Last year at PAX East 2022, I stumbled upon the best smelling booth at the Boston convention. I know, with all the attendees crammed into the Boston Convention Center, the bar isn’t exactly high, but bear with me. D&Tea, purveyors of fantasy themed tea, brought a new kind of tea party to Boston. Their tea did so well that by the time I returned Sunday to get some for myself, they had sold out of most of their blends.
A Spot of D&Tea History
This year, I planned ahead. Attending yesterday, the first day of PAX East, I scoped out D&Tea early. Co-founder Travis Peacock also spilled the tea (sorry, not sorry) on the history of the unique company. Originally, they used to sell dice, but as Travis put it, “Everyone and their mom sells dice.” In fact, when PAX South reached out in 2019, they said that the independent company could come and exhibit but could not sell dice. So what would they sell instead?
The name came first. D&Tea popped into Travis’s head, so they reached out to their business partner, Gideon Jones who knew about tea (“Hey, you’re British,” Travis told him). The two talked it out and had some ideas for making tea. They reached out to an established tea company for advice, using their blends as a base and then adding their own twists and takes to make their own. For example, Underdark & Chill is based on an earl grey but with notes of vanilla and lavender.
This means new tea blends, thematic tins, and sampler sets. “Eventually, every single tea of ours should be available in a sample pack,” Travis explained. “We need the machinery to do it, but that’s what the Kickstarter allowed us to buy.” Shadowfell Slumber, a berry-based herbal tea, posed some unique challenges as its essential oils tend to gum up the works, but they’re figuring it out.
Follow Your Nose on a Quest
At PAX East, as at other cons, D&Tea has cups of samples for attendees to smell. It’s hard to choose just one, so I asked Travis if they had a favorite. “It’s a weather thing more than anything,” Travis told me, explaining that he likes Elven Bazaar, a spicy chai, when it’s cold and Forest Frolic, a green tea that’s just as good served chilled, when it’s hot, for example.
As for me, I ultimately settled on Genasian Seas, a blend of green and black teas. I hadn’t noticed this one last year, and sure enough it is an early preview of one of the Kickstarter teas, exclusive to PAX East for the time being. Aside from its exclusivi-tea, it also smells phenomenal, with notes of hibiscus and papaya.
But if you’re not at PAX East 2023 this weekend, you needn’t have to wait long for this bountiful blend. Each of the upcoming teas have an anticipated release date of June 16th. That said, Travis stressed that they plan to post updates should anything arise, since the company relies heavily on supply chains they can’t control. “Our community is really cool [with dates changing],” Travis explained, “But we want to be better and more communicative.”
The New Tea in Town
These new teas include Arborean Thicket, Mountain Squall, Genasian Seas, Volcanic Inferno, Pumpkin Harvest, Cozy Cottage, and two stretch goal teas: Hellish Rebuke and Shire Second Breakfast. Some of these teas suggest specific kinds of campaigns while others suggest certain fantasy worlds, especially that last one. In fact, the location-based names play a unique role (or roll) in development.
“We’re D&Tea so draw your own conclusions on what game system we favor,” Travis said in relation to the best game to pair with one of their teas. Though he stressed that he enjoys indie games as well, such as those by Grant Howitt, including Honey Heist. As someone who has led two Honey Heist campaigns myself, I recommend it, especially for those looking for a comedic rules-light tabletop role-playing game or those new to the pastime. But location is everything, as Travis explained. “For every tea we do, we think of a location first and then design a tea around that.”
As such, game masters looking to bring the taste of tea, and the great smells of it too, into their next campaign will want to think about the locations players will visit along the way. You can pick up D&Tea online, at PAX East, and even at their brick-and-mortar store in Bellingham, Washington. You won’t find it much elsewhere yet, it’s a small company, after all. But this also drives the appeal.
“If you’ve heard of us, it’s probably because your friend told you about us or you saw us at a con,” Travis told me. They love the grassroots feel of their community and take pride in those who reach out online or tell people about the company whether in their local gaming group or on TikTok. These are the people that drive their business, Travis stressed. “Our fan base is so passionate.”