by Samantha Marsh | Photographs by Dominic Perri
Roasted cocoa, barley, coffee. Caramel, maple, walnut. Raspberry, rhubarb, honey. At first glance, these may seem like ingredients on an exquisite dessert buffet. Instead of being baked into pies, brownies, or cakes, these ingredients make up just three out of 100 plus blends from Tea Guys, a tea company based in Whately.
Founded in 2002, Tea Guys is a leader in creative tea blends. The company got its start when the husband and wife co-founders, Oliver and Emily Rich, met while working at a restaurant in Boston. They soon discovered their mutual love of tea and, along with the help of their talented team, dove into the creation of their flourishing tea business. The company recently opened a tasting room and factory store in Whately where customers can come in, try the tea, touch the ingredients, and experience the tea in an intimate atmosphere.
“There are even more varietals of tea in China than of wine in France,” Oliver explained when discussing the history of tea that continues to inform their brewing practices. The different varieties of tea (black, green, white, etc.) all come from the same plant, camellia sinensis, known to some simply as the “tea plant.” Most teas from Tea Guys begin with a tea base, and then combine additional ingredients to make a truly unique flavor.
Many of the teas at Tea Guys are inspired by favorite desserts—Oliver often thinks back to the desserts that came out of the kitchens of his Italian and Swedish grandparents while curating ingredients for tea blends. “We look for ingredients that add flavor,” Oliver explains. “We rely on the ingredients to sweeten the tea,” he continues. While some blends add stevia as a sweetener, many blends get their sweetness and robust flavor simply from using whole, unprocessed herbs, spices, nuts, and fruits.
In addition to their popular loose leaf tea and tea bags (made from biodegradable material), Tea Guys also also makes tea concentrates, which can be used to make a quick cup of tea but also have the ability to be transformed in cocktails, specialty beverages, or used in desserts. Oliver explains that one of their goals is to provide people with healthy, full-flavored, tea-based beverages that can substitute their sugary counterparts. “We want to replace sodas and energy drinks,” he says.
Matcha, a finely ground powdered green tea, has also become a new source of excitement at Tea Guys. In China, Oliver explains, matcha was traditionally finely ground in order for efficient transportation and its preparation was the center of traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. The powdered tea has recently resurfaced in popularity in the form of matchalattes and tea drinks. Tea Guys offers matcha that is ground on-site and used in a variety of blends.
Tea Guys focuses on creating beverages that are exciting, flavorful, and special. “Tea is an affordable luxury,” Oliver explains. Oliver explains that many people come into the tasting room thinking that they aren't a “tea person.” Based on the variety and flavors that are abundant in Tea Guys' blends, I'm betting he has changed countless minds.
Tea Guys teas can be found at numerous stores and restaurants around the valley, and will be featured in the new Faces Cafe in downtown Northampton. Learn more about Tea Guys at teaguys.com.