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I recently attended the 6th Annual Coffee & Tea Festival–how did I miss the past five?–and I’m so excited to share the fruits of my diligent foraging, sipping, and sampling!  A $10 ticket I found on ScoopSt. bought me the opportunity to check out and take home goodies from over thirty companies.  Although I came for the coffee, the draw here was the vast range of organic, artisanal teas.  I’m not much of a tea connoisseur but I think I’ve caught the bug…I sampled some of the most fragrant, delightful teas I’ve ever experienced!  These teas are not your run-of-the-mill supermarket varieties, these are serious teas, and therefore are quite a bit more expensive.  So if Lipton and Celestial Seasonings is more your cup of tea, than by all means stick to those.  But if you delight in floral bouquets and flavor nuances, then you are going to love these tea-tastic companies!  Here are three brands from the event I am totally in love with, along with some other products you might want to check out.

I’m obsessed with….

Tay Tea

Nini Ordoubadi, founder of Tay Tea, is as lovely and serene as her artisanal teas.  Her loose leaf teas are blended with organic, locally sourced herbs and botanicals to create beautiful, fragrant teas.  All the teas have intriguing names as Duchess’ First Love (whispers of caramel), Nefertiti (if the colors red and pink produced a fragrance), Better Than Sex (tastes like an After 8 Thin Mint), Wild Woman (if purple had a smell), Berber (a delicate green tea with refreshing mint), and A Day in Provence (imagine standing in a  field of lavender and rose).

I purchased five samples to take home because I couldn’t commit to just one!  Nini’s full-size teas ($14-$16 for 4 oz, $12-$14 for refill) come in beautiful tins that guarantee your tea stays fresh for one year.

Red Bee skin care and honey

I always get excited when I meet owners who are as passionate about natural, chemical-free skin care and beauty products as I am.  Marina Marchese, founder and beekeeper of Red Bee, is a perfect example.  This entrepreneur and author is following her passion and providing the world with sustainable, healing, pure products made from honey.

Creamy Honey Scrub Mask ($16 for 4 oz jar) is made from ingredients that are pure (and tasty) enough to eat!  Creamed honey, avocado oil, coconut butter, and lavender essential oil gently exfoliate, clean, and soften skin for a radiant complexion you’ll buzz about.  Although the thick mixture looks silky, the honey contains finely granulated crystals that smooth out your skin, but without chemicals or harsh effects.  I applied about a nickel-sized amount of product on slightly damp skin, massaged gently for a minute to exfoliate, and left mask on for five minutes (you’ll feel your skin tighten a bit) before removing with warm water and a soft washcloth.  My skin felt so soft and moisturized, I almost didn’t need to apply moisturizer!  Suggested use is 2-3 times per week.  Try to resist the temptation to lick your face!

If your tea isn’t complete without a teaspoon of honey, you’ve got to try Red Bee’s Single-Origin Artisanal Honey ($11-$14 for 11 oz, other sizes available), gathered from beehives in New York to Florida.  With such intoxicating flavors as Apple Blossom, Star Thistle, Pumpkin Blossom, Wild Raspberry, Sweet Gallberry, and Alfalfa–just to name a few!–you’ll wonder how you were ever satisfied with those boring supermarket brands!  I love that these honeys are raw and unfiltered too.

Tavalon tea

This “future of tea” company’s mission is to not only provide their customers with the best tea, but also educate the (American, coffee-centric) masses on what makes a tea great.  They’re so serious about their tea, a tea sommelier was on hand to answer questions.  I tried their Organic Kama Chai Sutra (starting at $16 for 6.2 oz jar), a spicy, earthy blend of Indian black tea, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and vanilla bean.  The fruity, floral Summer Fruits blend of green tea, apricot, and sunflower blossoms (starting at $5.50 for 1.4 oz jar) was served iced, and would be perfect for summer sipping.

On their user-friendly and eye-catching website, tea is grouped by type (black/green/herbal/oolong/white/tea-sachets/blooming) and function (anti-aging/balancing/calming/energizing/enlightening/slimming).  Check out their cool Gravity Teapot, which not only brews your loose tea, but dispenses the brew just by placing the teapot on the rim of your cup.  One of the helpful (and tea-passionate) employees showed me a demonstration of how it worked, not one drip after the teapot lifted off the cup!  I didn’t purchase anything that day from Tavalon due to dwindling cash reserves, sensory overload, and having had just about enough of the space-invading crowd.  However, I’ll be ordering some of their teas (and that teapot!) soon from the comfort of my crowd-free home.

Products you may want to check out…

Teesa’s Garden teas and spices

Therese Rose of Teesa’s Garden uses 100% organic ingredients from her own garden in Long Island, New York to make her healing teas and spices.  I was thrilled to find stevia ($3 for 1.5 oz, $6 for 4 oz) in its natural state, not as a powder or liquid as I’m accustomed to seeing.  It looks suspiciously like ordinary leaves and twigs but when you taste it, it’s sweet.  Therese shared an interesting way to use it…sprinkle it on tomato sauce when it’s too sour!

Earnest Eats planks and bars

I received a sample of Earnest Eats‘ Almond Trail Mix bar in my event goodie bag and thought it was just an ordinary granola bar.  My first surprise was that it was soft, the second was that it tasted sooo good!  Except for having some organic evaporated cane sugar in the ingredients (listed 4th, which isn’t too terrible) I am right on board with their wholesome ingredients.  They use almond butter for protein instead of soy powders and other strange ingredients found in “health” bars–take a look at the labels on most bars and you’ll see lots of soy protein isolate, which disrupts hormone and thyroid function, among other things.  So I was glad to see it wasn’t in any of their products.

All ingredients for each flavor are listed on their website, which are pronounceable and recognizable, and therefore Earnest Eats gets a gold star.  However, the planks have 14 grams of sugar in half a serving–yikes–so they may not be a great idea to consume in one sitting.  While Earnest Eats products aren’t an ideal food, they are nuts and fruits above most bars on the market.

Melitta non-electric coffee maker

I was attracted to the Melitta booth after I arrived at the festival because I needed some coffee stat, but then a strange contraption caught my eye.  It was a single-serving coffee filter, called pour-over brewing, “the hottest new trend in gourmet coffee” according to the brochure.  Ready Set Joe Cone ($2.99) is designed to sit on top of the Ready Set Joe Mug ($5.99) or Travel Mug ($8.99), but it fits over most coffee cups.  I tried it out at home and while it’s cute, I think it’s a waste to use a filter for one cup of coffee.  I could see this coffee maker being useful for the office or while traveling.  Even though I wouldn’t use it over my french press, it’s still kinda cool.

Hope you enjoyed learning about these products from the Coffee & Tea Festival.  I’d love to hear about your favorite coffees and teas!

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