Thing 19: Calabash Tea 🍵

bag of loose herbal tea

Big tea fan here. Bags, loose, hot, iced, whatever. Just keep it herbal and unsweetened (or chai). While there can be countless benefits to a variety of teas, I mainly drink it because it’s delicious. And Calabash makes great tea blends. 

Organized into herbal, chai, green, and black, with great images and descriptions, it is easy to search your preferred category and find a new tea to love. You can stop by their DC shops, or get things shipped. And there’s currently a sale so stock up. Their boxes they offer are amazing gifts when you’re looking to buy something fun for someone who has everything (or is just hard to buy for). If you want a little more info, you can also read the fun origins of Calabash and more about their founder, Sunyatta Amen.

Maite in Houston is getting a bag of the Rescue Me blend which includes: Organic Egyptian Mint, Elderberries, Echinacea, Rose Hips, Ginger, Fennel, Anise, Lemon Thyme, Yarrow, Mullein, Calendula, Spices & Love. And a bag of Triple Goddess Tea with Turmeric, Ginger & Galangal Blend Jamaican Ginger, Sri Lankan Turmeric, Thai Galangal, South African Redbush. Organic, highest grade, hand-ground goodness and L❤VE! 

✔️ DC Based 

🖤 Black owned 

🚺 Woman owned 

Thing 18: Baked Goods from Paola Velez

We can’t even begin to know what the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic will be on local and independent restaurants, but we know it will be bad. Tens of thousands of places have closed already and millions of restaurant workers have been laid off or had their hours/pay reduced. But despite all the many stresses that come with all that, some restaurant workers, chefs, and owners have found additional projects and causes to champion. Projects like Chefs for America, Brigaid 101, and Bakers Against Racism provided meals, education, donations, and awareness to issues faced by all of our communities.

A 2020 James Beard Award finalist for Rising Star Chef, Paola Velez is a co-founder of Bakers Against Racism, and executive pastry chef at Maydan and Compass Rose (formerly at Kith/Kin). From her Washingtonian Magazine “Heroes of the Crisis” profile:

It all started small: In May, Velez raised $1,100 at a pop-up doughnut shop benefiting the DC immigrant organization Ayuda. That modest idea—making desserts as a way to combat racial injustice—grew into Bakers Against Racism, the collective she founded with chefs Willa Pelini and Rob Rubba. A global virtual bake sale they organized for five days in June raised $1.9 million for racial-justice organizations. With another large-scale BAR event planned for December, Velez—whose main gig is making desserts at the acclaimed DC restaurants Maydan and Compass Rose—has decided to assist hospitality workers who are struggling financially. She recently helped launch Bee’s Grocery Fund with BAR to distribute $50 mini-grants for workers’ food needs.

Oh…her food is delicious. A loaf of babka was perfect for Hanukkah but would be awesome at any time. And now you don’t have to be in DC! You can get her La Bodega offerings shipped right to you. A Thickems Trio should have arrived at Jason’s place in NJ earlier this week. Buy from La Bodega, buy from your local restaurants. Order take-out direct or through an app that doesn’t exploit, and tip like you’re dining in. We need restaurants and passionate chefs in our communities. 

@smallorchids

@eatlabodega

Thing 13: Pearl’s Everything Bagel

Jar of seasoning and three bagels

DC had a bad bagel reputation for years. Getting a ‘good’ bagel was seen as this Herculean task. I am no bagel snob (and generally think most bagels are good when toasted and shmeared), but I wholeheartedly embrace the District bagel boom of the past 5 years. The quality, variety, and availability of bagels has increased, and I hope we’re still trending up! Unrelated: I remain fascinated by the Subway bubble.

Both the opening and photo may have fooled you because this post is not about bagels. It is about the essence of bagels; specifically the best savory bagel: everything bagels. When I get whole bagels from Pearl’s (or Bethesda Bagels or Bullfrog Bagels), my signature move is to lightly toast, spread with cream cheese, and then dump the everything bagel seasoning from the bottom of the bag onto the cream cheese. Rejoice and delight in the sesame & poppy seeds, salt, garlic, and onion. Thankfully, this flavor combination is not just for bagels anyone. 

Originally popularized by Trader Joe’s (I think 🤔), but now much more widespread, you can buy jars of that bottom of the bagel bag essence to put on whatever you want. Avocado toast, hummus, potatoes, Greek salad…anything! And if you want to really up your game, get a jar from Pearl’s Bagels. The ratio of flavors and Maldon salt flakes take this to the next level. You’ll never go back. And of course, while you are there, get bagels. Always get bagels. Unfortunately, Pearl’s doesn’t ship, but Adam in Sacramento is lucky because I mailed a jar to him! If you’re in DC, go to Pearl’s—if you’re not, check your local bagel shops. 

@pearlsbagels
✔️ DC Based

Thing 10: Qualia Coffee

I didn’t start drinking coffee until I was 26. But once I started, I continued on strongly and with great enthusiasm. And I rarely drink coffee for the caffeine-I drink it because it’s delicious. So quality matters, though as a good friend once said “the best coffee is the coffee you have access to.” 

Luckily I have access to a lot of really excellent coffee. Including Qualia! A long time favorite of DC’s Petworth neighborhood, I enjoyed trekking up for beans and jars of cold brew. My typical move was to metro up and then leisurely walk back home with a cold brew in hand. But in Summer 2017 something magical happened. Qualia opened up a second location in Eckington, just 4 blocks from my apartment.

Though this distance is short at the crow flies, it could take anywhere between 6 and 20 minutes for me to walk there. Because Qualia is on the other side of Dave Thomas Circle; a complete bastardization of urban planning that routes a complicated and extremely busy series of intersections around an island Wendy’s. 

But I digress…it’s always worth the short but possibly tumultuous journey for some of the frequently changing single-origin roasts. Because what’s available changes so often, it’s super helpful that they provide complex tasting notes and flavor profiles on every bag. I also love their oat milk lattes, refundable jars of cold brew, and a great selection of tea too! Dan in San Francisco received a bag of Nicaragua Apple, from the Jinotega Region. Hope he has a grinder!

@qualiacoffee

✔️ DC Based 

Thing 8: A Locally Made Mug

If you’re looking to support the arts in your area, check out the ceramics scene. We’ll talk a little bit about art for your walls later this month, but functional pieces are an excellent way to get star (or grow) your collection! You don’t have to worry about where to hang it, how to frame it, if it goes with your everyday vibe—just use it! Plus, often it’s easier to find something in your price point. 

But Abbey, I don’t know any clay artists. Where do I start?! A few ways! Google may be a good starting point: your city + ceramics. But I will warn you, as a whole, artists are TERRIBLE at updating their websites. You’ll probably have more success on Instagram. Search for hashtags like #SFClay #PhoenixClay #LACeramics and see what you find. More often than not, you will be sent on an amazing artistic treasure hunt. Find an artist or cooperative gallery, and see where you can purchase the work. This is how I found a mug for Rita in Chicago! Because the Thing was a local mug, I went looking for Chicago ceramics. I ended up purchasing a piece by  from Gnarware Workshop by Frenchy Villagrana.

Do make sure you’re looking at the work of professional artists. Typically, this will be fairly obvious from the portfolio of images, but it never hurts to do some additional Google recon. While supporting hobbyists can be fun and is not at all a bad thing, it is vital (especially in pandemic times) to try and direct your funds to working artists and arts organizations who rely on sales for their income. You are also guaranteed a more quality product from someone who has honed their craft.

Your beverage will taste better in a mug made by a local artisan. Whether they call themselves clay artists, potters, or ceramists, I guarantee you there is someone making amazing ceramics in your region. Pictured on this post is one of my favorite pieces from Marzel Artes Deolazo aka The Horny Potter. He might call it a bowl, but I use it as a mug 😉 

@hornypotter

@gnarwareworkshop

@vfrnchy

🎁 Tiny creative business 

🌎 Planet Friendly

🏳️‍🌈 Queer Owned

💛 Minority owned

🚺 Woman owned