West China Tea Company

Meet The Tea Master

If you have any interest or appreciation for tea at all, you can’t miss the West China Tea booth this Sunday. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to enjoy a cup of tea with the founder So-han Fan, and I was beyond impressed. Seriously, he knows everything about tea, particularly Chinese tea.

So-han – though born in New Orleans and raised in Houston – has Chinese roots and speaks it fluently. So, when he traveled to China for the first time in 2010 to study fresh water biology, he was able to build strong and lasting relationships with Chinese farmers.

“On weekends we would go out and meet farmers and share tea with them. In China, business practice is a lot different than here in the U.S. Here, you set a meeting, argue figures or stats, and formally ask about a business future. But in China, you don’t ‘do business’. You make friends and then friends help each other out. In Chinese, this is called building Guangxi and without it, you won’t have a strong or trusting business relationship”.

Literally hundreds, if not thousands of cups of tea later, So-han was able to handpick the finest teas from the most remote corners of China. And, because he was so excited and willing to get to know so many Chinese farmers (sometimes hitchhiking to reach them), he has all these crazy connections that no other tea dealer has.

Although So-han’s trips to China ignited his business West China Tea Company, he had actually been a tea connoisseur for over seven years before that. His obsession started in college and has only grown and expanded since.

But now more about the tea itself…

All of West China Tea Company’s teas are strictly farm direct. That means you have a 100% guarantee that your product is natural, non-GMO, and free of pesticides. Being farm direct also affects the taste. So-han compares his tea to the specialized flavor of a single malt scotch. Both have a unique and concentrated taste defined by the unique location the drink is from.

The health benefits of tea are essentially infinite. Literally ANY symptom you may have has a tea that can help. If you’re curious about what types of teas could benefit your personal needs, stop by the market and So-han will hook you up. As a biologist, he is always sure not to make any health claims that haven’t been backed up by western science as well.

In fact, So-han has a running study with Mr. Natural in which he observes the drop in blood sugar in diabetics after drinking a pot of West China Tea. Results show that levels dropped for 2/3 of all participants and every participant decided to purchase some tea for themselves. Eventually, one man told So-han that because of his tea, he was able to stop taking insulin altogether. That’s pretty badass if you ask me.

So, to sum this up: if you enjoy tea, if you want to improve your health, or if you want to hear a good travel story, go visit So-han at West China Tea Company at the HOPE Farmer’s Market from 11:00 – 3:00 every Sunday! Also, check out his links below to learn more!

Website

Facebook

 

Hello!

I’m Brooke, the author of the blog you’ve just read. Working with the HOPE Farmer’s Market has been so great, but unfortunately I will have to leave HOPE to finish my last semester at Baylor University this fall. I will graduate with a major in political science and a minor in poverty studies and social justice. When I’m not blogging, my days are full of studying for the GRE and applications. I know I’m super exciting this summer, right? But every blog, I’ll let you guys know something a bit more interesting about myself and this week’s fact is:

I once swung my feet off of 300ft cliffs that delved into the Atlantic. It was great.

 

The Peached Tortilla: Tacos, baby, tacos!

Meet the Man Behind the Peach: Eric Silverstein

The Peached Tortilla food truck is renowned for its eclectic twist on your everyday taco. With a distinct Asian influence and a down south foundation, these tacos are unique to Austin alone. So what’s the story? How did the fusion sensation that is Peached Tortilla all start?

Well, it started with Eric.

Eric Silverstien is a direct reflection of the business he created. Born and raised in Tokyo, moving and maturing in Atlanta, and studying in St. Louis, Eric himself is a blend of cultures. It’s his personality playing out on the Peached Tortilla Menu. Take the Banh Mi slider, for example. It’s a Vietnamese braised pork belly with pickled daikon carrot, sriracha mayo and cilantro. I would never have put pork, sriracha and cilantro together, but this is a magical combo that you have to try!

I was surprised to hear Eric had actually been a litigator before moving to Austin. So, obviously, that begs the question, why abandon magistrates for menus? Courts for chef hats? Trials for tacos?

According to Eric, “I just love food. It’s in my blood.”

I must say, it takes a lot of guts to abandon a “safe” but perhaps personally unsatisfying career to do something you love. So high five to this guy! He wasn’t happy where he was in life, and figured it was about time to turn this dream into a reality.

The dream was actually never the food truck, but to open a restaurant of his own. It’s been four years since Eric came to Austin. And finally, after years of hard work, The Peached Tortilla will have a permanent home.

Prep your tastebuds, people. Because this fall The Peached Tortilla is confined to a truck no more.

The new restaurant will be located at 5520 Burnett Road, Austin TX.

That being said, if you can’t wait till then, visit the links below to find out where The Peached Tortilla will be each week OR just come visit us at the HOPE Farmer’s Market each Sunday from 11:00 – 3:00!

Website                                               Twitter                                                            Facebook

 

 

Hello!

I’m Brooke, the author of the blog you’ve just read. Working with the HOPE Farmer’s Market has been so great, but unfortunately I will have to leave HOPE to finish my last semester at Baylor University this fall. I will graduate with a major in political science and a minor in poverty studies and social justice. When I’m not blogging, my days are full of studying for the GRE and applications. I know I’m super exciting this summer, right? But every blog, I’ll let you guys know something a bit more interesting about myself and this week’s fact is:

I not-so-secretly want to become a Zumba instructor on the side.

The East Side Compost Pedallers

Saving the Planet… One Bucket at a Time!

Alright, I know I write about a lot of cool people and businesses, but so far none of them have been able to say they are saving the planet like the East Side Compost Pedallers. This organization deserves some sort of fancy earth-shaped trophy to honor their efforts! Their work stretches into nearly every environmental issue – from global warming to sustainable agriculture to landfill reduction and beyond!

Did you know that 30% of all “trash” we throw out isn’t really trash at all!

So… what is it, you ask?

It’s compostable material!

So what is compost, you ask?

Essentially, it’s decayed organic material – clean and rich in nutrients – that is used for fertilizer.

Sounds serious, right? Well, not really. Throw some food scraps, grass clippings, and a brown paper bag together… then just add water and WHAMBAM! You just successfully started your first compost pile! Of course, to get the best compost, it requires a bit more finesse, attention to detail, and dedication to keeping up with the pile. That’s where The East Side Compost Pedallers come in!

The Compost Pedallers are a bike-powered compost recycling service. They’ll collect your scraps each week and pedal them to nearby farms and gardens. All you have to do is throw your extra food into a bucket (rather than the trash) and then put your bucket outside your door once a week.

There are such huge benefits for such little effort! They are taking a problem and almost effortlessly transforming that problem into a beneficial material solution. Compost reduces costs at farms by reducing the need for extra pesticides. It keeps our food clean and free of chemical additives. And, finally, it keeps organic material out of landfills, where it would eventually be released as methane (a greenhouse gas 50x more potent than carbon dioxide!).

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Austin Compost Pedallers Director of Membership, Christina Bradt. If you’ve ever thrown anything away at our HOPE Farmer’s Market, you’ve probably met Christina! After graduating with an environmental science degree and moving to Austin, she started with the organization as an intern. She still fondly remembers her first collection in December of 2012.

Check out these stats. You can see what a difference this small company has made in less than 2 years! Today, these pedallers are composting 2 TONS every single week!

Christina admits that she has turned into somewhat of a compost nerd. She and her fellow pedaller and boyfriend Paul have been known to take plastic ware to restaurants to take their food scraps home.

So, maybe you don’t need to go that far, but if you would like to start composting (and start saving the planet!) or just want to stay up to date on local sustainability initiatives, check out The East Side Compost Pedallers’ links below. Also, give them a high five for their great work the next time you’re at the HOPE Farmers Market! They sort ALL of the discarded Market materials into bins containing either compost, recycling, or items to be sent to the landfill. They’ll also be happy to answer ANY questions you have about sorting your own trash or building your own compost pile! HOPE loves the Compost Pedallers!

Website                                               Facebook                                             Twitter

P.S The Pedallers work with corporate groups, too! Going green has never been easier. Check it out!

 

Hello!

I’m Brooke, the author of the blog you’ve just read. Working with the HOPE Farmer’s Market has been so great, but unfortunately I will have to leave HOPE to finish my last semester at Baylor University this fall. I will graduate with a major in political science and a minor in poverty studies and social justice. When I’m not blogging, my days are full of studying for the GRE and applications. I know I’m super exciting this summer, right? But every blog, I’ll let you guys know something a bit more interesting about myself and this week’s fact is:

One of my favorite books is “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien.

 

Who are Oh-Kimchi?

Oh-Kimchi is Oh-Mazing!

What even is Kimchi? Sounds sort of like an Asian crime-fighting cartoon character or an ancient yoga form. Oh, or the Korean word for mouse.

Well I was close, but not close enough.

Kimchi is actually a 300+ year-old foodie art form. It’s a Korean technique of fermenting vegetables that can take up to three days. It’s a subtle sort of spice. Not too much bite. Traditionally napa cabbage, carrot, and radish is the go-to mix for the process, but you can use any raw vegetable. Oh-Kimchi has a popular cucumber version and coming soon is bell pepper Kimchi. I CAN’T WAIT.

If you already knew all that stuff about Kimchi, let me explain what sets Oh-Kimchi apart. First off, their particular version of the process is super old school. Old school in the 1970s corvette sort of way; not the Mom’s shoulder pads sort of way. The technique used by Oh-Kimchi is rare, even in its Korean birthplace because many families have turned to faster methods.

But you know the best things require time. And good things come to those who wait.

And I’m telling you Kimchi is goooood. Beyond the taste, too, it’s one of the healthiest foods on this planet.

Yeah. I know you guys think I’m being dramatic. But I’m not! Google away if you must!

First off, you get all the basic goodness that comes from eating raw vegetables (but with none of the bitter taste). Then, you get four times as many probiotics than Greek yogurt has. Not to mention the detoxification and cancer-fighting properties of ginger and garlic. Oh, and the keratin is a natural pain reliever as well as the queen of healthy hair and skin. Many Korean athletes even eat it as part of their daily post-workout recovery.

So, basically, Kimchi is kicking ass and taking names. It definitely falls into the super food category. Your body will kindly thank you if you make Kimchi part of your regular diet. Some of the most common ways people use their Kimchi include: on burgers, salads, tacos, or my favorite, Kimchi-ladas. Nom nom nom.

So who are the people actually making this super food for the people of Austin? That would be Abbie and Duane Lunde.

Abbie is from LA but moved to Austin four years ago, partially to finish her degree and partially for her now husband, Duane. She worked for Johnson’s Backyard Garden for a while and can definitely be described as a health foodie. Abbie says that she thought all Korean families knew how to make Kimchi, and was surprised to find how many families lose touch with their Korean culture after moving to the states. Thankfully for us, the method Oh-Kimchi uses survived because of generations of mothers teaching their daughters. Abbie told me she wanted some good Kimchi and couldn’t find any half as decent as her mother and grandmother made. So – what else was there to do but start making her own, too!

Duane’s marketing and management expertise paired with Abbie’s passion for Korean cuisine led to weekly sell-outs at their first farmer’s markets. Eventually, Abbie and Duane are hoping to spread not only the healthy and delicious snack that is Kimchi, but other traditional Korean recipes as well. They want to show people the best parts of Korean cuisine, a food culture many of us know little about.

So if you want to try Kimchi out for yourself, come to the HOPE Farmer’s Market every Sunday and get yourself some cancer-fighting, immune-boosting, heart-strengthening Kimchi! Or if you want more info, see the links below:

Home Site                                                       Twitter                                                            Instagram

 

 

Hello!

I’m Brooke, the author of the blog you’ve just read. Working with the HOPE Farmer’s Market has been so great, but unfortunately I will have to leave HOPE to finish my last semester at Baylor University this fall. I will graduate with a major in political science and a minor in poverty studies and social justice. Right now I’m applying to graduate school like crazy so hopefully I will be able to continue my studies. Every blog, I’ll let you guys know something a bit more interesting about myself and this week’s fact is:

I’m a Pescatarian aka the only meat I eat is fish!

Tea Time with Nile Valley Herbs!

Making A Difference, One Glass at a Time

Today I’m going to offer you a sweet deal. Get some delicious, yet healthy tea AND help save lives, all for just $6.50!  Seems too good to be true, right? Well, it’s not. I’d like to introduce you to the groups that make it possible: Nile Valley Herbs and its sister nonprofit Mother Maryam.

The Background

Mr. Awad Abdelgadir, a former professor at St. Edwards University, moved from northern Sudan to the United States for graduate school. The beloved village he left behind lacked clean water, basic healthcare, and stable schools: a story all too commonly heard and forgotten about. As soon as Dr. Abdelgadir got his degree, he immediately went to work searching for ways to raise the standard of living back home. But changing lives doesn’t come cheap, so Dr. Abdelgadir searched for ways to raise money. He noticed that one particularly popular drink from Sudan was missing from cafes and grocery stores alike: Hibiscus tea. And wham bam a business was formed.

Nile Valley Herbs Hibiscus Tea started in supporting grocery stores like Whole Foods and Central Market, but now also includes independent sales and farmers’ markets. Every year a portion of the profits go to fund projects in Awad’s home in northern Sudan. Also, anytime anyone leaves money in Nile Valley’s tip jar, every cent goes to Nile Valley’s sister nonprofit: Mother Maryam.

Mother Maryam

Since founded by Dr. Abdelgadir in 2006, the Mother Maryam Foundation has changed the world and saved lives. And no, I am not being overly dramatic. One of the foundations’ largest completed missions is providing clean water. With help from various donors, Mother Maryam funded a well, pump, water tower, and distribution system, which serves hundreds of homes, the school, and clinic. In 2011, a health clinic was opened that primarily treats cases of malaria, as well as eye disease, dysentery, and pneumonia. These diseases are a huge problem in Northern Sudan, but are almost entirely preventable with basic technologies.

When talking with five-year Nile Valley employee and Mother Maryam board member Kyle Overby, he told me a story from his trip to Sudan: “There was a boy suffering from a severe asthma attack the very first week of our clinic being open. Without the clinic, it would have taken too long for him to get to any health facility. He would not be alive today.” So yeah, these guys are saving lives and making a difference. They are always finding new ways to contribute weather it be bringing computers to the village for the first time, installing solar panels to increase sustainability, or funding doctor’s salaries.

Of course, like all important things, Mother Maryam’s mission to raise the standard of living in Northern Sudan requires constant attention and finances. If you’d like  to be an awesome human being and make a donation to the Mother Maryam Foundation directly, please follow this link.

Hibiscus Heals

Switching gears a bit, I realize that I keep mentioning Hibiscus tea without any explanation. And if you’re a health nut newbie like myself, then you probably don’t know anything about Hibiscus. Well first of, Hibiscus is a flower and has been used to promote healthy living for centuries. All Nile Valley’s hibiscus leaves come straight from the banks of the Nile, organic and natural, so you know you are getting high quality stuff.  Some of the proven health benefits include:

–       lowering blood pressure (Yes! Stress is at an all time high!)

–       cooling the body down (Hello, Texas heat remedy!)

–       lowering cholesterol (So that means I can have more pizza, right?).

There’s really no downside to mention. Help your heart, your brain, and others while enjoying the refreshing taste of hibiscus tea. Nile Valley is a small company, trying to make a big difference and I think that’s pretty admirable.

So since I know you obviously want some tea now, check out the Nile Valley website here or just visit them every Sunday at the HOPE Farmer’s Market!

Website: http://nilevalleyherbs.com/

Facebook: Nile Valley Herbs

 

 

 

I’m Brooke, the author of the blog you’ve just read. Working with the HOPE Farmer’s Market has been so great, but unfortunately I will have to leave HOPE to finish my last semester at Baylor University this fall. I will graduate with a major in political science and a minor in poverty studies and social justice. Right now I’m applying to graduate school like crazy so hopefully I will be able to continue my studies. Every blog, I’ll let you guys know something a bit more interesting about myself and this week’s fact is:

I have two brothers each six years away in opposite directions.

 

Attention: Tamale Addicts!

Gardener’s Feast Tamales: Feed Your Tamale Addiction!

Gardener’s Feast Tamales are famous for being fresh, organic, local, and delicious! Since their first market in 2010, these tamales have managed to collect a following of Austin Tamale Addicts. Gardener’s Feast is now at ten area farmers markets and their tamales are also available in local coffee shops. Sounds like a successful story, right? What people don’t know about is the story behind this success.

In 2009, right in the middle of the financial crisis, Adrian Paredes found himself at a professional plateau as an industrial designer. Like so many others affected by the financial crash, ends weren’t meeting and Adrian knew he needed to move and find another job. He focused on saving enough to relocate his family to our lovely city: Austin, TX.  Once here, Adrian and his wife took a risk and began their first food service venture: Mexican desserts. In short, the business failed. It failed hard.

It is in this instance that many people would have called it quits. Instead, Adrian and his wife took it as a lesson learned and, rather than giving up, they adapted and started again. They realized that the infrastructure problem they had with making desserts did not apply to savory foods so they began a flauta business. It was going ok, so the Paredeses looked into selling flautas at farmer’s markets.

When telling me about his first meeting with a market director, Adrian admitted, “I didn’t know anything. I mean, I didn’t know the difference between vegetarian and vegan. I didn’t know what local meant.” Again, Adrian rose to the task before him: going organic and local. Adrian said it was “Very difficult, but a positive change. It started as just a standard, but now we are all fully invested in the local cause.”

As Adrian was showing off his new market setup with the flautas, the market director casually asked if they could also make tamales. That was the beginning of the Tamale Addiction! Over the next four weeks Adrian and his wife called every family member they knew to collect recipes, tips, and tricks about making tamales. They worked all week to prepare 80 tamales for their first market. Those tamales were sold out within an hour. Adrian had found the magic! They went from producing 80 tamales a week to nearly 1500 a day!

Adrian says he has big plans for Gardner’s Feast’s a.k.a. Tamale Addiction’s future. He feels a responsibility to keep making his product better and better. “It’s encouraging to have that immediate response from people… I just love that. It feels good to see a bright future for your business.”

No one deserves success more in my mind. This family hasn’t given up. They took each failure and each criticism as an opportunity to do better. What I love most about Adrian’s story is that it really demonstrates how hard-work, perseverance, and a little creativity can change a life around. Despite what the local news seems to indicate, there are still lots of good stories out there. This is definitely one of them.

So next Sunday when you come by the HOPE Farmer’s Market, be sure to check out these tasty tamales. Or if you’d like to order some for emergencies – in the case of the Armageddon, a surprise in-law visit, or bad break-up – check out their website at http://www.thegardenersfeast.com/tamales.

Facebook: The Gardener’s Feast

Twitter: gardenersfeast

 

 

 

I’m Brooke, the author of the blog you’ve just read. Working with the HOPE Farmer’s Market has been so great, but unfortunately I will have to leave HOPE to finish my last semester at Baylor University this fall. I will graduate with a major in political science and a minor in poverty studies and social justice. Right now I’m applying to graduate school like crazy so hopefully I will be able to continue my studies. Every blog, I’ll let you guys know something a bit more interesting about myself and this week’s fact is:

I studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland for 5 months.