This is the story of a company that prides itself as much on its embrace of health, the environment and nonprofits as it does on its craftsmanship.
In other words, it’s generous to a tea, er, T.
WAG first encountered Tea Forté when senior writer Mary Shustack wrote about the Maynard, Massachusetts-based brand — which is now carried in Bloomingdale’s White Plains — for our e-newsletter, WAG Weekly. Thanks to the company, we were able to sample an array of its 91 offerings in their distinctive bags. (More on this in a bit.) Thirty percent of the teas are herbal, with 65 of the blends available in loose tea canisters and 15 in one-pound pouches.
They have fabulous names like Apricot Amaretto, Blueberry Merlot and, our favorite and the herbal best seller, African Solstice — a red tea made from South Africa’s healthful rooibos (ROY-bus) herb. But poetic as these are, they would be nothing if not for the poetry in the taste — smooth and full-bodied — a testament to what the website says are ingredients that “represent less than one percent of all the teas available in the world.”
So imagine our delight when we met Barbara Beller, Tea Forté’s director of wholesale North America, at a tea party for the British clothing brand Hobbs at Bloomingdale’s White Plains that dovetailed with the retailer’s kickoff of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. After that, we knew we had to do more on the tea and connected, through Beller, with Niki Biszantz Vercollone, the company’s senior marketing manager, who filled us in on its past and future.
Tea Forté began in 2003 with Peter Hewitt, who as a student at Rhode Island School of Design did his senior thesis on building a better tea bag. Many bags are flat, preventing the tea leaves from unfurling, Vercollone says. Hewitt hit on the pyramid bag, made of food-safe, recyclable PET (polyethylene terephthalate) fibers and folded into shape without adhesives. Free of corn-derived PLA (polylactic acid), the pyramid bags are GMO- and gluten-free. (They’re topped by little wire leaves that can hug your mug or peek out of Tea Forté’s special lidded cups, thus anchoring your bag.)
As these cups demonstrate, the company — which is owned today by JDE, a Dutch-based multinational hot beverages conglomerate — also charms with its tea ware, which includes the best-selling Kati cup, a double-walled tumbler with a stainless steel infuser and a lid that keeps your steeping tea warm or can serve as a tray for your infuser. (We love our cherry blossom Kati cup and matching teapot.) There are also little recessed square ceramic trays to hold your pyramid bags upright snuggly.
“What’s great about JDE is that it really respects the ethos of the company,” Vercollone says.
That ethos includes the nonprofit world. Tea Forté is the official tea of the James Beard Foundation, the culinary arts organization named for the late, transformative dean of American cooking. Tea Forté is also planning to partner with the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx for what Vercollone calls a “floral, feminine” collection of new tea blends, tea ware and packaging in time for Mother’s Day.
Meanwhile, it’s time to savor the spicy, wintry Warming Joy collection, which contains Raspberry Ganache, Rum Raisin Biscotti, Spiced Ginger Plum, Winter Chai and Ginger Snap. (Winter Chai is one of several Tea Forté chais, including Rooibus Raja, Ginger Guru and the trending Turmeric Tantra.)
Or you can take part in “High Tea With Cunard,” featuring the veteran cruise line, Dec. 11 at Bloomingdale’s flagship in Manhattan.
Tea Forté has also collaborated with mixologist Tenzin Samdo on a series of cocktails.
Whatever the blends or partnerships, Vercollone says the company will continue to “keep it clean and simple. That’s what Tea Forté is all about.”
For more, visit teaforte.com.