One of the great American Christmas traditions is the cookie swap: Rather than driving yourself nuts whipping up countless varieties of holiday cookies, a group of friends arranges for each of them to make just one kind of cookie in sufficient quantity for herself (or himself) and friends. Each person bakes up a different type of cookie to be shared with the group. On the day of the swap, you meet at one person’s house, set out the cookies, and everyone takes home a dozen of each variety. Baking up a few extras allows for socializing over cookies and tea or coffee before getting on with other holiday preparations.
Now that you have lots of cookies to share with your holiday guests, wouldn’t it be great to have lots of teas to serve with them? Then how about organizing a tea swap? Here’s how:
Each person buys a favourite tea in sufficient quantity so everyone goes home with two ounces (about 56 grams) of each tea. It doesn’t have to be super-premium tea, but it must be good, fresh tea – the point of a swap isn’t to clean stale teas out of your tea cabinet, it’s to share teas that you would serve in your own home.
Ideally you’ll have eight participants so you can buy the teas by the pound, which usually costs less per ounce. For example: A four-ounce package of an organic Ceylon tea is $8.70, or $2.18 per ounce, while a one-pound package of the same tea is $29.99, or $1.88 per ounce. And if two or more of you buy teas from the same vendor you can combine your order and qualify for free shipping.
When you meet to divvy up the teas, bring sufficient individual containers for your teas, a soup spoon or small scoop, and a kitchen scale or portable scale. Each person weighs out two-ounce portions of their tea into the waiting containers. Serving refreshments – tea, of course, and some of those cookies – turns this into a social gathering. Everyone takes home enough teas to sample themselves and to serve to holiday guests.
Alternatively, you can organize an online tea-tasting swap via chat groups and social media. Because it’s going by snailmail, limit the quantity of each tea to about four teaspoonful – just enough to sample. The organizer counts the participants and lets everyone how many packages of tea to provide. (Again, fresh tea only!) Pack the samples carefully so there’s no cross-contamination – a small plastic bag wrapped tightly in aluminum foil will usually do the trick. Be sure the tea’s name, type, and steeping instructions are clearly marked on each package.
Everyone mails their teas to the organizer along with a return-address label and a check to cover the cost of shipping out the teas. Flat-rate Post Office boxes are a convenient way to handle this. The organizer sorts out the teas so each person gets a packet of each other person’s teas, then packages them up and mails them out. After everyone gets a chance to sample their teas you can chat about them next time you “meet” online.
I’ve participated in simple swaps and swaps with a theme – India teas, green teas, autumn teas, teas in sachets – and in swaps that permit small “gifts” along with the tea: sheets of stickers, drip catchers, sugar cubes, honey sticks, or any small tea-related items you can think of.
Whether you prefer in-person or online, tea swaps are a fun way to sample a wider variety of teas without the time and expense of finding and buying them all yourself.
© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.