There's nothing like an iced tea in the middle of summer. (Or hot tea, according to my insane friend who insists you feel cooler in the long run for it.) The point is, tea is amazing. Bendites are blessed with a host of cafes featuring their own blends of home-roasted coffee, but what often gets overlooked in the caffeine high is just how many tea blenders we have right here in Central Oregon. With several small businesses making premium quality teas that are served at equally local cafes, Central Oregon is overdue for its very own tea guide. And so, this tea enthusiast had a mission: giving you a taste of the tea offerings in our area.
Metolius Tea is the easiest locally blended tea to find for the average café-hopper. Blended in Bend, Metolius is sold at over 20 cafes around and just outside of town. Dudley's Bookshop Cafe in downtown Bend lets you enjoy the tea and a variety of pastries while browsing its impressive selection of books, including local magazines. Bom Dia near the COCC campus has an impressive happy hour with 50 percent off tea and other drinks. It's easy to see why so many cafes have taken to this brand in particular: there's always something new being blended each season, inspired by herbs that grow naturally along the Metolius River.
While the camellia sinensis plant—the leaf that puts the actual black, green, or white tea into a tea blend—can't be grown here or in most of the United States, Metolius goes the extra step of getting to know the farms and farmers it relies on around the world. The company's website features blogs about trips to their partner tea farms in Yunnan, China. Other herbs that aren't native to Central Oregon are also sourced with care; Metoluis works with a women's co-op in Kenya, for example. They're a small business that puts small business first.
Another Bend company is Inspired Leaf Tea, which specializes in unique, decadent flavors including Coconut Truffle, Cucumber Mojito (which doubles as a unique cocktail mixer) and Carrot Cake. The locally-blended tea is sold in grocery stores around the area along with being served at Café Sintra in a teapot big enough for two people to share.
"We definitely wanted to have a tea company that stood out," owner Cindy Neiswonger explained, stressing wanting flavors to be bold by using natural extracts and flourishes such as chocolate and fruit pieces. "It's a letdown when you try a flavor of tea that sounds really amazing but doesn't actually taste like much." The company boasts dozens of bold flavors. They also sell soaps scented by their own teas.
In Powell Butte it's T's Tonics, a family business that not only blends tea from local herbs, but also makes a variety of herbal healthcare products. Tea blends range from "Pain in the Joint Relief Tea," which helps with exactly what it sounds like, to "Central Oregon Outback," which helps with allergies and may have the most local ingredients of any tea in existence.
While it officially became a business eight years ago, owner Teresa Schweitzer has been making and sharing her herbal creations as long as she can remember. "I just came by it very naturally. My dad is a farmer and so was my grandmother. We were just raised around it." Their tea is served at The Hub in Prineville. T's Tonics can also be purchased online, but both the tea and the café are well worth a trip out of town.
Next time you visit a local cafe for a local cuppa, consider switching things up and trying one of the blends brought to you by our local tea companies.