With the holidays only a few weeks away, chances are you will be needing hostess gifts, stocking stuffers or presents. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite Art of Tea gifts that are as thoughtful as they are delicious. Grab a travel gift pack for the friend who is always on the go, or a leather tea box sampler for the hostess who loves to serve dinner and dessert. Have a friend who is just discovering artisan tea? Gift them the tea sampler pack to help them find a new favorite. With so many options, you’re sure to find something for everyone on your list.
[ Travel Gift Pack | Ammo Gift Set | Pyramid Tea Bag Sampler | Wooden Tea Box Sampler | Leather Tea Box Sampler | Tea Sampler Pack ]
Named after the wide straws used to consume their delicious bubble tea drinks, Fat Straws was founded in 2002 in Dallas, Texas by Terry Pham, who quit his IT job to try his hand at something new. His perseverance, dedication and optimism paid off and now he owns and operates two locations. Terry has even been featured by “Entrepreneur Magazine” as an entrepreneur who successfully launched a business during a recession. We’ve been working with Terry since 2006 so he’s one of our oldest and most valued customers – his clear vision, extensive knowledge and role as a trendsetter in his industry is inspiring and honestly, you just couldn’t find a nicer guy!
How did it all start?
My Mom worked as a Field Consultant for the Southland Corporation, parent company of 7-Eleven. So I practically grew up in the service industry. This is before Starbucks, so back then everyone got their coffee at 7-Eleven in the mornings. Whenever stores were struggling, they would send my Mom in to bring up sales and improve operations in the under performing stores. What always amazed me was that customers would follow her to the new store. People literally would go out of their way during their morning commute to give her their business because of the relationships she had developed.
This had such an impression on me as a young man and it taught me to value relationships and the impact that people in the service industry can have on people. I was passionate about that relationship and knew that I wanted to be able to create and share experiences with people. That is what led me to Fat Straws. I remember the first time I had bubble tea and how it blew my mind. I obsessed over it and wanted to get one every day. There were few bubble tea stores here in Dallas and none of them were passionate about the customer experience and building relationships. I saw an opportunity and quit my full time IT job and decided to open Fat Straws. Twelve years later, here we are.
It sounds like Fat Straws is a fun place to work. Can you tell us about your company culture?
Our company culture is all about people. We take care of our customers, and we take care of each other. Because we are a small, privately owned business, every member of our team contributes to making our company run smoothly—from customer service to drink quality to all the smallest details that contribute to our unique Fat Straws identity. We are blessed to have a strong core group of individuals who can not only work hard, but also care about our customers and have fun in the process. Because we are a group of like-minded tea enthusiasts, we want our customers to experience and love bubble tea just as much as we do.
We know it was a big decision for you to start incorporating hot tea in your menu. What was it about Art of Tea that helped you make the jump and how did the risk pay off?
In 2006 I traveled to Las Vegas, and embarked on a quest to find the perfect wholesaler at the World Tea Expo. We had a three-day opportunity to meet with dozens of tea companies, try out their products, and find the right partner with whom we would build a long-term relationship.
Amidst the hundreds of vendors, Art of Tea caught my eye. Steve and I had great chemistry; he made me feel as though we were old friends, he was passionate about his company, and he shared my passions for tea and lasting relationships. I knew immediately that Art of Tea was the company I wanted to partner with.
This decision transformed our brand. We have always been known for making great boba, but the addition of Art of Tea’s loose leaf teas gave us more phenomenal drinks to pair with them. Not only did our menus change, many of our operational processes changed, and we ultimately restructured our brand around Art of Tea. Art of Tea is a large portion of the Fat Straws DNA. Our tea of the day rotates between some of the most favored blends like Blueberry Pomegranate, Happy Tea, and Passionfruit Jasmine which was voted Best Iced Tea of Dallas in 2007. We could have easily chosen another company and privately labeled our teas, but instead we elected to keep the Art of Tea brand and feature it proudly and prominently throughout our store. We even have one of our new menu boards dedicated to all of the amazing teas we carry labeled “ART OF TEA.”
Are there any exciting upcoming trends in the tea/drinks industry?
We have featured several seasonal “mocktail” drinks that bring together some favorite non-alcoholic mixed drinks with the iced tea world. A few years ago we hand crafted a Moji-tea which was Moroccan Mint Tea, fresh muddle mint leaves, with mangos or strawberries. Another favorite is our Jasberry Iced tea, which fused the refreshing, floral taste of White Tip Jasmine with muddled strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. As a group, we are continuously looking for creative and innovative ideas, as well as expanding on old ones. Part of the fun is to find new, exciting ways to transform our product into something that will surprise and excite our customer’s taste buds.
Do you have a favorite milk tea recipe you could share with our readers?
We are currently featuring a seasonal favorite, our Pumpkin Spice milk tea. It incorporates Art of Tea’s Pumpkin Pie rooibos tea, cream and just enough of Torani’s pumpkin sauce to highlight the notes of cinnamon, clove and ginger that make you feel as if you have harnessed the essence of autumn in a cup. Not only does it provide a delicious caffeine-free milk tea alternative for our customers, the authentic base of the rooibos tea allows for the natural flavors to shine through, as opposed to other beverage companies which just pile on seasonal flavored syrups to the drinks on their standard menu. When spring arrives, fans of this tea always lament its temporary loss.
[Interview by Katie Kirby. All photos provided by Fat Straws.]
1. Christine, can you tell us about your little cafe?
Little Flower is my life’s dream. A tiny cafe on the edge of town, it’s where we gather to prepare and eat fresh, delicious food, drink strong coffee, listen to great music, and surround ourselves with art, neighbors, friends, and community. The cafe was born in 2007. Our menu has expanded to include soups, salads, bowls, quiches, tarts, breakfast dishes, and many baked goods. Now, Little Flower is a cafe as well as a bakery and candy-making operation, and many stores across the nation carry our salty caramels.
2. What’s the most popular item on your menu?
That’s like asking me to choose between my children, I love all of them! We have a large menu, and many daily specials to choose from at the cafe. There is definitely something for everyone. I would say our Goddess Salad with butter lettuce, haricot vert, cucumbers, chopped egg, feta, and lemon thyme vinaigrette, and our Green Turkey Sandwich on whole wheat with garlic edamame spread, aioli, oven roasted turkey, arugula, cucumber, jalapeño, avocado, onion sprouts, and cilantro are two of our most popular. We make everything in-house from roasting our own roast beef, turkey, meatloaf made from scratch, to our delicious pastries.
3. What can your fans expect from your cookbook?
My recipes are simple and approachable. I love the imperfection of food, and my hope with this book is to encourage home cooks to join me in honoring this imperfection. The goal is not to create masterpieces. It’s to have fun, keep it simple, keep it fresh, and don’t over think it. Make your cooking process enjoyable. Surround yourself with people who appreciate your efforts, then go for it. Play when you cook. And embrace the imperfections. Most of all, cook with love. It is the most precious ingredient.
4. Why did you choose Art of Tea as your supplier?
We needed a change. We needed to fall in love with our teas and offer something to our customers that we knew was of the highest quality and a fantastic selection. After meeting with Charles (Art of Tea’s Director of Education) about our needs and then tasting, smelling, and loving the teas we knew it would be the right fit for Little Flower. Art of Tea provided great service, and great tea. It’s perfect.
5. Most importantly, which of our teas pairs best with your delicious salted caramels?
When you have time to sit and are craving something warm and sweet it pairs well with Chamomile Clementine, but you can never go wrong with a savory Classic Black iced tea and a sweet & salty caramel for a quick afternoon pick me up.
[Interview by Katie Kirby. All photos provided by Little Flower.]
All over, people are drinking Art of Tea. Show us how you enjoy your tea by using the hashtag #MyTeaMoments, and every month we will showcase a handful of our favorites. It could be the art of your brewing process, enjoying a hot cup while reading your morning paper, or sipping iced tea with your friends. We want to see how you celebrate your tea moments. Check out some of our favorites from the last month.
Looking for a treat to cool down with? Look no further. These Hibiscus Cooler iced tea popsicles are the way to go. Bright, tasty and refreshing, both you and your guests can enjoy these tempting delights. Even better, they have no added sugar and are a fun way to “drink” your iced tea. All you need are the ingredients below, and a little bit of time for the popsicles to harden. Enjoy!
Last weekend at Art of Tea Headquarters, we held a special event and invited LA food bloggers to come and learn about the tea blending process, the different properties of tea, and have a tour of the entire Art of Tea office/warehouse. At the end of the event, we held a tea tasting, and then let the bloggers blend their own custom bags of tea. A huge thank you to those that came and participated in this awesome event and tea education.
The set up:
Steve, the founder and creator of Art of Tea, giving the bloggers an introduction on the event and the background of Art of Tea.
A tour of the back warehouse
The six teas that were tasted
Steve demonstrating the unique Art of Tea filter bags while bloggers look on.
The special blend that was created to show how the process works.
One of the bloggers gorgeous blends.
Once everyone had blended their teas, Steve and Charles (Head of Education at Art of Tea) demonstrated how to properly steep and try your unique mix.
Thank you to all of the bloggers who came out and participated in this event. We had a lot of fun, and hope you did as well!
My moleskin notebook. I have gone through dozens of notepads since I started blending teas in my living room 10 years ago. I used to sleep with a notebook by my bed for when I’d wake up in the middle of the night with some new tea idea or blend inspiration. I like to keep them handy always, you never know when inspiration will strike.
What is your favorite time of day?
During my travels and sourcing trips in Asia, Middle East and Africa, I’ve learned to appreciate the stillness of dawn. The transition from dark to light especially in LA, is one of the most beautiful and inspiring tools to incorporate in the day. I call this my “hour of power,” and it’s a time to start before the world around me wakes and feel gratitude. I focus, reflect, and work on building beyond my own self-limiting beliefs. This is when I dive deep into my Crossfit WOD or yoga practice. If I can challenge myself with the most difficult task mentally, physically and emotionally at the start of the day, then the rest of the day’s challenges seem much more achievable.
What do you consider your “uniform”?
A hand-stitched and ready for blending apron. Tea is an agricultural product and we hand-sift and blend each batch to order, so it can produce a lot of aromatics. The apron acts as a nice barrier, but we still go home smelling great, like bergamot, passionfruit or chocolate. The aprons stay on-site.
What is one ritual you do during the creation of new tea?
I taste hundreds of teas a month — from raw, single origin teas to complex organic hot and iced tea blends that we hand-craft on site in our LA facility. Consistency is key and tasting every ingredient to ensure the delicate flavor profiles are on-point requires Olympic-style precision. My spoon is an extension of me and helps me to pinpoint slight variances, while unlocking the flavor story in each sip. I hand-shape spoons for new staff members at Art of Tea.
Thanks Steve! (Special thanks to Tools of the Trade for interviewing Steve as well)
You may have been noticing some changes around here on artoftea.com. We have recently launched our updated website to create a better experience for the customer and user. Take a look around, and while you’re at it, subscribe to our new and improved newsletters. Trust us, you won’t want to miss these. [To sign up, visit the bottom right side of our homepage.]
The week of love is upon us, and people across the globe are getting ready to celebrate. Whether you’re celebrating with your significant other, family or pals, this drink is sure to be a hit at any table. And while you’re sipping away, grab a heart cookie or two to really get in the Valentine’s Day spirit.
Want to try this tea? Check it out here!
We at Art of Tea want to know what YOU the reader are interested in hearing about on our blog. Comment below on this post with any ideas or suggestions for future posts.
Don’t forget, only a few more days to post your “tea_moments” on twitter and Instagram.
To continue the celebration of National Hot Tea month, check out this delicious drink recipe and food pairing for you to enjoy while staying warm. All you need is a couple ingredients and an afternoon surrounded by family or friends. Show us how you try this recipe and pairing by using the hash tag #tea_moments.
We suggest pairing the 1896 Hot Cider with a delicious Gingerbread cookie. The spices from both the tea and the pastry compliment each other very well, and make for a delightful afternoon snack.
(Special thanks to Charles for the pictures, and to Proof Bakery for the Ginger Molasses Cookie)