The TeaBook’s Noah Bleich: PositiviTEA, Combining Flavors and Coffee vs Tea

Taste Buds with Deb - Episode 39
January 17, 2024

Noah Bleich has found a way to combine his love of tea, positivity and the environment.

Bleich is the founder and artistic director of The TeaBook. The company, founded in 2015, offers organic, kosher teas with punny names and custom art to go with it, as well as a literal “TeaBook” organizer.

“[People] just love the art and the puns that we do,” Bleich told the Journal. “We joke that we test all of our jokes on dads to make sure they’re not dad jokes, because those just make you cringe and puns just make you chuckle.”

The TeaBook’s first series had a LiTEArary theme, with ShakeSpeareMint,  Agatha ChrisTEA (earl gray) and Mark Twainquility (chamomile and fruit tea). The second was EqualiTEA, featuring Dr. MarTEAn (Martin) Luther King, Jr. (black equalitea aka English breakfast) and Marie Curie (radiant hibiscus; a context pun). Harriet Tubman’s original name was Araminta Ross, and her nickname was Minty, so her tea is a mint orange spice tea.

After they choose the series type, they make sure the potential subjects have a positive reputation. They also try to stay within the confines of what is public domain, although they occasionally license from the subject or their estate.

Then there’s the art.

“The goal was to create a gallery of art on tea,” Bleich said. “We’ve worked with nine different artists. One of them, Rob Armstrong, was the first nationally syndicated black cartoonist in America (“Jumpstart”).  He drew the art for their Barack “Tisane” Obama’s Barry Berry Tea. In fact, the Obama Foundation contacted Bleich about donating the art to the Obama museum.

When asked what it is he loves about tea, Bleich says he associates the smell with Shabbos.

“It reminds me of all of those connections to my Jewishness,” he said. “Then there’s another connection, which is it helps you relax, it feels good. … At the end of the day, we want that happiness, that joyfulness,  and I think tea brings that to you.”

As an environmentalist by degree, Bleich says tea is about 70 percent more green, ecologically, than coffee.

“Part of it has to do with the science of what we do, “ he said. “When you drink coffee, you’re taking the bean, the fruit of the tree. And when trees produce fruit of any kind, they have to put all as much resources as they can [water, nutrients] into producing that fruit.”

He continues, “When you drink tea, you’re drinking the leaf and the leaf [grows] very fast. It’s also a lot less intense [of a] process to harvest and roast…. in [terms of] transport it’s very light.”

Plus, there is actually more caffeine in tea than coffee, you are just using less of it.

There’s also an innate happiness factor to tea versus coffee.

“If you Google ‘coffee’ and ‘t-shirts,’ [they are] going to be angry [results],” he said. “‘Don’t talk to me before my coffee.’”

Google “tea” and “t-shirts, and you’ll see the opposite: “‘Life is beautiful.’ ‘It’s going to work out.’ ‘Stay calm.’”

It’s obvious Bleich has a lot of fun coming up with puns, unique artwork and flavors that go with it.

“Just like our art, we toy with history and make these beautiful, colorful creations,” he said.

For instance, their Frida Kahlo tea, called FriTE Kahlo, is a watermelon rose hibiscus tea.

“It’s probably one of our most popular flavors when people try it,” he said.  Even if the flavor pairing seems unique.

“I’m a vegetarian, so when I would cook for Shabbat dinners, it was always vegetarian,” he said.

One of his favorites was veggie bacon wrapped dates stuffed with pecans and goat cheese.

“Delicious,” he said. Yet, people were hesitant to try it.

“Sweet and salty [is] a combination that just tickles your taste buds,” he said. “So watermelon rose hibiscus is the same way.”

The first painting Frida Kahlo ever did was of a rose; her last painting was of watermelon.

“This is her entire life from start to end as a tea flavor,” Bleich said.

Another example is TÉiego Rivera for Diego Rivera. This hot cinnamon tea represents his Mexican culture. If you look closely at the art on the tea, you’ll notice other nods to his background.

“Diego Rivera was actually Jewish,” Bleich said. “His mom was a converso. … He did once or twice mention how being Jewish was a significant part of what helped inspire him to be an artist.“

But what are the best foods to pair with tea?

“Green teas are a little lighter, so they’re [more] dessert-y,” Bleich said. “And then for the heavier stuff, you’re going to want to pair it with a black tea.”

Bleich likes oolongs because it’s halfway between a black and a green tea, and it’s a little smoother.

If you’re a coffee drinker, Earl Grey tea is closest to coffee, as it’s really bitter, very dark.

“I’ve had amazing Earl Grey shortbread cookies,” he said. “Just interject what you would normally do, but just throw in tea instead of water and you’re going to get that Earl Gray flavoring. “

Another option for eating your tea is putting tea leaves in salads.

“Just take it, crumble it up and throw it in and you’re going to have green tea salad,” Bleich said. “So you get that little caffeine, a little bit of green tea and a lot of taste.”

Learn more about Noah Bleich and all things tea at TheTeabook.com.

Check out this article for more on cooking with tea.

For the full conversation, listen to the podcast:

Watch the interview:

Debra Eckerling is a writer for the Jewish Journal and the host of “Taste Buds with Deb.Subscribe on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform. Email Debra: tastebuds@jewishjournal.com.

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