Friday, September 4, 2009

Gourmet Tea and Fancy Granola

"I'm a local."

That's what the sign says in front of the tinned, Tea Spot tea on the shelf at my local Whole Foods Market a mile down the road from where I live in Boulder.

I was an enthusiastic local Tea Spot patron when the Tea Spot had a lovely little tea cafe in the center of town.

But late last winter the cafe closed, which is unfortunate. However, I'm sure it had nothing to do with their wide selection of teas and more to do with the stiff competition in Boulder.

Tea and coffee cafes abound in this town and their success is all about position, position, position. Though the Tea Spot was in a pretty locale, it wasn't in a consistently well-peopled area.

And if sitting in a cafe on your laptop drinking tea or coffee is all about being seen and connecting with others on their laptops, then the Tea Spot cafe was destined to have a short lifespan because it's position failed to attract a crowd beyond weekend foot traffic.

Never mind, the Tea Spot now wholesales to stores like WFs, as well as sells their selection of beautifully merchandised loose leaf teas online direct to the public.

You'll note that the price is around $10 per tin, which is spendy, though this is high-end gourmet tea!

There's nothing shabby about their Snowflakes tea (pic to left) which is a pure, single-estate white tea. And the gorgeous tins alone are worth collecting and keeping for use as storage containers.

Additionally, their pricing matches other gourmet tinned teas on the shelf at WFs so they're no more spendy than the competition, and their tins are by far the prettiest and the most practical for re-using.

I had several faves that I used to buy in 2 0z sachets from the cafe: Early Grey, Bolder Breakfast, Creme Caramel, and their Mango Tango, all of which are flavored black teas. Their selection goes beyond black and flavored black to include, white, green, oolong, pu'erh and herbal teas.

The last of my featured Whole Foods vendors for this week is Fiona's Granola. I remember meeting Fiona for the first time about 6 years ago. It was at a Boulder Chamber, Women's Leads Group meeting. She was trying to build her granola business and was in need of mentoring and support.

I guess she got what she needed because half a dozen years later, her line of product has really expanded, her merchandising has "wow" factor, and her brand is ubiquitous in Boulder.

To be honest, I haven't tried her 6 flavors of Granola, her Quinoa Crunch or her European Muesli. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I'm an advocate of buying grains, cereals, pulses and so on in bulk; it's cost-efficient and there's no packaging to dispose of, however, not all Fiona products are boxed, some of her granola is merchandised in brown bags.

I have had her quinoa bars, which sell in local tea and coffee cafes (the ones I frequent now that the Tea Spot has closed). Fiona's bars are as healthy as her granola. I read the label with interest last time I ate her Almond Chocolate Chip Quinoa Bar and it was all whole food, the kind of thing you'd make for yourself at home if you could be bothered tossing quinoa, nuts, chocolate pieces, coconut, seeds, agave nectar and canola oil into a blender.

Fiona has a delicious line of wheat-free ($4.99 for 12 0z) and gluten-free granola (pic to left, $6.99 for 12 oz).

I think if I were on a restricted diet, I would definitely try these products, knowing how dedicated she is to quality.

But if I decided to spend $7 or so on 12 ounces of gfree granola, chances are I wouldn't be on a budget.

In other words, this is not breakfast cereal for individuals or families grocery shopping on a budget.

Nevertheless, local girl Fiona Simon has clearly found a local market with her line of granola, muesli, quinoa crunch, bars and trail mix and I'm glad she has because it is better to buy local, than say, rice bubbles imported from the Middle East!

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