late harvest wines are commonly brought in from the vineyard in the Fall, grapes destined to make eiswein are left until winter fastens an icy grip on the vines. This makes for an exceptionally sweet dessert wine.

Ohio Eiswein Vineyard

Ohio Eiswein Vineyard

After our fourth or fifth winery stop, we stopped to get some pizza. I was so enjoying the wonderful pizza aromas emanating from the giant oven. But, they were offering eiswein to taste while you waited for your pie! I couldn’t take it anymore, and became almost desperate for a great cup of tea. Needless to say, that wasn’t an option at this pizza-wine barn. All I could do was complain and fantasize about my loose leaf tea

Yummy Pizza

Yummy Pizza

Being engineers, we started to scribble and draw up designs on a napkin. Our loose leaf tea would need to have sufficient volume to expand in, you should be able to brew it in a standard to-go cup, and it could not contribute to the landfill issue. Lots of ideas, more eiswein and a delicious pizza later, we were on our way home and stopped at a convenience store where we found a set of 10 styrofoam cups and lids. Drawing, cutting and designing into the night, we had a few concepts completed by the end of the weekend, and Alex got them into a computer-aided design model right away.

Brewlux Inventors

Brewlux Inventors

We have just been granted a Small Business Innovative Research Grant by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to do market research in commercializing the Brewlux™. And two years into the development process, and many iterations later, we’re still always working on optimizing the “next” generation model… but now fully able to serve folks a legitimate cup of loose leaf tea to-go, in our fully biodegradable Brewlux™ filters. Thank you Alex, Karen and Laura, and I should add – Ashtabula County, Ohio and the USDA.

This entry was posted in Eco-friendly, Loose Leaf Tea and tagged , , on by .
About the Author

Maria Uspenski

CEO Maria Uspenski is the innovative force behind our Steepware® designs. A mechanical engineer by trade, her mind is always conjuring up delicious new ways to enjoy loose leaf tea. Also the inspiration for our 10% Pledge, Maria is a cancer survivor on a mission to spread wellness through tea.

Steeping Around in Las Vegas

When we were in Las Vegas last month, at World Tea Expo, we had the pleasure of meeting a really fun group of people from the podcast radio show “Steeping Around“. They were in search of the best new gadgets in tea. The crew from Steeping Around approached our booth, interested in learning about our recently launched Brewlux – a large-volume loose leaf tea filter for to-go tea – and our Tuffy Steeper – a telescoping travel tea infuser. So…. the host and producer of Steeping Around, Manish & Tere, sat down to officially interview our Tea Specialist, Bo Olson. They discussed the ins & outs, the whys & hows.

Then…. like Christmas in July, they sent us a link to their completely amazing and professionally-produced radio segment that recently aired on FoodRadioNetwork.com. We were blown away! They are so personable & enthusiastic about loose leaf tea, and so much fun to listen to! So grab a cup of tea, sit back and enjoy listening to these wonderful people and stories (and dulcet voices, if I might add)… The entire segment features us throughout!

Steeping Around –Tuff Stuff Today’s Best Tea Gadgets
or  Listen to the MP3

Bo Olson & Manish Shah

 

Think Green for Spring!

Hi Tea Spotters! It’s been a while since I have blogged. How is your almost spring going?? It’s absolutely beautiful in Boulder, Colorado!

I’ve been working on a new project at home. It’s nothing major, but I am nurturing two plants! I am enthusiastic and determined to give them the best TLC these little cacti have ever known. — I know, cacti are almost foolproof, but green thumbs have to start somehow! — Anyway, being the dedicated apartment gardener that I am, I’ve been looking at techniques to use now and later (when I have my dream garden).

I was thrilled to discover that I can use tea in the garden! Both brewed tea and leaves are great sources of nutrients and minerals for plants. FYI, if used on house plants, this can attract gnats or small flies…

Tea leaves can be placed near the base of acidic-loving plants such as roses or tomatoes, scattered atop the soil or even scratched into the soil. Green tea, specifically, is high in nitrogen and can help with pest or insect problems.

Steep your Oolong too long? Share with your petunias! Brewed tea has similarly great benefits for plants. So maybe steep your leaves once more or splash your leftover tea to feed your garden. Either way, you’ll soon notice it blooming with gratitude.

Also, tea composting is another option to recycle loose leaf tea. This method includes brewing the compost and then spraying the “tea” on plants and can have an amazing impact. I will explain that process in greater detail next week (I’m still learning how it works!).

For now,

Life’s a garden, dig it!

Flower Garden

Flower Garden

Rubber Duckie, You’re the One…

ed29_duck_tea_infuser

Saw this, and it made me happy. I love all the new kitschy tea gadgets these days. I don’t even know how well it steeps tea leaves – but it’s cute! Here’s the latest adorable creation from DCI. They are also the creators of “It’s not a paper cup” ceramic mugs – a great eco-friendly way to avoid the throw-away culture of to-go cups. This is also the idea behind our Tea Traveler Mugs that we pair with a travel tea infuser.

And look! You can pair it with these matching rubber duckie ear buds!

Keep posted to hear about our new eco-friendly steepers in the works. It’s going to be exciting…. I promise!

 

Duck Earbuds

from DCI

This entry was posted in Eco-friendly, Steepware® and tagged , , on by .
About the Author

Jessica Kochik

CMO Jessica Kochik manages digital marketing and ecommerce at The Tea Spot. A scientist by training, she’s a keen analytical thinker, project manager, and our design eye. Jessica geeks out on spreadsheets, lives to travel, and is the proud parent of a baby girl. This queen of shavasana is also obsessed with yoga.

Composting: Not Just for Farmers

Start a compost heap/pile/bin/area in a hurry, folks. Like your life depends on it — because, in fact, it just might! Okay, okay, but why should you?

Well, the answer is in the details. The dirty details. The details about landfills and piles. Heaps and steeps, peeps.

The primary difference between landfill and composting decomposition processes is attributed to the presence of oxygen. Landfills effectively seal out oxygen, resulting in a “mummification” of bio-waste that can persist for years — even when it otherwise would have biodegraded in less than a few months. In fact, landfill excavations have recovered decades-old newspaper, corn kernels, and other food products (even stadium hot dogs!).

When food waste decomposes aerobically – or in the presence of oxygen – it does not produce methane gas or CH4. Decomposing in the absence of oxygen, however, results in the off-gassing of methane. This is particularly relevant to global warming and climate change, because, as a greenhouse gas, methane is approximately 21 times more dangerous than carbon dioxide. Therefore, whether food waste decomposes aerobically or anaerobically is an important consideration in waste disposal — and environmental stewardship. (In other words, your life depends on it.)

Why, then, would one dispose of food waste in their landfill-bound curbside bins? No one knows.

Photo taken from: http://www.naturalandsustainable.com

This is what doing the right thing looks like.

I don’t know whether you’ve noticed, but this isn’t so much a how-to on home composting; it’s just a get-your-ass-in-gear shout out.  A call to action. Just check out home composting dos and don’ts with the Cornell Waste Management Institute’s guide [PDF], and post your questions in the comments section.

And one more thing…

I know what you’re gearing up to throw at me: excuses. But I’ve got answers, since I’m a lippy kid.

Excuse #1: But… I live in an urban area with a small backyard!

A good compost pile or bin does not need to be larger than 3 square feet. Maybe move that jumbo GrillMaster 5000 into the house when not in use, and then maybe you’d have space. Just kidding.

Other options include adopting curbside composting service from your local waste management company. Find one today.

Excuse #2: Compost piles stuh-ink.

I don’t think so, bub. Compost piles that maintain the right carbon and  nitrogen ratio — in simpler terms, the mix of green waste and brown waste — are actively being degraded by microorganisms. You’re looking to have about 30 times more carbon than nitrogen in your pile. Check out the above guide for examples of brown and green food waste.

Also, simply paying attention to compost pile inputs, and avoiding no-nos like raw meat or animal feces, go a long way in preventing stinky piles of backyard mess. You also want to insure that you are turning the pile And that, my friends, smells earthly, not gross.

Excuse #3: Too many flies in my backyard… And [INSERT NAME HERE] told me it attracts rodents! Eek!

Again, if you’re paying attention to what you’re throwing away — and avoid meat, dairy, and animal waste — and proper aeration, flies and rodents won’t be attracted to the pile. And you’ll be good to keep on keepin’ on.

Excuse #4: What would I even do with one? Be realistic.

Spreading a thin layer of nutrient-rich compost on your garden or grass will make your greens greener and your neighbors green with envy. It’s great for the health AND appearance of your yard and helps to deter soil erosion.

Excuse #5: I don’t have the time for starting a compost pile.

Okay, really? Really now? You don’t have time? Let’s review the time requirements:

5 mins. – Learning which materials and packaging are compostable and which aren’t

2 mins. every week – Dumping your kitchen food waste into your backyard compost pile

5 < mins every month – Turning your compost pile to insure proper aeration.

1 minute every week – Check your pile every week to insure that it isn’t too dry; if it is, moisten with a minimal amount of water

I hope you’re embarrassed now.

That’s all I’ve got. Collin ooout.

Make spa water, not war :)

Steep&Chill

Last week, I bought my first Steep & Chill, in our beautiful new packaging, and brought it home on a sweltering hot night, with guests coming for dinner shortly thereafter.  Of course I wanted to show off our new product to my friends, and like with all our other Steepware products, I’d designed it to make loose leaf tea easy… but the thought of even putting the kettle on made me feel weak, and the time crunch I was in was making me wonder just how chilled I’d be able to get the iced tea before dinner.

Time for some inspiration… Since we were having salmon with mashed potatoes and fresh salad, I thought mint might make for a refreshing drink.  So I just tore up some spearmint leaves from the garden, crushed them by hand, and stuffed them in the Steep & Chill’s big infuser, filled the pitcher with cool water, and voila – 30 minutes later we had delicious spa water. Strictly speaking, i suppose this qualifies as a cold-brewed herbal infusion ;)  Stay tuned for further variations on this theme i’ll be exploring when it warms up and stops raining in the evenings – can’t wait to try lemon and orange slices, a few cherries, cucumber slices, and maybe even basil leaves in my pretty lemon meringue Steep & Chill.  PS: the guests loved it :D

~mu

Re-use… Recycle… Refill!

I’m in constant motion this week. As in “moving at the speed of light” constant motion. I’m here… I’m there… I’m flippin’ everywhere. You see… Tea Spot is currently on sale with Whole Foods in Rocky Mountain! Our first promo of the year has me salivating thinking about the upcoming tea season. And to boot, the weather has been cold for the last week! Who needs Colorado blue-bird days when you can have cold, dreary, rain and Seattle-esque drizzle that makes everyone want to buy tea! Hoooooo Raaaaaaay rain and drizzle! Bring it on!

And as you might recall from my last post, I heart grocery stores. I spend a lot of time in them so it’s a good thing that my affection for these establishments is true and genuine. During all of this time that I spend serving tea and talking to folks in stores I inevitably receive all sorts of comments when it comes to Tea Spot’s current packaged tea tin.

Most frequent comments include…

“How cute! Did you design the packaging?” I wish I could be so clever…

“Roches Rouges? But I can’t read French. How do I know how much tea to use?” See the front panel for those who prefer to communicate using the English language please…

And more often than not, “What do I do with my tea tin when I’m done with my tea?” Aaaaaaaahhhh Haaaaaaaah! Don’t even think about throwing it in the trash!

So in no particular order here are a few suggestions for your tea tin once you’ve excavated all of the hand blended, yummy Tea Spot tea from the tin.

Re-use!
Empty Tea Spot tea tins can be used for any number of things around your home or at the office. They slice, they dice, they… oh wait… I’ve got that damn Billy Mays infomercial stuck in my head again.

Back to reality. Empty Tea Spot tea tins make excellent pencil/ pen holders. I keep one at my house for spare change to be used exclusively at the Laundry Mat. My mom has been known to make flower arrangements in her empty Mango Tango tins. I spoke to a customer who used one of our empty tins to make a candle and still another who kept one in his tool box to store all of the stray nuts, bolts, nails, and screws. My next project with my empty tin of Bolder Breakfast – garlic butter with fresh chives. I’ll report back. Isn’t multi-functionality such a beautiful thing?

Recycle!
This is a no-brainer. If you aren’t going to re-use your empty tin for any of the above mentioned items than I would suggest your closest mixed-recycle bin. Our current tea tins including the inner lid and top are 100% recyclable! And here’s a nice guideline for you to follow in the event that you are already “recycle-happy” with your mixed containers.

Ecocycle Dirty Dozen

Refill!

And of course the method that we would encourage every customer who buys one of our fancy-schmancey tea tins to employ is to refill them! Preferably with Tea Spot tea of course! Many grocery stores offer bulk teas and spices and there’s really no better container for keeping your tea fresh than an air-tight, dual-locking, designer tea tin.

We have recently updated our website to include over 40 different teas in bulk. Most of these are available in small 2 oz. increments – the perfect amount of tea to refill your empty Tea Spot tea tin!

In addition, local Colorado grocers who carry our teas in bulk include the following stores.

Whole Foods Pearl Street (Boulder)
Whole Foods South Glenn (Centennial)

Look for additional offerings in the coming months at a store near you!

So go ahead. Re-use, recycle and refill until your heart is content! But whatever you do, don’t throw that beautiful tea tin in the trash!

Simply Green: Focusing on Local, Organic, and Fair Trade- How one coffee shop makes the switch!

Happy Earth Day!

In my travels and conversations, particularly because I live in Colorado, there are many people, stores, restaurants, etc. who live a very green lifestyle and make a conscious effort to do so. Living green can me lots of things. It can mean composting all of your food. It can be recycling all plastics, paper, glass. It can be riding your bike to work, or eating locally grown and organic foods. There are copious ways in which one can be green and one coffee shop in Fort Collins is going for them all.

The coffee shop is called MUGS Coffee Lounge and it’s located in the old town Fort Collins on College St. The owners have made a very big move this past March to ramp up their already green efforts, to be a Conscious Consumer is the main focus of their business.

According to MUGS a Conscious Consumer “considers what the environment, social and economic impacts his or her purchases make. Quite simply, the conscious consumer considers the options available, and chooses the most responsible, sustainable, and least harmful option” .

MUGS has become a Conscious Consumer themselves by focusing on organic, fair trade, local, homegrown, reusing, reducing, recycling and composting. By doing so they are not only making an effort to be more green and help the environment, but to pass on this education to their customers. Their menu board indicates when something is Local (l), Fair Trade (ft),Organic (o) and Homegrown (h) which compliments and holds them accountable to the focus and mission of their store and at the same time demonstrates their sustainable efforts to the customers.

There are many ways in which we can be green this Earth Day, one way is to support businesses like MUGS who focuses on their green efforts EVERYDAY! It can be done and as long as each of us are taking some part, some small steps towards being more green, more sustainable, we will be helping towards the greater cause!

The “Greening” of our Tea Habit

It seems like our culture is really starting to promote all the “little” things we do on a daily basis to be more ecological and “green”. The idea is that even the seemingly small things add up to significant amounts when we all contribute to them frequently. This concept is really driven home lately with the reusable bag, especially promoted for grocery shopping to *reduce* the amount of paper & plastic bags used. Even the last shopping bag I got from the shoe store Steve Madden was a huge reusable cloth bag, and the small bag I got from the yoga apparel store Lululemon is a plastic-coated cloth bag that I now use to bring my lunch to work everyday.

In this light, we are looking at the “greening” of our tea habit.

Loose leaves are more ecological than tea bags, because:

  1. there is no tea bag to go into landfill.
  2. the leaves can go right into your garden compost or your city’s Compost & Green Waste recycling bin.
  3. the leaves of high quality loose tea are often hand-picked and processed rather than machine processed as many tea bag leaves are (using the CTC process – Cut, Tear, Curl or Cut, Tear, Crushed). These CTC machines are powered by fossil fuels.


In addition to the tea leaf processing & steeping, it’s important to look at their packaging too. Our tea tins are fully recyclable. But since it’s even better to *reuse* than *recycle*, it’s most ecological to buy in larger quantities (1 lb bulk bags), and refill your tin as you go, or just use the large resealable bulk bag on a daily basis. (You can find all bulk options for sale in the drop-down menu on the right side of each individual tea page. See screenshot image below.) Buying in larger bulk quantities also gets you the best deal on a per ounce, and per cup, basis. The stats for per serving costs are listed in the Features section of each tea page – listed for both buying by the tin and by larger bulk quantities.This makes it both ecological & economical!


You can also *re-use* your current
collection of tea tins for things around the home and office, such as:

  • a holder/organizerfor pencils, pens, paper clips, rubber bands, etc.
  • a planter for small plants and herbs (poke holes in the bottom for drainage if needed)
  • a container for home-made candles (use the lid to make it a great travel candle, shown in image to the right, made by one of our customers – so cool!)
  • a container for holding herbs & spices bought in bulk


Please post comments with your ideas for used tins…
I’d love to compile a huge list for our website.

And *that* my friends is the greening of our tea habit, from the tea leaf processing, to the steeping & composting, to the packaging. All questions, comments, and feedback welcomed… let the conversation continue….