Tea Time

Sure, you’ve enjoyed your black, green, white and herbal teas.

But have you ever sipped a tea with actual peppers in it?

Fred Hempel, owner of the 9 1/2-acre Baia Nicchia farm in Sunol, is known far and wide in the Bay Area for his incredible tomatoes, some unique varieties of which this former geneticist has actually created from scratch, too.  But now, he’s also gaining a reputation for his unusual teas.

They’re all caffeine-free and made from organic herbs and vegetables that he grows, dries and combines to create arresting blends that can be enjoyed hot or cold.

The varieties vary throughout the year, depending upon what’s in season at the farm. Delicate and natural tasting, the teas can’t help but make you feel as if you’re sitting on a porch overlooking a lush garden as you sip them.

I recently had a chance to try some samples. Currently, Hempel is featuring “Mixed Spearmint’’ (a soothing blend of five different spearmints), “Red-Stem Peppermint,’’ and “Savory Sunolean Spearmint’’ (a mix of Persian spearmint, anise hyssop, sage flowers and French tarragon that gives it a slight savory quality).

Savory Sunolean Spearmint tea.

A staple is the “Grey Dog’’ tea, named for Hempel’s Greyhound, Lady Bug. Five percent of sales of this particular tea are donated to Greyhound Friends for Life, a Bay Area organization dedicated to helping Greyhounds find a second home with caring families after their racetrack days are over.

The “Grey Dog’’ tea contains red-stem peppermint, lemon balm, and lemon thyme, as well as Dolce di Minervino peppers and Mareko Fana peppers. In fact, Dolce di Minervino is a little-known, sweet Italian frying pepper and Mareko Fana is the main pepper used in Ethiopian Berbere spice mix. Together, they add a touch of warm spiciness to this tea that will subtly tingle the back of your throat.

The teabags ($8 for 10) are packaged in compostable clamshell containers. Gift tins also are available for $10 (for 10 tea bags).

The tea bags come in gift tins or compostable containers.

Find them at the Baia Nicchia stand at the Menlo Park farmers market, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Sundays, in the Chestnut Street parking lot between Santa Cruz and Menlo Avenues; and at Hempel’s  Sunol farm stand, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays, located in front of the Jazz Café.

For more information, read my extended post on DealPop.

More: Learn How Farmer Fred Hempel Creates New Varieties of Tomatoes

And: Baia Nicchia’s Unusual CSA Program

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