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How do you source and choose your ingredients?

We look for organic.  We prefer fair trade, when applicable/available.  Even when we have to resort to non-organic, we make sure that nothing has been added.  We don’t have any “misc” ingredients.  What you see, both in the cup, and on the label, is what you get with our teas.  In the cases where we cannot get anything that fits our requirements in tea sized bits, we process it ourselves, in order to do so.

How do you choose your packaging?

We look for sturdy and ecologically friendly.  All of our packaging (both for product containment and for shipping) is recyclable or compostable, much of it also made of recycled materials.

How do you deal with cross-contamination and allergy concerns?

Only one ingredient is open at a time.  If I’ve used something very powdery, I stop working, and clean everything down before continuing.  All tools for making tea are washed in between teas.  We have separate manual grinders for each ingredient that is ground manually.  Our coffee grinder gets cleaned in between types of coffee.  We have a separate board and chopping object for nuts.  Each thing we grind in a mortar and pestle has its own designated mortar and pestle.  We try very hard to make sure there is no cross-contamination.

As far as allergies go – what you see is what you get with our teas.  There are no lurking extra ingredients, no catch-all categories.

That being said, I have posted a complete list of all the ingredients we use.  Additionally, if you do have allergies, please let us know what they are when you place an order.  When I know there is an allergy in play, I tend to blend that particular order separately from everything else, and package it up before going back to blending.

Why don’t you have any chamomile teas?

Because I am somewhat attached to being alive.

 I am violently allergic to it.  I’ve been teased about being allergic to relaxation because of my physical response to chamomile and conventional lavender.  Mister Tea and I have discussed the idea of gloving and masking to use chamomile, and it just isn’t worth the risk.  Especially as I would not be able to taste test anything made with it.

The top shape of a skull made of white flowers with yellow centers. Two full flowers crossed beneath, like bones in a skull and crossbones.

Why do your batch sizes vary so widely?

Our recipes work via ratios – I chose this route in order to be able to scale them up easily, if needed.  That’s part of it.  Sometimes the math works out to a much larger number of cups, to get those ratios right.  Additionally, ingredients vary widely in both weight and fluffiness.  So a chai will be quite heavy but will have fewer servings than a tea made of primarily fluffy things.

There always seem to be more teabags than your listings state.  Why?

Since our ingredients vary in density and fluffiness, and there isn’t a way to control that, when I batch-size a tea and count the cups, I round down for the estimates.  So, if I count 35 cups, and there’s not enough tea left to get another five, I call it 30-35.  I want to make sure our customers are never surprised in a negative way if we can help it.

Why don’t you offer teabags for your smaller tins?

Teabags take up more space than loose tea.  There is no way that the teabags for a full batch would fit into those tins.

Why are your teas so expensive?

Our standards for our ingredients are high, and we are a small company.  Storage space is at a premium (tea is slowly taking over our house) – and our volume is relatively low.  This means we cannot purchase any of our more interesting ingredients in bulk.  The less that is purchased, the more expensive it is, and that carries over into our prices.  Additionally, some of our ingredients, like Vanilla, are terrifyingly expensive, even when purchased at pound-weight.  Also bears mentioning that every full batch of tea is made to order, for the customer in question.

How do I make loose tea?

You will need either a tea strainer or some teabags that you can fill.  Couple of people I know have even used coffee filters, in a pinch.  Mister Tea and I suggest the larger in-cup strainers, as it gives the tea more space to move, and you get a better steep.  We are hoping to add a variety of tea tools to our personal shop soon.

Is there a specific way that I have to brew your coffees?

Depends on the coffee and your preference.  For our coffees involving cocoa or pumpkin powder, the best results come from a French Press, a percolator, or brewing it like a tea.  The rest of our coffees perform fine in a keurig, as well as the previously stated options.  We test in a percolator, a french press, and a keurig.  We do not have a drip coffee maker on hand.  Customers and family have tested several of our coffees in drip machines, and they perform decently well, though are still not suggested for the coffees utilizing cocoa or pumpkin powder.


What sweeteners are best?

This is entirely personal preference.  Most of our herbal and medicinal teas I suggest that you use honey, as in many cases, it increases the efficacy of the herbs.  Maple syrup has similar properties, though not as strong.  Beyond that, choose what suits you – bearing in mind that sweeteners with a flavour of their own will lend that to the tea.  (Molasses, particularly, comes to mind.)

Why do you use goats milk in your instant cocoas?

We started with goat’s milk because I love it, and I’d never seen a goat’s milk cocoa.  I wanted to see if it could be done, and it could, quite handily.

We also figured that goat’s milk cocoas might be more accessible to people with lactose issues.  Goat’s milk has far less than cow’s milk and is sometimes an option.

Amusingly, when we started trying to approach cow’s milk instant cocoas, we ran into a problem.  Full fat cow’s milk powder produces a chunky liquid.  Not something we could stomach, and certainly not something we would sell.

We have acquired some nonfat cow’s milk powder, which I will experiment with eventually.  Probably after the New Mexico summer has ended.

What is up with your tea names?

When I first started blending tea the names were very utilitarian.

Sinus Tea.  Cold Tea.  Flu Tea.  Throat Tea.  Tummy Tea.

Around the time we realized we needed a logo, we also realized that while those names were perfectly descriptive of the purpose of the teas, they were also so boring as to be completely unmemorable.

And, if you want to have a company and a brand, there should be some rhyme or reason to how you name your products.

So we looked to our shared geekeries.  Not all of the names are strictly attached to any particular concept or fandom, and some are still mostly functional.  But we try to have fun with them, and we like involving other people in the fun that can be had whilst naming a new blend.

Tummy Tea kept its original name because it is tea for when your tummy is unhappy.  I would have continued asking (raggedly and plaintively) for tummy tea when I needed it, even if we’d changed the name.  When I’m experiencing the sort of nausea that makes my brain shutdown, I regress to somewhere around four.  “Can has Tummy Tea, p’ease?”

A brown and green textured stone table with a brownish-orange and cream saucer next to a union jack mug. On the saucer is an oddly shaped bit of turmeric root.

Why do orders sometimes ship really quickly and other times really slowly?

Because chronic illness is problematic.

When my body is working right, I really prefer to have the package arrive well before the expected ship date.  I like efficiency.  Frankly, if I had my druthers, it would just appear in your mailbox immediately after it was blended.  Not having that option, we aim for as swift as possible.

Sadly, sometimes chronic illness gets the best of me, and I cannot manage to deal with things as swiftly as I wish to.  The reason why our expected shipping time is set to 2 weeks from purchase is to give me leeway to complete things even when my body is being particularly unreasonable.

Top panel is a woman with a Jayne hat and glasses looking energized and hopeful, saying "Yeah! I'm gonna get stuff done today." Second panel: Chronic Illness comes in with a knockout punch and says "Nope."

Where did your name come from?

Honestly, that’s an almost distressingly straightforward answer.

We live in a desert – and the company was born here. 

Sage is a bit of wordplay – if you’ve been following us for any length of time, you know we both love a bit of linguistic amusement.  It is both a prominent medicinal plant and a word for a wise person who helps people.  Not sure if I qualify as wise yet, but it is a goal, and helping people is a large part of why we started doing what we do.

Natural is what we aim for.  Admittedly, if I’d realized how often that word is used to describe things that aren’t, we might have tried to come up with something that is less often misused.  However, we knew from the beginning that not everything would be able to be organic.  And we did not want to put organic in our name if we were not able to keep to that across the board.  We have no desire to misrepresent things.

We’d had a few other ideas and bits of ideas that we’d kicked around, but Desert Sage Natural was the one that stuck, for a long list of reasons.  If we’d known we were going to end up with such an array of tasty geeky teas, we might have involved that in the naming of the company, but we began with medicinal teas, and they will always be the foundation for why we do what we do.

Why do you blend tea?

Blending tea started as a way to try and keep us healthy.  Western medicine was difficult to access, for financial reasons, and also due to my MCAS.  (We didn’t know what it was called then, we just knew that it was a really bad idea for me to intake any artificial flavours/colours/preservatives.  ‘Allergic to Western Civilization,’ is still how Mister Tea explains it.  Pills often involve fillers and colourants and they do not actually tell you what those are.)

I’d been dabbling in medicinal plants for quite a few years, but it was in a patchy touch and go sense.  Adding a bit of a tincture to water, making sure to have Elderberry syrup on hand, that sort of thing.

However, while I don’t mind tincture in water most days, the taste is a bit hard for many people to stomach.  Including most of my circle of friends at the time.

So I started creating tea blends.  Effective, but tasty enough that people would actually WANT to drink them.  It started with basics – things that are either generally needed all the time, or that our specific cluster of medical issues made necessary.

Sinus infections, colds and flus, migraines, nerve pain, inflammation, sore throats, fevers…

…  eventually I realized that I could make teas for taste, too, and that was when our array really started to snowball out of control.

As someone who cannot work a full-time job under definitive schedules set by someone else, it was a joy to find something that I could do from home that actually helped people.

One of the challenges of being disabled is the sense of being worthless due to a lack of capacity to be a ‘productive member of society.’  I do realize that a job isn’t required for one to have worth, but modern society certainly does a solid job of making that realization hard to internalize.

Blending tea allows me to have a way to help people, and the work of it helps to keep me sane while dealing with the ups and downs of life with a chronic illness.

What is your logo and where did it come from?

Embarrassingly, we didn’t actually have a logo when we first opened our Etsy shop.  It was one of a short list of things we hadn’t thought of and had ready in advance.  When we first started trying to put together labels we realized that they were..  beyond bland.

So we started trying to come up with one.

This was surprisingly difficult.  We brainstormed, we asked for assistance, we did tons of image searches trying to find ideas.  I found a really interesting x-ray image of a sage leaf after looking up the work of an artist that was featured in a medical waiting room…  but nothing seemed quite right.

We got a bit stressed about it, and were sitting on the couch one day, and looked up and actually properly saw a gift a friend had given us a year or so before.

A carved silhouette of a Raven and a Coyote

It was a change/key/randomness tray object with the decorative upper bit being the silhouette of a Raven and a Coyote.  It was an anniversary gift made by a friend who’d been a part of our gaming group for years – and it was the gaming system that we played the most frequently that led to the choice of iconography.

20 years ago, when I started playing tabletop RPGS using the White Wolf system, my friends of the time were incredibly amused that I shared many traits with the Corax (Were-Raven) – including the gold allergy.  I also have a habit of teaching through and with humour.  Mister Tea can also be a bit of a trickster – and between the two of us, we cover a broad range of humour and knowledge.

So – Raven and Coyote.  Which fit so well with the idea of “Desert Sage Natural” that we felt kind of goofy that we hadn’t latched onto the image sooner.

Figuring out how to get it from tray-thing to actual functional logo was a bit of a trick.  Harder than one might think to get a usable image of a 3D object when you need a flat one to work with.

I spent a few days mucking about with Photoshop, trying to make it work, and then hesitantly bothered a good friend who was a professional graphic designer and asked if she could please make it work.

I may also have tempted her with tea.

As she is no longer doing graphic design, I cannot point you at that particular flavour of her wizardry – but if you are in the right area of Florida, you may be able to partake of her confectionary magic.  To potentially increase your interest – she sometimes uses our teas as part of her magic.

In the background a slightly blurred black mug with writing. Forward of that, a plate of cookies with chocolate icing, in front of that an artistic screwing of cacao nib bits and peppermint.

How do I get involved in suggesting or naming teas?

Right now that mostly happens on Twitter.  If you follow me you will have “look at this new thing I made” pop up into your feed from time to time.  The naming conversations often grow from there.

Eventually, we will have a Patreon, and the lowest tier will involve access to more static conversations regarding current projects.

If you have an idea, let me know.  I either scribble them down or grab on to them and run off on a wild tea tangent until I get it sorted.

"You will never find a book long enough or a cup of tea large enough to suit me." -CS Lewis

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