Monthly Archives: June 2013

Chef Dawn’s Super Simple Matcha Tea Cupcakes

Matcha Tea Cupcakes copyThese delicious cupcakes are made super simple by using a boxed cake mix and organic Matcha Green Tea.  You can, of course, make your favorite vanilla, pound or lemon cake from scratch if you prefer. Watch Chef Dawn demonstrate the recipe in this video.


1 Lemon Cake Mix & Wet Ingredients Required to Make Cake

1-2 Heaping Tablespoons Matcha Green Tea

Directions: Add 1-2 tablespoons Matcha Green Tea to the dry cake mix. Mix thoroughly.  Then, follow the directions on the back of the cake mix box and bake according to the cupcake temperature and time. Allow to cool before frosting.

Matcha Cupcake Ingredients


1 Bag or Box of Powdered Sugar

1-2 Heaping Teaspoons Matcha Green Tea

1/2-1 Cup Butter

Milk or Water for Thinning

Directions: Add 1-2 teaspoons of the Matcha Green Tea to the powdered sugar and mix thoroughly.  Then, follow the directions on the back of the powdered sugar package or this recipe.

Kerala India

By Fred Alejo, VP of Sales & Sustainability

I traveled to India a few months ago to share High Quality Organic’s (HQO) knowledge of organic farming and meet some of our suppliers.

India is a beautiful place with expansive farmland in remote and very peaceful places.

India is a beautiful place with expansive farmland in remote and very peaceful places.

The first week was spent with the Ker International Herbal Fair where the Ministry of Forestry in India sponsored HQO to attend and help their over three million farmers with sustainable wild collection practices.  Unlike in the United States – and most developed countries – many of the crops in India are grown in the wild and harvested by village people.  However, most of these collectors have never received formal training on sustainable harvest practices.  The result has been approximately 30% of the plants on the verge of extinction.  With our global network and agriculture knowledge, we were able to share some simple practices that can easily help preserve and allow the wild crops to thrive in India.

The second part of my visit was meeting a world-class supplier; one of our number one suppliers. They grow birds eye chili pepper, turmeric, Arabica and robosta coffee in Karala. Below are some pictures from my tours of the nutmeg and pepper plantations.

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I also had the opportunity to view the turmeric crop. It looks amazing!

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My last day in India was spent traveling to Minora, a place very similar to the Sonoma Valley of California. There I visited several tea gardens varying in age from one to 180 years old.  There they pick their tea using the parameters, 2 leaves and a bud.

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This was my first time in India and it was eye opening.  I not only learned to invest in more moisture-wicking shirts, I also developed an amazing respect for the knowledge our Indian farmers have.  Despite India emerging as a nation, their knowledge of agriculture is, in a lot of ways, extremely developed.  For example, they call plants by their botanical name and could tell you more about them than almost any Wikipedia page could.

Our growers in India have been partners with HQO since the beginning.  This trip reaffirmed why we work with them: their passion for preserving the land and providing the best quality products possible.  It’s clear they will be valued partners for generations to come.


Fred Alejo has been with High Quality Organics since February 2011 and leads the  rapidly growing organic ingredient company in sales and sustainable initiatives.  Prior work experience includes Rembrandt Foods, Dole Fresh Vegetables and the United States Army.  Fred is the proud father of three children and spends his time outside work coaching football, skiing and training for triathlons. 


Top 10 Trends from the World Tea Expo 2013

By Allison Wall 

The World Tea Expo is the only trade event completely dedicated to the tea category. Hosted each June in Last Vegas, the World Tea Expo brings together over 200 exhibitors, dozens of experts and thousands of attendees. I joined two of our HQO Sales Managers on the show floor to track the trends, meet with customers and share the latest from our organic tea suppliers. Below are the top trends I saw during the three-day show:

New HQO Sales Manager Eric Granata enjoys an iced tea pop at the Word Tea Expo. They were delicious!

New HQO Sales Manager Eric Granata enjoys an iced tea pop at the Word Tea Expo. They were delicious!

1. DeeBee’s Organic Tea Pops – Hands down the most popular booth at the show. The concept is so simple yet absolutely brilliant. Given the success we’ve seen of other frozen treats, we expect these to be in almost every grocery store very soon. Flavors included mint, coconut, mango and iced tea.

2. New Varieties – Honeybush has been used in teas before but this year we saw it marketed on its own. We also saw some increased chatter around Yerba Mate.

3. Fruit – In response to consumer demand, tea companies are finding alternative ways to sweeten tea without the use of sugar or artificial ingredients.  We saw blackberries, grapes and fruit blends being used this year.

4. Ready-to-Drink with a Twist – This category of tea has been going gang busters for several years and continues to be a dominant trend in 2013. This year the ready-to-drink products included new teas like rooibos, being marketed simply as ‘red tea,’ and lightly carbonated teas.

5. More Organic Options on the Horizon – While there are a lot of organic teas on the market, they certainly don’t command the majority of market share. We’re sensing the tide is beginning to shift as there was definitely more discussion and interest in sourcing organic tea.

6. Herbal Teas & Blends – Herbal teas have been on grocery store shelves for decades but we’re seeing some exciting innovations given increased consumer demand for healthier beverages. Blends addressing a health or wellness concern continue to grow in popularity.

Tiesta Tea Tins

Tiesta Tea Tins won best new product at the 2013 Word Tea Expo.

7. Reusable Tea Tins – Packaging innovations continue across all food categories and tea companies continue to push the envelope in many areas of package design.  The most notable trend at World Tea Expo was the number of beautiful reusable tea tins. There were tons of shapes, sizes and designs – many worthy of prominent display in your kitchen. A savvy marketing approach for any brand.

8. Social Responsibility – While sustainability is still an important part of a tea brand’s story, social responsibility messaging was definitely more prominent at this year’s show.  Most notably, Wild Mountain Tea. They did a beautiful job sharing how their tea is grown and harvested ethically in Africa.

9. Green Tea – Green tea is on the fast track for growth given its well-known health benefits.  In fact, its market share is growing the fastest (when compared to black, oolong or white). We saw tons of new blends using green tea: mango green tea, mint green tea and more.

10. Tea is Growing – It was clear from our time at the show that the tea industry is thriving. With the rapid growth of the ready-to-drink beverage segment and specialty tea expected to grow 50% by 2016, it certainly is an exciting time to be in tea! Read more about the opportunities in tea from our newest white paper, HQO Market Insights: Time for Tea.

Allison Trail Running copyAbout the Author – Allison joined the HQO sales team in September 2010 and has become an integral part of our tea team. Born and raised in California, Allison has been involved with the food industry her entire life. In fact, her running debut occurred at the very first Gilroy Garlic Festival 10K! She continues to love running and working in the food industry while she raises her three children in Reno, NV.  When she’s not cheering on her children at one of numerous sporting events, she’s running on the trails and enjoying the beautiful scenery of Reno-Tahoe.

Meet the HQO Team: Eric Granata

Name: Eric Granata

HQO Role: Sales Analyst & Manager

Place of Birth: Reno, NV

Education: B.S. Economics & Finance, University of Nevada, Reno. MBA (’15), University of Nevada, Reno.

Why Eric Chose HQO:  I was attracted to HQO because of the growth opportunities in the company and the ability to work around my class schedule when I was an intern.  I am really excited to be working full-time now and expanding my role in sales. Meeting customers, learning the art of selling and working with the dynamic sales team are going to be great opportunities for me to grow and broaden my skills set.

Why HQO Chose Eric: HQO is privileged to be working in a community with a very well regarded business program at the University of Reno, Nevada (UNR). This past year we began to make an aggressive effort to seek out high-performing students at UNR and invite them to test out their knowledge in our fast-paced environment.  We’ve found the experiment to be extremely successful with our first two candidates, of which Eric is one.  His self discipline and drive, solid business knowledge and computer skills are just a few examples of why we are so pleased to bring Eric on full-time. He has quickly become a very valuable contributor to our growing sales team.

A Little About Eric: When Eric isn’t working, he’s drinking protein smoothies. (Just kidding!) While he does seem to consume an unusual amount of cloudy beverages at the office, it’s really because he’s a super active guy. When he’s not working out in the gym, he’s exploring the outdoors anyway he can, a classic result of growing up in the foothills of the beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Eric also spends countless hours every year improving his vast knowledge of useless (according to him) sports trivia knowledge. (Note to self: choose Eric for the next office Trivial Pursuit throw down.)

HQO Market Insight: Time for Tea


The U.S. tea industry is on the fast track for growth.  Learn the latest on this centuries old beverage in our latest white paper. Not only will you get a glimpse of the different types of tea and tea history, you’ll also learn the latest market data and top trends in tea today.

Click here or on the image to read the full document.

Meet the HQO Team: Rachel Fransen

Name: Rachel Fransen

HQO Role: Supply Chain Administrator

Place of Birth: Genoa, NV

Education: B.S. in Business Administration with a focus in Management and Marketing, University of Nevada, Reno.

Why Rachel Chose HQO: Nutrition is one of my passions. I have been researching our food system and buying organic for about five years now. I had no clue High Quality Organics existed, but when I saw the job posting for an organic food company on the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) job board, I immediately applied because I wanted to find a career that blended with my passions with my skills set. I am really excited to be able to grow within the organization. There are a lot of opportunities to move around, learn new things and make a positive impact.

Why HQO Chose Rachel: Rachel is another great candidate from our new effort to attract top talent from the well-regarded business program at UNR. Her passion and knowledge of organics was a natural match for High Quality Organics. That, paired with her positive energy, organizational skills and excellent business knowledge, made her the perfect compliment to the supply team.  And, as our Vice President of Supply Chain openly acknowledges, “She can put up with me!” was another excellent reason to welcome Rachel onto HQO’s supply team full-time.

A Little About Rachel: Like most others at HQO, Rachel is a health and wellness nut that loves to play in the beautiful areas surrounding Reno, NV.  Whether it’s going to Lake Tahoe with her dog Louie, or hiking one of the hundreds of trails in the immediate area, Rachel is always happiest when active and outdoors. She also loves to travel – be it to Boston to see her sister or abroad. (Rachel spent a semester abroad at the University of the Basque Country in Bilbao, Spain a few years ago learning the Spanish language and culture.)