Category Archives: Teas

Fall Infused Waters

In this video we show you how to make your own Fall Infused Waters. Enjoy and please be sure to share a comment or a photo on our Facebook page if you try one of these recipes!


DIY Masala Chai Blend

Masala Chai is a flavorful tea from India, but what many people don’t know is this tea actually contains spices as well as tea. Watch this informative video to learn how to make your own Masala Chai Blend.

Masala Chai Latte

As fall nears, we will show you how to make your own Masala Chai Latte at home!

Hibiscus Cooler Cocktail

2014_7_1_Hibiscus Cooler CoverHibiscus tea – while fairly new to the American market – has been enjoyed by Latin American and Middle Eastern countries for centuries. Ancient Pharaohs would drink the tea for refreshment from the scorching desert heat while Hispanics enjoy it year-round, hot or cold, most often with some sugar and and other spices to make a popular drink called agua de Jamaica.

In this easy recipe, the combination of hibiscus, honey, lime juice and mint give this cocktail a wonderfully tart and refreshing taste. I added vodka but you could easily use sparkling water instead and have a great drink everyone can enjoy. Garnish with some blackberries or blueberries and you instantly have a patriotic punch fit for any picnic!

Red, White & Blue Hibiscus Cooler

2014_7_1_Hibiscus Cooler Ingredients copy4-6 hibiscus tea bags, 4-6 teaspoons loose leaf hibiscus tea or 1 large pitcher tea bag
4 cups water
2/3 cup honey
1/4 cup lime juice
4-6 cups ice
1-2 cups vodka, rum or sparkling water
Fresh mint, blueberries and/or blackberries for garnish

Step 1: Boil the 4 cups of water in a saucepan on the stove.  Remove from heat, let cool for a minute or two and then add tea bags and steep for 10 minutes. (Alternatively: Steep the tea in 4 cups of water overnight in the refrigerator.)

Step 2: Remove tea bags and add honey, lime juice and stir until honey is dissolved.

Step 3: Add ice to a large pitcher and pour hibiscus tea over ice and stir.

Step 4: Add vodka and more ice, if needed. Stir.

Step 5: Garnish with mint and blueberries or blackberries and enjoy.

Top Five Trends at the World Tea Expo 2014

World Tea Expo

Every year, around springtime, the tea industry gathers for The World Tea Expo. The event is only a few years old but is quickly gaining a reputation for being the place to track the latest and greatest tea trends.  High Quality Organics was there and noted these five trends.


Fruit continues to be a popular trend with teas.

1. Fruit – U.S. consumers have a sweet tooth – we love sugar! Yet, we all are trying to live healthier and cut “empty” calories. The result is more and more companies are looking for creative ways to reduce their use of refined sugar in their food and beverage products. Fruit is a natural solution, especially for teas as the flavors marry so well together. Pomegranate, mango and blood orange were just a few of the fruits I saw highlighted at the show.

2. Flowers – This was a new trend. I saw a lot of different flowers being used this year. Given tea’s botanical nature, it makes perfect sense that flowers would be a nice match for some of the more delicate teas like green and white.  Adding a floral note is such a creative way to make some very nice flavor combinations. I’m excited to see how this trend develops over the coming year.

The new trend this year was the creative use of flowers in tea blends.

The new trend this year was the creative use of flowers in tea blends.

3. Functional Teas – Probably a no-brainer to most of you, American consumers are increasingly demanding food and beverages that aid in their overall health and wellbeing.  Fortunately, tea already has a very healthy “halo” around it so the tea industry, for the most part, has a pretty easy job to do. What is new this year are the creative uses of other products blended with tea to address specific health concerns or target audiences.

4. Loose Leaf/Specialty – I reported on this trend last year. Specialty tea is one of the major opportunities for growth within the tea segment. The U.S. tea industry, valued at $8 billion, is expected to grow by another $2 billion in 2014, according to World Tea Media, and specialty tea is driving that growth with an estimated 60% market share.

5. Ready to Drink (RTD) – The majority of tea consumed in the U.S. is iced – 85% according to World Tea Media – and American’s love of the cold brew makes the ready-to-drink format the fastest growing tea segment. While specialty tea may be the big sister of the tea industry, RTD tea is the little engine that could – growing from less than a billion dollars to over 3 billion in the last 15 years. As consumers continue to demand convenient, healthful foods and beverages, RTD tea will see nice growth.

Yerba Mate Mint Martini

2014_6_16_Yerba Mate Martini Cover 2Who loves to finish a tough week with a nice, ice cold martini? Here’s one that I bet you’ve never tried. (And trust me, it’s good!) While I’m more of a gin than vodka martini girl, I decided to compromise (twist my arm!) with this recipe because I just happen to know a “few good men” at HQO who are die hard vodka martini drinkers.

The best part about this martini, I think, is the inventive use of yerba mate, an ingredient HQO now offers.  Yerba mate is a wonderful beverage that provides a nice dose of caffeine without the side effects coffee can sometimes provide.  It also has a slew of other benefits you can learn about in this video.

Not a mint fan? You can use a classic toasted yerba mate instead.  But, for the hot summer days, I think the subtle hint of mint is just what the doctor ordered.

If you give the recipe a try, let me know. I’d love to hear what you think and if you enjoyed it as much as I did.  Cheers! (Remember, drink responsably.)

Yerba Mate Mint Martini

2 ounces vodka
1 ounce mint yerba mate
1/2 ounce cointreau
Fresh mint for garnish

Step 1: Use one yerba mate tea bag (about 1 heaping teaspoon of loose leaf yerba mate)  to brew an extra strong small cup (about 1-3 ounces) of tea. Allow to cool or shake with some ice and strain.

Step 2: Combine vodka, cooled yerba mate, cointreau and one or two mint leaves (optional) into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake.

Step 3: Strain into chilled martini glass and garnish with a mint leaf.

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 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.