On today’s show, we’re joined by Connor Knapp from Piper & Leaf Artisan Tea Co. based out Huntsville, Alabama. We recently did an episode on cold brew tea and we thought Connor and his company Piper & Leaf could contribute a lot of good information about different styles of tea and way to serve it. Piper & Leaf specializes in artisan blended teas – teas mixed with local fruits and herbs.
Highlights & Takeaways
Some Key Points
What we mentioned on during this show
Episode 40 Transcript
Brendan Hanson: Hey there, welcome back to the Drips and Draughts Podcast and happy new year. This is our first episode of 2017. It’s hard to believe that we’re 40 episodes into the show, because when we started it, it was basically just to answer some questions that we commonly got, and we figured it might kind of fizzle out shortly after I don’t know 10 or 12 episodes. But we’ve had such great feedback from everybody, we keep getting people who reach out to us and say, “We’d love to be on the show.” Today’s guest for instance, Connor Knapp from Piper and Leaf.
He reached out to us after Cary and I, cold brewed some tea and posted that on episode 33 and said he’d love to be on the show. We thought it would be great to get him on the show. Connor and his company, Piper and Leaf, they’re basically an artisan tea company. They do a lot of tea blends that use locally sourced fruits, and herbs and spices, and they make teas there, some might consider them out there but they sound amazing as you’ll hear in today’s episode. With that, let’s dive in into today’s episode with Connor Knapp from Piper and Leaf Artisan Tea.
Brendan: Alright welcome back to Drips and Draughts Podcast as always I’m Brendan Hanson and today I’m joined by Connor from Piper and leaf. How you doing Connor?
Connor Knapp: Hey, I’m doing great Brendan. Thanks for inviting me on this.
Brendan: Yes, great to have you, you’re in a in a niche that we haven’t really hit on too much. My brother and I did a little cold brew tea in episode 33 a few weeks back and you reached out and sounds like you’ve got a lot more experience in that whole realm that we do. I thought you’d be an awesome guest after you reached out.
Connor: It’s a kind of stumble upon accidentally because we’ll get into a little bit more here, but we never really meant to get into Tea. It’s been just a short journey for us the last three or four years and we try to expand our knowledge as possible. I’ve actually really enjoyed learning about cold brew tea and some of the different flavors that it brings out, and it’s not for all teas. I’ve definitely found that out as well.
Brendan: Yes, I guess same goes for coffee so yes. Before we get into all that, you mind giving us a short little background and bio on yourself?
Connor: Sure, I’m Connor Knapp in an alternate reality I’m also a doctor in physical therapy. I was living in Alaska a few years back and long story short, I moved back home to my family, is in North Alabama in Huntsville. We were looking for a project to bring the community together in our hometown, because there’s a lot of people who have moved there. They’re not from there so there’s no real local culture and we were like, “Well, let’s do something at the farmers’ market.” My brother-in-law used to be a landscaper and he had this huge pile of compost and we had a lot of small-time farmer friends and they were like, “Hey, you guys should do organic compost. That will be awesome.”
But what we don’t realize is that we were talking to farmers and not the people who are going to be the customers. So we made all these plans to bring all this compost every week and we decide, “Well, we need something else to be a little bit special, so let’s make some tea because we garden, we like to forage for stuff, we like to cook and make things, and drink tea as well. Let’s have a little bit of ice tea on the side to make people feel special.” The first week people didn’t look at the compost and we sold out of all of our tea. The next week we doubled the tea and we brought the same amount of compost, same thing happened people, didn’t touch the compost and we sold out of all the tea. Third week same thing happened and we were a little bit intelligent and we were like, “Maybe we should just focus on the tea.”
We gave all the compost to our farmer friends and we’ve been focusing on the tea ever since. It was just supposed to be a one night a week hobby and within three months, became a full-time business, and then within eight months I quit my practice and I’ve been focusing on it full-time. Because I really value the values that we put into making Piper and Leaf what it is, and that’s all about relationships, where we were all about bringing the community together and featuring our local food systems so that people realize the reason why this strawberry tea tastes so good is because the strawberries came from the farmers who’s right next to us. And from that, we moved into a shop at Lowe Mill, which is the nation’s largest private arts community. We have about 250 artists, it’s one of the treasures of the southeast and especially north Alabama that a lot of people don’t know about.
Connor: And we are so blessed to be in there and we just opened up our second location near Madison Alabama, it’s also near Huntsville, and we’re hoping to open up a third and Birmingham Alabama in the next couple weeks.
Brendan: So Piper and Leaf is a tea shop?
Connor: Yes, we are primarily a tea shop. Backing up a minute, of a lot of our friends knew that tea was going to be hard, and we never expected for it to be a success because there’s such a huge educational component, coffee used to be that way to a certain extent as well. With a huge third way movement, a lot of people have learned a ton about coffee but it was much more accessible because first and foremost America’s a coffee culture because we had this little thing that happened in our history called the Boston Tea Party. A lot of people don’t realize like that was an actual historical, political, socio-economic event. We dumped pretty much our entirety trade into the ocean and said it’s unpatriotic to drink tea so we drink coffee now. America has always struggled a little bit in the the tea culture compared to other areas of the world, and so we focus on tea but we also like to have other things, because, well just the long and short of it is, we’ve always dreamed of having a coffee shop so having a tea shop is a sneaky way to have a coffee shop. We do a little coffee drinks on the side. But first and foremost, we are a tea shop.
Brendan: Nice. So you’re a doctor of physical therapy and now you’re running a company that primarily does tea what’s what’s that like? What is your family or your parents say about that?
Connor: I’m we there they’re pretty accepting, they have both been super supportive but we never had the conversation of, “No, this is a good idea versus that,” but they’ve always known that I’m a little crazy.
Brendan: [ laughs]
Connor: I moved to Alaska a little over the country, I was actually supposed to go work in Antarctica. Long story short, the reason that didn’t happen was the government ran out of money, so I’m here. This is a government town in Huntsville and so people know about sequestration a few years back and that’s the time I supposed to go to Antarctica but the money fell through, and so they cut the medical program. Which I don’t know if that’s the wisest thing in a remote area, in a very extreme climate the world, but that’s what they did to save money and so I ended up in Huntsville and we start Piper and Leaf instead.
What I bring to the tea world is one with my travels. I’ve experienced a lot of different things that can bring some ideas and different flavor ideas. But what I primarily bring is the scientific aspect, and so I do a lot of the food research and also just researching the different things that will make something last longer or the ins and outs of how to get the best carbonation or how to get the best extraction or those kind of things and really going into the research in the food documentation that’s out there.
Brendan: Nice. You’re my guy that I’m going to start bouncing ideas and questions off of.
Connor: Yes, there’s a lot out there people don’t realize that this is a huge amount of research that’s been documented and published.
Brendan: Yes, once you start looking into some of these things it’s a huge rabbit hole that you can go down, in terms of how much you actually want to learn.
Connor: Yes, I’ve even found a preservative that doesn’t change the flavor of drinks that’s made from mushrooms.
Brendan: So a natural preservative?
Connor: Yes. it’s also a skin lightener, so I’m not sure how safe it is, but they say it’s safe. That’s why we also have to go down the rabbit hole and research a little bit more.
Brendan: Yes, no kidding. Where did the name Piper and Leaf come from?
Connor: We have in our short history of three years, we have a long story short kind of stories. Long story short, we had started this back in 2013 and three months after we started, we had a cease-and-desist letter over a trademark issue with our original name. They don’t want to say the name that kind of stuff, but it was a Russian Tea Kettles, what we had named our original company after and that’s a samovar. A samovar has a little teapot on the top, that has a concentrated tea and then the bottom part has hot water and then it was some sort of heating device.
While we were got a cease-and-desist letter, this is three months into our history we had no money. We just didn’t want to deal with the stress of having to fight it because our lawyer said probably take like four, five years probably maybe 20, 30, 40,000 dollars to fight it and because it was a legitimate trademark we easily could have fought it and won but we just didn’t want that stress that cost in our life. We did some research and we tried to find a name that nobody had trademarked. We came up with Piper and Leaf. Piper is an old English term for a tea kettle and Leaf, we put that in there because we wanted to reference that we grow pic forging source fruits and herbs that we put into our tea blends.
Brendan: Okay, cool. Moving on into Piper and Leaf and some of the teas that you guys produce. Obviously you mentioned that you get from local farmers all your teas and all the fruits that you blend. What are some of the
types of teas and the fruits that you guys actually blend together? If you don’t mind sharing some of those.
Connor: Our main ones that we have are three categories, because we’re really trying to stay within our niche, and that is blended teas that taste great, that a tea connoisseur or someone who is completely new to tea can appreciate something that tastes good. So both sides of the spectrum can appreciate and so our most popular tea by far is one that’s called “Front Porch Special” and that’s our Earl Grey blend, which is a black tea with burger mold that’s what makes it Earl Grey or Earl Grey and then we put in some Jasmines and spear mint from our garden. The only reason why we made that tea is, because people kept asking us for plain sweet tea, because we’re down here in the south and people just wanted plain sweet tea. We put that together and it’s actually become our most popular and even won a couple of awards now. It’s only because people demanded, “We just want straight sweet tea.” We’re like, “Okay, we’ll give you really nice black tea that we can call just regular sweet tea,” and that’s how we came up with that.
Brendan: Sweet tea, it’s typically what? A black tea that’s just heavily sweetened. Correct?
Connor: Right. Down here in the south, the standard recipe is some sort of real simple, usually lower end black tea with one to two cups of sugar per gallon. And that’s the standard kind of recipe. If you go to Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, that’s what you’re going to get when you say sweet tea.
Connor: And what a lot of people don’t realize is that – so there’s a lot of rabbit holes you can go down with tea, because it’s been around way longer than coffee. Long story short, I’m going to use that a lot. Orange pekoe is the typical black tea that you get, that’s you’re typical Louisian or Lipton tea that you see, and it doesn’t refer to anything other than the size of the tea leaf that’s in the bags. Orange pekoe doesn’t have anything to do with flavor, it’s just the size and that’s your typical iced-tea, sweet tea that you get when you go to the store. But then what we do, say we do blended teas and so we have a high end Assam and ceylon black tea that we use, do that with the all natural Burger mold oil and the Jasmine and spearmint from our garden.
We also have another one which is one of my favorites right now, it’s called “Pumpkin Moonshine”. It is a pumpkin chai, we only do it during the autumn. We’ve actually stopped making it, we just have until it’s gone. And it’s all natural pumpkin, it’s not pumpkin spice. That’s a big difference, it’s not pumpkin spice, it’s pumpkin with chai. We put a chai together that has some unusual ingredients. We have some dill in there, some oregano and people are usually kind of weirded out by the ingredients, but when they try it they go, “Wow that’s one of the best chais, I’ve ever had.” Because we try to use the flavor profiles that we have in our area, to try to recreate some of those classic flavors, or just because we like them better. We have another one, that’s a really elegant blend, it’s called “Old fashioned Birthday Cake” and it’s not funfetti. Sometimes people get that confused. It’s old fashioned style, very elegant. It’s like what a proper grandmother would make for a high-end birthday party. It’s a lavender, vanilla, Earl Grey. It’s got the same bases that Front Porch Special, with the black tea blend with the burger mold oil then we add locally grown lavender and then some homemade vanilla bean syrup that we have.
Connor: So we have about 15 blends at any particular time and about 25% of those are seasonal, so we only have them during certain parts of the year.
Brendan: I’m going to have to go on your website and order a couple of these. These sound very interesting. So you mentioned a couple different blends, you said that the pumpkin chai actually had some dill in there. What would you say is your most obscured blended tea? That people go, “Wow, really.”
Connor: One of those, it has almost a cult following. It’s called “Monk’s meditation”. It is another Earl Grey base and then it has Grenadine, pomegranate, syrup and catnip. Catnip is in the spearmint family and it actually mellows people out. In fact, if you chew straight dried catnip you can actually get pretty strong reaction where you just chill out a lot. It’s not like cats where they get all crazy about it and so that’s one of our most famous blends is the Monk’s meditation.
Brendan: Interesting. Is that a daytime tea or is that something you would want to drink before bed?
Brendan: Or either?
Connor: Some people react to caffeine. You always have to be careful with that, but in general with the catnip in there, it’s a great before bed or just in general melling you out during the day, because it enhances the concentration stimulant effect of the tea as well as the natural calming effect of the tea. Tea by itself already has those two components and this tea just highlight both of those.
Brendan: Very cool, very cool. In making all of these blends, what goes into that? I’m assuming you guys don’t just throw a few things together and bag it up and say, “This is our next tea.” Probably quite a bit of testing and you mentioned research earlier. What’s that process look like for you guys?
Connor: Well it’s actually not far from what you just said there.
Connor: We’re not experts in any sense of the tea realm. There’s people who’ve dedicated their entire lives to tea, we’re completely new on the scene. Our parents are both amazing cooks, they taught us all how to cook, both sides of the family, because it’s myself, my brother-in-law, my two sisters that own Piper and Leaf. And we all grew up with a garden, we all grew up making food. We all grew up saying – I don’t know if your family does this, but my mom especially, she always ask you how your food is, if you ever go out to eat, “Is it good?” And if you say no, we’re never coming back to that place and so we kind of grew up – I call it low class foodies, because you’ll eat anything when you make it a home,but when you go out to eat it better be good if you’re going to pay for it.
Connor: And so we just grew up with that practice and I guess that developed a pretty good palate in us. We would just experiment, we’d say, “Hey, what do you think about this?” Or we would see something somewhere and go, “Huh, that’s interesting.” “What if that goes with this.” And my brother-in-law especially has a very refined palate. He was just recently at the World Tea Expo taking some classes, and one of the instructors was going through a tea tasting and my brother-in-law says, “You know what, this tea kind of reminds me of young asparagus.” And everyone else at the table looked at him like he was crazy, and then the person who was teaching the course actually looked right at him and said, ” You’re exactly right, it actually has the exact same chemicals that young asparagus has.”
And we’ve been blessed for all of us to have really great palates. We try to allow creativity to exist, so anybody can come up with an idea and then we toss it around and see if people respond well to it or if they respond negatively to it. Because there are stuff that we like, but we have a pretty good sense of our professional palate and that is what our customer is going to like versus our own personal taste. And so we can taste a tea between the four of us and we include other people in the process, but between the four of us we can usually say with 90% certainty, this tea is going to sell to our customers or this tea won’t.
And we try to make it so that it’s approachable anywhere on the spectrum, whether you’re a connoisseur or a beginner, because we don’t want something that you have to learn to appreciate, we want something that you can just sit down and appreciate. And that’s what makes us different in the tea world, is that we’re not all tied up into all the history, and the exactness, and the ceremony. We’re just there to provide some southern charm and say, “You know what, sit down and relax a little bit and enjoy it.” There’s a time and a place for getting everything exact and really honing in on exactly all these different flavor profiles that you’re getting and the notes of this. We always joke about notes of Rainier cherry, because I’ve always wondered how do people pick out Rainier cherries specifically versus other cherries.
And so it’s always an inside joke, but there’s also a time and place for just having something that tastes good, sitting down in a rocking chair, and relaxing. And that’s what we go for. We provide something that is very high class, but in a very approachable laid back way.
Brendan: That’s cool. That sounds like a place I would definitely want to come visit.
Connor: Yes, you definitely should. If nothing else, come on down to Lowe Mill. We tell people all the time, “Hey come visit us anytime.” Whenever they’re here, they’re like, “I can’t believe I waited so long to come and visit.” Because not only do we have an awesome shop, but we’re in the largest arts community in the nation.
Brendan: Yes, that sounds like a cool place to grab a to-go cup and walk around.
Connor: Yes, especially right now with all the Christmas stuff, everyone’s in there. We have people who do chocolate, we have people who do glass blowing, we have photography, audio-visual. There’s even a guy that does metal work, and sculpting, and being surrounded by that kind of creativity on a daily basis and people with so many different backgrounds, I think also goes into our culture and the kinds of teas that we make. Because we have people who are from just all over the place, who are creative, surrounding us as we make these teas.
Brendan: Amazing. Sounds cool. Yes, so talking about your teas, let’s talk about some of the tea drinks that you mentioned in the email you sent to me. You put a pretty big list here starting with coffee and tea tonics. I don’t know if that’s a blend of coffee and tea, or if you do tonics with both.
Connor: Yes all the above. So coffee tonics or coffee sodas
have become pretty popular the last couple of years especially in Nashville. We’re just an hour and a half south of there. We’ve tried them on our audience a little bit. We just had another coffee shop opened somewhere else in the mill, who have done the same thing. They’ve come up with some amazing blends. They’re called Alchemy Lounge. We also do some tea tonics, or sparkling teas, where we mix the teas with carbonated water. We also mix the two together to highlight certain flavors and profiles bringing it together. Going back to that professional palate. I think it’s amazing, but I have to be really honest with myself and think, “Will my customer coming in appreciate this? Because there is a meeting place of the creativity and the art, and also the business side of things and making sure that it sells.”
I can be creative all I want as long as the customer comes along with me. We always balance in that aspect as we go through all these different creations that we make.
Brendan: Got you. You mentioned kombucha, which is fermented tea. I assume you guys are fermenting some of your blended teas, or do you do a specific blend for the kombuchas?
Connor: For the kombucha, we use a friend of ours who has their own kombucha company called Better Kombucha down in Birmingham. They’ve wanted a very unique flavor profile. I’ve never had a kombucha like theirs before because it’s very malty. Most kombuchas focus on being very effervescent, very bright, very fruity, but they wanted to go a little bit darker with theirs. A little bit more beer like. We created a tea blend for them that focused on and highlighted those aspects. Because the kombuchas, you have to be a little careful because when you create the scoby, the bacterial culture, different fruits in oils actually will inhibit or destroy the growth of that. We have to be really careful as we’re making that blend.
Our tea is fairly simple, but it’s exactly what our friend down in Better Kombucha wants. Like I said, it’s a really unique experience. I’ve never had a malty kombucha before they came along, and so it’s really cool to partner up with them.
Brendan: Nice. Yes, I imagine your partnerships in your realm could be almost limitless with what you guys could come up with.
Connor: Yes, I’ll give a shout out to Cat Spring Tea down in Austin Texas. We recently met them this year and they asked us to do a holiday blend for them. They make tea out of yaupon – you guys may have talked about this already, but yaupon is North America’s only national decaffeinated plant. It’s basically an evergreen shrub and they do a very socially conscious model where they hire people who may not otherwise be able to get jobs from different like prison histories and things like that. They make different tea blends. They do a green – they call it a green, a black, a [unintelligible 00:23:28] type of yaupon teas, and then we helped them create a holiday blend for this Christmas.
Brendan: Moving down the list to a couple of more of your drinks, you mentioned Frothers, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of that. Can you explain what that is and what goes into those?
Connor: Yes, part of it is the necessity is the mother of invention. Huntsville a little difficult in the inspection side of things versus some of the other cities in the area. It’s hard for us to get things like a steam wand or espresso machine without having certain other things in our kitchens. We also wanted to be careful with the training side of it because there’s so much to know about tea, we didn’t want to overwhelm our frontline employees. As we’re going into it, we developed the frother, and that’s a machine you guys might have seen this before that just basically whips milk. The machine that we have can do a cool or can heat it up.
What we do is we whiff the milk, can be half and half all the milks something like that, and then add it to the tea or the coffee or the lattes which I’ll talk about next. It just makes it this luscious tea or coffee pillow. It’s even more whips than you would get with stretchy milk with the steam wand. It just creates this incredibly luscious experience.
Brendan: All right, so just a thick, rich, milky tea?
Connor: Yes. We whip it up, and so it’s either with the tea or the coffee or with the lattes. It’s a plan words. It’s like a latte, we use our frothers that’s not a true latte to our coffee purist out there. It’s not a true latte, but what we do is we take our tea and we brew it up in a concentrated form. This is actually a Russian style of service going back to that samovar, we have a concentrated tea that’s separate from the water. This allows us to throw it in the coffee or into other drinks or just mix them together, because it’s so strong it’s almost like a flavoring syrup but without any chemicals, without any sugar in it.
People who want to truly unsweet – let’s say you want unsweet mocha. Instead of having a separate syrup that’s unsweet, we can use our chocolate tea which is a very rich chocolate experience. Most people are shocked when they try chocolate tea because it’s really rich. The secret is that we use figs to give it a richness and a natural sweetness. We throw our chocolate tea into the coffee and now we have what we call a Chocolate Joe. That’s one of our favorite lattes that we sell. We take our coffee from local roasters and we mix it with our teas. It’s very similar to a traditional latte that you’ll get in a coffee shop, just one step away, a little bit more fun, and focusing still again on the teas and their natural food sources in the area.
Brendan: Cool, that sounds fun man. Gosh, you guys got a whole list of things. You got Thai tea mentioned to your Boba tea. I’m curious to hear a little bit more about your Nitro teas.
Connor: Yes, the nitro teas are something that we’ve been playing with, especially who likes to do those with our cold brews. We mentioned in the beginning of the episode that not all teas do well with cold brewing, or some are better than others. I found for example that a lot of our tisanes or herbal teas, they don’t do as well because the hot water really helps to bring out some of the herbs and the fruits that we use for those, versus our Front Porch Special, it takes on a completely new character when it’s cold brewed and I in fact like it better because it highlights the jasmine and the spearmint, and the Black Tea actually is a little bit softer, so it’s a much more floral experience. It’s a much brighter experience.
It’s really interesting playing with our 15 to 17 blends that we have and seeing what does well cold brewed, what does well hot brewed, and then what do we like served cold, what do we like served hot. Each temperature realm brings out different highlights of the flavor profiles. The Nitro Tea is cool because it gives that a little bit of a silkier texture just like the nitro coffee. It’ll also give that hint of sweetness as well from the nitrogen. Plus it just helps it preserve well, so you can stick a keg in the fridge and not worry about it for quite a long time.
Brendan: When you’re cold brewing or hot brewing teas, have you noticed or what are your thoughts on hot brewing a tea and then chilling it down and putting that into a keg to serve? Do you notice any flavor changes when it’s done that way?
Connor: Very slight. It’s not much more than serving it from a hot brew drink to a cold brew. Going back to our process that’s inspired by the Russian samovar, and that’s where we take all the tea that we serve is served from a concentrated tea. Why we like to do that is because you can take that one ounce of tea concentrate and throw that into eight ounces of water. It can be hot water, it can be cold water, and then you can sweeten the taste. It provides a lot of service options with one base product. It’s just been really inspiring. We’re really thankful that we were able to figure that out, that idea.
That idea has been around for 200 years with the Russian samovar, but we’re just sitting there one day killing ourselves logging around five gallon cambros of fully brewed sweet and then unsweetened teas. We realize, “Wait a minute. The Russians did it this way for hundreds of years. Why don’t we try to do it this way?” It just completely changed our service and made things so much better. Going back to the hot versus cold brewed. It doesn’t change the flavor if you take a tea hot brew and then chill it. That is the same experience versus a cold brewed tea that you’d then serve chilled or hot.
That flavor of the cold brewed tea is going to be different, and the flavor of the hot brewed tea is going to be different.
Between the hot and cold service, within each one of those certain aspects will be brought out in the hot versus cold. The cold tends to muddle some of the flavors and enhance some of the sharper flavors. The heat tends to bring out some of the richer flavors that you sometimes lose when they’re cold. That makes them a little bit more volatile and a little bit more expressive especially as you smell them. That’s a complex answer, I know. I’m sorry.
Brendan: No, it’s a good answer. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of people getting their minds, their wheels are going to start turning. You guys do both, you cold brew and you hot brew your tea. Am I hearing that right?
Connor: Right. Our main service, we hot brew, but then we do specialty stuff on tap. That’s usually where we’ll do the cold brew.
Brendan: And then cold brew is the same process in terms of what you’re making? You’re still making a concentrate when you do it that way?
Connor: It depends on the drink. Sometimes it may get into a concentrate. A lot of times for the nitro kegs, I’ll just do it for a five gallon keg and then put it on the taps that way. Sometimes-
Brendan: That’s ready to drink.
Connor: Yes, sometimes if we’re going to do more individual service, just serving it
as a straight up tea or a sparkling tea. Then I’ll make a concentrated cold brew for the tea and then use that individually.
Brendan: Okay, cool. Well I know Carrie and I just cold brewed tea for the first time using one of our cold brew systems. We’ve been selling them to tea companies here and there have been using them, we were finally like, “We need to see what this is all about and how this works.” We did a cold brewed passion fruit black tea. We both loved it, we were both shocked. Put it in a keg, put one just flat and one on nitro. We loved it. That’s going to be something we definitely have through spring and summer on tap here at the office.
Connor: It gives it a nice little bit of fun spin on something that people don’t really pay attention to in our culture here in America. Going back to that Boston Tea Party, Revolutionary War thing. That’s the nice thing about the nitro is that it really brings people’s attention because it’s so hot in the coffee world right now. You can kind of spin off that into the tea and then have this fun little spin on something that people thought they knew what it was.
It gives a little bit of a difference and they come back and re-experience it and you get that whole new texture and the novelty of the head that forms and all that stuff on it.
Brendan: Yes, absolutely. It’s a totally different experience.
Connor: When you were doing your passion fruit black tea, I was curious, going on more of the experimental side of things. I’ve been experimenting between 8 and 16 hours, I was wondering if you guys dialed in a good level for — you said it was a black tea base for that one?
Brendan: It was a black tea base. We had, honestly, zero research on this. I think we were shooting for about eight hours but it ended up sitting in the kettle for just over 12. The flavors were good. That really sparked our interest and we’re going to be doing a lot more experimenting in 2017.
Connor: Cool, that’s awesome. I’ve been finding so far with black teas, this is with the caveat all of our teas are blended, they’re not pure camellia sinensis teas. All of them are blended with fruits and herbs. But for our black teas, I’ve been finding around 12 hours seems to work really well. Then for our fruit teas, that’s the ones we have to really play with, our herbals and tisanes because they’re so varied.
They can be anywhere from 24 hours to some of them I only like if they’re done about six hours. I have to add a little bit more tea product for that shorter brew time.
Brendan: Interesting. I suppose that’s something you do have to take into consideration if you’re only steeping it for six hours versus 12 or 24.
Connor: Right. With the fruit especially because fruit has to be drawn out at a much higher temperature for a longer period than the tea leaf itself. We’re always having to balance the extraction rates of the tea leaves versus the other products that you have in the tea. The more fruit you have specifically, the hotter the water usually needs to be and the longer it needs to sit in there.
Brendan: Have you guys tried playing with any hot blooming? I know a lot of cold brewers are doing that where they pour 185 degree water over their grounds and then that’s only there for a minute and then they basically dump in a bucket of ice water to suddenly chill it and then they let it sit for 18 hours.
Connor: That’s the way we do our nitro coffee. We do the hot bloom first. There’s a couple of resources on the internet of a couple of guys who’ve recommended that process and it seems to be getting real popular. I am just now experimenting that with the tea, trying to see which process is the best, what flavors for each tea we’re trying to pull out. Going back to the Front Porch Special, since that’s the most popular tea, that’s the one I’ve done the most experimentation with.
That one, I still honestly like it best as a cold brew because it is so floral. The jasmine really comes out and plays very nicely. I’m still playing, and I have a to-do list, because we have 15 to 17 blends and I have to brew them all. I have to brew them all hot and then cool them down and keg them. I have to brew them all cold, cool them down and keg them, and then I have to do a hot flash of all of them as well. That’s quite a few brews that we have on the plate. Plus it’s Christmas so we’ve got a lot of other things going on at the moment. It’s on the to-do list, we’re getting there.
Brendan: [laughs] I get it man. We have all these experiments that we want to try. I think I’ll definitely be picking your brain in the future via email and or phone calls just to get some ideas from you and probably recommendations on your tea. I think I’m going to have to order some of these.
Connor: Sure, that would be awesome. I love learning, we all love learning and experimenting new things. We’re always – not that we try this, but a lot of times we’re the first in our state to do a lot of this stuff because we’ve been doing nitro coffee for four years now and we’ve been doing coffee sodas for three years, and sparkling tea for three years. It’s now starting to get popular based on efforts of guys like your projects with the Drips and Draughts.
It’s awesome to see it expanding but at the same time it’s also getting kind of crazy out there because you have some people who are just doing it and then you have some people who are writing research papers on it. Trying to figure out where the balance is to make it approachable for the everyday consumer that is going, “What is all this stuff? Why is there some people saying it doesn’t matter how hot it’s brewed and other people say you have to brew it cold or you have to brew it hot?”
There’s so much information out there but what I always tell people in the end, it’s an art form and that’s what I love about it. You can apply science to it but in the end it’s still and art form. Different people are going to like different things and you’re going to bring out different aspects as you experiment and play with it.
Brendan: Absolutely. To each their own.
Connor: I think a part of that too is the culture we have over here at Lowe Mill. We’re surrounded by art on a daily basis and there’s a lot of science that goes into each creation but each one has it’s own beauty and that’s what’s really cool about being in such community, where there’s so much creativity going on and so many different ideas.
Brendan: Well, hey Connor, I think I could continue picking your brain for another 45 minutes, but this episode looks like it’s getting to the 40-minute mark so what do you say we wrap this up and maybe we schedule a time in the future, have you on in 2017 sometime.
Connor: Sure, I’d love to. We always love sharing ideas and getting out there and exploring and just meeting people. That’s why we started Piper and Leaf, it’s all about relationships and bringing people together. That’s what we love to do.
Brendan: Awesome man. If anybody wants to go learn more about you or your company Piper and Leaf, where can they find you guys, online or on social media?
Connor: We’re on all the social medias Piper and Leaf, P-i-p-e-r-a-n-d-l-e-a-f. Piperandleaf.com. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Youtube, all the above, it’s all Piper and Leaf.
Brendan: Awesome. Then you have a couple of locations. Do you want to mention the addresses there? Just in case we have any listeners down in the south.
Connor: Yes. Our main location is in Lowe Mill. It’s in Huntsville on Seminal Drive in Huntsville. It’s right off downtown. We’ve got a second location just outside of Madison, and then we’re about to open up a tea room down in Birmingham, Alabama.
Brendan: Well hey Connor, it’s been great talking with you. Appreciate you taking the time to come on the show and definitely looking forward to trying some of your teas and hopefully getting you on another podcast in the future.
Connor: Thanks Brendan, this was really awesome and I appreciate your guys work. I love reading all the emails and blogs posts you guys have been putting together.
Brendan: Thanks man and hope you have happy holidays.
Connor: Thanks, you too.
Brendan: Once again, a big thank you to Connor Knapp for joining me today. After we stopped recording, I hopped on over to his website Piperandleaf.com and first, I got to say it’s an absolutely beautiful webiste. Great photography, awesome product photography and pictures. It’s making me really want to order some tea a little bit more than I did previously. Good chance I will hop on that website tonight with my wife and have her pick out a couple different teas.
Anyways, tea is an absolutely interesting topic to get into. Connor brought up the Boston Tea Party and America’s history of not drinking tea. As cold brewed coffee has grown and draft coffee and nitro coffee, I really see the same thing starting to happen with teas and craft teas and special teas or artisan teas, as Piper and Leaf calls themselves. Like coffee, tea can be consumed in a huge variety of ways. Hot, cold, on draft, on nitro and everything in between.
I don’t think the surface has really been scratched where tea can go. So it’ll be interesting to see what happens over the course of 2017 and beyond into the 2020s. Speaking of 2017, this is the first podcast of the New Year. Prior to the holidays, prior to Christmas at least, we were in at low for ratings and reviews. Help us start the New Year off right. Hop on iTunes and rate the podcast real quick. Give it an honest rating or stop and write a review. Really not hard, doesn’t take long and as we always say, “It’ll help the show
Thanks for listening. If you’re a longtime listener and haven’t left us to review yet, go on and do that. Or maybe this is your first time listening, go on back into our archives. Check out and download some of the previous episodes. There’s been a few, they could almost be considered downright popular. So check them out, maybe something will spark your interest. We’ve had a lot of great guests in the past. Listen to our previous episode where we do a recap of some of the guests from the past year.
If you’ve got any ideas for future show topics that you want to hear, reach out to us. We’re on social media @DripsDraughts or you can email us email@example.com. That’s D-R-A-U-G-H-T-S because we wanted to get fancy. Or maybe you want to call in a question. You can do that by calling 888-620-2739 extension six. All right, that’s going to do it for today.
A sincere thank you to all of you who’ve been listening to the podcast for the past year. We certainly appreciate you, appreciate the feedback, appreciate all you guys reaching out. We hope to be able to continue to provide good content, interesting content, and hopefully a little entertainment as well. Thanks to Connor Knapp for joining me today. I’m Brendan Hanson and we’ll see you again next Friday on the Drips & Draughts podcast.
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