Dining and Drink

6 & 12 Tea Co. makes local responsibly sourced loose-leaf tea

Company is connected to Rusty Dog Coffee

Claire Bitner, co-owner of 6 & 12 Tea Co., says it’s high (tea) time people started paying attention to the tea they are drinking.

“In Madison we are getting more conscious about the foods we are putting in our bodies but people don’t always think about that with tea,” Bitner says. “Maybe about 10-15 years ago people started thinking about it with coffee — a really good craft roasted coffee has a lot more depth of flavor than a mass-produced coffee — but the same is really true with tea. Tea that is carefully grown and sourced and sold loose leaf — where the leaves haven’t been all chopped up — will have more flavor and quality than something that has been put through an assembly line, chopped up, thrown in a bag and stored in a warehouse for a year.”

In addition to 6 & 12 Tea, Bitner, along with her husband, Tony, and two other families, is also a co-owner of local coffee roaster Rusty Dog Coffee. About a year and a half ago the group decided to launch a line of responsibly sourced loose-leaf teas. “I’m more of a tea drinker,” Bitner says. “My grandmother was British and I grew up drinking tea. We also had some customers asking us where to get quality tea.” 

After a year of meeting with growers to find quality ingredients — organic, never artificially sweetened — Bitner and company launched 6 & 12 Tea about a year and a half ago. Bitner says the name “6 & 12” refers to the traditional way of stirring a cup of tea. “If you are looking down at a tea cup, picture a clock face,” Bitner says. “Start with your tea spoon in the ‘6 o'clock’ position and stir slowly to 12, then back to 6 and up to 12 again. This is considered a proper way to stir a cup of tea. We thought it was a fun name and a nod to the deep tradition of tea culture.”

But Bitner says the name of their company also has a different meaning now. “After we selected the name, we realized it also fits us because the numbers describe our business family- there are six adults and with our kids added in, we are a group of twelve!” Bitner says.

6 & 12 Tea now sells a streamlined list of ten teas and tea blends, including black tea, hibiscus citrus and ginger lemon. “If it says one of our teas has lemon flavor it’s actually dried lemon,” Bitner says. “It’s not an artificial syrup.” Bitner also says 6 & 12 Tea has a lower price than a lot of higher end tea lines. 6 & 12 teas are available at the Regal Find in Middleton and also on the 6 & 12 website. Valentia Coffee on University Avenue serves 6 & 12 tea including a chai latte made with house-made concentrate. “So it’s not overpowered by sugar,” Bitner says. 

With spring coming Bitner is looking ahead to iced teas (and maybe even a refreshing iced tea cocktail.) “Our ginger lemon and red rooiby teas are both really good iced,” Bitner says. “And if people are planting their gardens right now it might be really fun to plan an herb garden around iced tea. Plant some mint and lavender and use them to make simple syrups. By the way, any of those can be turned into a cocktail by adding bourbon!

RECIPE: Ginger Lemon Herbal Iced Tea
A refreshing tea with a taste of lemon and a small bit of "kick" from the ginger and peppermint, followed by an after taste of licorice

You can brew this two ways: With hot brewed tea or a cold brewed iced tea (sometimes called refrigerator tea). The ginger and peppermint in this tea can also have a calming, soothing effect on digestion. 

Hot Brewed Iced Tea:
2 teaspoon of tea for every 8 oz. filtered water at 205 F
Steep tea 5-7 minutes
Strain tea and pour over ice. 
Note: In general, hot brewed iced tea requires double the amount of tea normally used for a cup of hot tea. Double the amount of tea if you plan on diluting it with extra ice.

Cold Brewed Iced Tea:
1 quart of water or room temp. filtered water
3 tablespoons loose-leaf tea
Pour water over loose tea in a glass pitcher. Steep times will vary, but in general cold brewed herbal teas can be ready to enjoy after 2-4 hours. You can also let it brew overnight. After brewing, strain out tea leaves and enjoy.


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