Tag Archives: organic teas

Homemade Organic Apple Cider


As the weather begins to cool and there is a nip in the crisp autumn air, this homemade spiced Apple Cider will make you reminiscent of pumpkin picking and hay rides when you were a child.

To Begin you’ll need:

6 organic Granny Smith apples, 6 organic Red Delicious Apples, 1 organic orange, 1 cup brown sugar


1 whole nutmeg, 4 whole cinnamon sticks, 1 tbsp cloves, stock pot, strainer, potato masher and cheesecloth.


Step 1: Wash you fruit and cut it into quarters


Step 2: Add all your fruit to the pot with the sugar.

Step 3: Prepare your spice bouquet: lay out the cheesecloth and add the cloves, cinnamon and diced nutmeg. Wrap up tightly and place in the pot.


Step 4: Cover everything with water and bring to a boil, covered for 1 hour. After 1 hour, mash your fruit, reduce your heat and allow to simmer for 2 hours.


Step 5: Allow the cider to cool, remove your spice bouquet and using your strainer and cheesecloth, ladle your cider into a bowl.

You can serve your cider hot or cold, but I prefer mine hot with a cinnamon stick! I hope you’ve enjoyed this recipe on how to make homemade Apple Cider and perhaps now you can start your own family tradition!

Chocolate Chai Cupcakes with Cinnamon

By: Angela Keyser, Marketing Manager

Chocolate Chai Cupcakes FINAL

Who doesn’t love cupcakes? I love having an excuse to make them and, I must say, my son doesn’t mind either! Of course, he always thinks it’s someones birthday when there are cupcakes around so he sang “Happy Birthday” to me while we whipped these up. (Hey, I’ll turn 21 again any day!)

Chai Cupcakes Step 1

My baking assistant signing “Happy Birthday” as he lines the cupcake tins. This is a great way to have even the smallest hands help in the kitchen.

Chocolate and chai are one of those combinations made in heaven. So, when I found this recipe I had to give it a try. (I also like it because, unlike most chai cupcake recipes, this one uses real chai tea and not an instant blend that is oftentimes loaded with sugar….not that we’re counting calories with this recipe!) I tweaked a few things but must give credit to the original author Land O Lakes. (The midwestern dairy cooperative my family farm was a part of for over 25 years.)

For some of you, this recipe may be a little overkill on the dairy. If that’s the case, I’d omit the cream cheese filling.  The chocolate batter is sufficiently rich enough and your cupcakes will be adequate size. Make sure you give the frosting a try, though.  I found it highlighted the beautiful balance chocolate and chai have. Enjoy!

Cream Cheese Filling
1/3 cup sugar
8oz. cream cheese, softened
1 egg
Chocolate Batter
1 1/2 cups boiling water
10 teaspoons loose leaf Organic Masala Chai Tea
1 package chocolate or fudge cake mix
1/2 cup melted butter
3 eggs
3 tablespoons reserved chai tea
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup all purpose flour
4 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Step 1:  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Step 2: Have your assistant fill 24 cupcake tins with paper liners

Step 3: Blend filling ingredients (sugar, cream cheese & egg) and set aside.

If you don't have loose leaf chai tea, you can use 5-8 tea bags. Or, you can make your own chai tea. It's simply a combination of black tea and spices.  Google "Chai Tea Recipes" for some ideas.

If you don’t have loose leaf chai tea, you can use 5-8 chai tea bags. Or, you can make your own chai tea. It’s simply a combination of black tea and spices. Google “Chai Tea Recipes” for some ideas.

Step 4: Steep 10 teaspoons of loose leaf Organic Masala Chai Tea in 1 1/2 cups boiling water for 5 minutes. Then strain to remove tea and add enough water to the tea to equal 1 1/2 cups.  Set aside 3 tablespoons of tea for the frosting.

Step 5: Combine tea, chocolate cake mix, melted butter and eggs in a large bowl and mix until well blended, a minute or two.

Step 6: Fill all cupcake liners with approximately 1-2 tablespoons of chocolate batter.

Step 7:  Add 1 tablespoon of cream cheese filling to each cupcake.

Step 8: Top cupcakes with remaining chocolate batter making sure to not fill more than 2/3-3/4 of the cupcake liner.  If you fill them too full, the cupcakes will overflow and they won’t look like the cute ones on Cupcake Wars. ;0)

Step 9: Bake for 18-22 minutes. Let cool.

Step 10: Combine tea, milk, flour and cocoa in a saucepan and whisk until well incorporated.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly. Mixture will become thick.  Let cool for 15 minutes.

NOTE: Be careful to pay close attention to keeping the heat under control (not boiling) and stirring often.  Leaving the pot unattended will result in a curdled mess!

Step 11: Mix sugar, butter and cinnamon together. Slowly add cocoa mixture and mix until sugar is dissolved.

Step 12: Frost your cupcakes. Sprinkle a little cinnamon on if you’d like and devour!

Step 5:


Yerba Mate: The unexpected rise of a cherished South American tea

By: Patrick, McComas, Director of Global Sales

Patrick McComas, Director of Global Sales, visits an organic yerba mate plantation in South America.

Patrick McComas, Director of Global Sales, visits an organic yerba mate plantation in South America.

I had the awesome opportunity to travel to South America last month and meet our hard-working organic yerba mate growers.  The trip not only included fascinating tours of the yerba mate fields and manufacturing facilities but also an education on the beloved tradition of drinking yerba mate and, of course, sampling of a plethora of yerba mate beverages!

Yerba Mate’s Health Benefits

A yerba mate leaf.

A yerba mate leaf.

For those that aren’t familiar with yerba mate, it’s a tea-like beverage and is made by steeping the leaves and branches of an evergreen holly tree that’s native to South America.  It’s been consumed by the majority of South Americans for generations and has several health benefits:

  • Yerba mate tea is very high in antioxidants. In fact, it has about 90% more antioxidants than green tea. Because of its high antioxidant levels, yerba mate is believed to have significant immune-boosting properties. Click here to read about them.
  • While the caffeine yerba mate provides increases mental energy, clarity, focus and physical performance, it doesn’t cause any of the uncomfortable side effects such as headaches, stomachaches and jitters associated with drinking more common caffeinated beverages.
  • A study by the University of Illinois links yerba mate to the prevention and destruction of colon cancer cells. Click here to read about the study.
  • South Americans have long used yerba mate tea as a traditional herbal remedy against digestive ailments and to manage weight. Read more about how yerba mate helps manage weight here
The large

Here you can see the large Pinheiro Araucaria trees towering over the yerba mate plantation.

Growing & Harvesting Yerba Mate

Our organic family farmers in South America have been growing yerba mate for over five generations. They learned from the natives over a hundred years ago and have been working hard to preserve the natural ecosystem for yerba mate ever since.  For example, yerba mate needs to be grown in very specific soil with a healthy dose of shade.  The Pinheiro Araucaria tree provides this vital shade that allows the yerba mate trees to thrive. 

I had the opportunity to harvest some mate by hand, learning how to carefully clip the leaves and branches without creating long-term damage to the tree.

I had the opportunity to harvest some mate by hand, learning how to carefully clip the leaves and branches without creating long-term damage to the tree.

It’s also important to allow the yerba mate trees to grow in-between harvests. Over the generations, our farmers have learned to utilize a variety of harvesting techniques (hand, hand-trimmed, and hand-cut at various places and angles on the branches) to preserve the tree.  They then  wait two years before they go back to a tree they’ve harvested from. This ensures the yerba mate can re-grow and continue to provide a plentiful harvest as efficiently as possible.  Maintaining a proper growth and harvest cycle also balances the flavor and nutritional value of the mate. 

2013_8_Patrick's Yerba Mate Trip_Wood Firing

The oven used to remove almost all the humidity from the air and the tea is extremely hot.

After harvesting, the mate is loaded onto a tarp, wrapped tight and delivered to the processing facility where it is fire-dried using Eucalyptus tree logs in a gigantic wood oven.  The heat produced from the fire passes through a large chamber containing mate leaves, drying them and taking the most of the moisture out of the air.  The majority of the smoke produced from the wood-fired ovens is transferred through a chimney out of the facility and never reaches the yerba mate.  The mate is then transferred to the mills where it is cut for loose leaf (gourd drinkers) or tea bags.

Green, Aged & Roasted Mate

During my trip I was able to watch three different types of yerba mate being processed: green mate, aged mate and roasted mate. 

Just a few of the various mate drinks I sampled.

Just a few of the various mate drinks I sampled.

Green mate is simply freshly harvested yerba mate. It’s been recently picked (within days and commonly processed the same day it’s harvested) and is relatively untouched other than allowing it to be quick fire air dried, milled and packed. It tastes similar to a very subtle green tea.

Aged mate is dried and stored for a few years (usually 2-4) before being consumed. The harvesting and processing is the same as green mate and simply stored for a few years before being consumed. When properly aged, some teas develop a whole new level of flavor (just like wine) and yerba mate is no exception. The aged mate has a beautiful nutty color and combines the flavors of green and black tea with natural smokey notes to create a lovely balanced refreshment.

Even the gas man drinks yerba mate on the job!

Even the gas man drinks yerba mate on the job!

Roasted or Toasted mate is my favorite and is by far the most popular yerba mate in South America. It can be made from either green or aged mate and includes a roasting step – usually in a coffee roaster. The taste, I think, is unbelievable! Full of malty and caramel flavors, this is a full-bodied tea that’s perfect iced or hot. In South America, they drink it at all hours of the day in a variety of forms: iced with lemon, blended with lemonade, whipped into a latte, and more.

I hope this little overview of yerba mate was informative and sparked your interest to give it a try.  It’s found in most grocery stores in the tea isle or ready-to-drink beverage section. It’s also starting to show up in a wide variety of blends like Tazo’s Cocoa Mint Mate. I’d love to hear if you’ve tried it and, if so, your favorite way of enjoying this emerging beverage.

If I can answer any questions about yerba mate or assist you in wholesale supplies, don’t hesitate to email me at info@hqorganics.com. Or, you can always post a question here or on our Facebook page.

Happy Sipping!

Patrick McComas, Director of Global Sales for High Quality Organics

Patrick McComas, Director of Global Sales for High Quality Organics and tea expert.

Patrick McComas has been with High Quality Organics for over 3 years. He began as a Senior Buyer with our Supply Chain team and evolved into sales after a few years.  His breadth of knowledge on all ingredients – especially tea – makes him a vital asset to HQO and a fascinating dinner guest! When Patrick isn’t sharing the latest details about an uber exclusive tea plantation in the remote hills of Sri Lanka, he’s creating some amazing music with his bands.  Patrick was a manager in the early Northwest Micro Brewery scene, including the first certified organic Brewery, Laurelwood, earlier in his career.  His love for teas and spices began when he would work experiment with spiced beers, or create his homemade hot sauces. (Beware of his ghost chili sauce; homegrown and beyond hot!)  Patrick is married and the proud father of an 18-month old who keeps him laughing after even the hardest days at work.

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.

HQO Market Insight: Time for Tea

2013_6_13_HQO Tea Trends_D3 copy


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.