The Spice and Tea Exchange-Bringing the Flavors of the World to Old Town
The Old Town Crier is revisiting our local spice and tea mecca on King Street in this months Business Profile. Alexandria Spice & Tea Exchange (ASTE) just turned 5 years old this past April. I have to admit that I was one of the first locals to jump on their bandwagon because of the variety of their offerings and more specifically the fact that if you need something “exotic” you don’t have to buy a whole “jar” of “it”. Case in point “saffron”. Those readers who are “foody” inclined will understand that saffron is very expensive and when you need just a little bit, you can get it here without the expense of a whole jar.
I consulted with co-owner Joy Quinn in order to get some factual background information about ASTE and she offered lots of great information. Spice and Tea was a small, but growing, franchise when Joy stumbled across it. Each store is independently owned and operated and the Old Town Alexandria location is store number 13. Partnering with Taruna Reddy, they both have a passion for food and wanted to build a fun and creative environment in which to apply years of (boring) business & IT consulting into their own business.
In partnership, they opened Alexandria in April of 2010 and opened a sister store in Annapolis in mid-March 2011. Independently, Joy opened a store in Rehoboth in 2013 and is about to open another store in an undisclosed location this year.
According to Quinn, “While we have the unique/hard to get ingredients that foodies and gourmets seek, we are all about helping the “average” cook be a hero in the kitchen without extensive effort. Just add one of our customer blends to something nominal and make it phenomenal: Amy’s organic soup from a can combined with Adoro blend, intensifies the flavor and ads a kick.” She continues, “We are really trying to create a unique, sensory, high customer service type of shopping experience. We also host public/private talks and shopping parties and would be interested in partnering with all of you in a variety of ways that we can talk about further one-on-one.”
Unique and custom blended teas: black, green, white, herbal, pu-erh (or cave aged) and roobius.
Naturally infused sweet and savory sugars.
Infused and smoked salts: Dry and course for grinding, dry and fine for shaking, and finishing salts to be sprinkled after cooking for flavor and presentation. Examples: Pinot on roasted asparagus, Black truffle on potatoes, popcorn, what-have-you, smoked chardonnay on…..and the very smoky salts for folks who like to make their own blends and BBQ rubs.
The highlight of the store are their hand-made custom blends: rubs and grinders, made fresh daily in the store for everything from steak, chicken, chops, fish & seafood, curries, drinks and party snacks.
The Spice & Tea Exchange® Experience
The adventure begins when you first enter the store and are greeted by a friendly, knowledgeable staff, who invite you to open up the jars and “Smell the Spices”. The warmth and energy is contagious, and their passion for quality and commitment to friendly service makes every shopping experience a pleasurable, sensory and educational adventure that sets them apart from anyone else. When you come in you will immediately smell the wonderful fine spices, fresh herbs, gourmet blends and gourmet teas. You are greeted by the a knowledgeable spice enthusiast ready to answer your questions and fulfill your order. You will probably notice someone in the back of the store mixing up fine blends and rubs. Feel free to wander over and ask which blend or rub is being prepared and make sure to open the jars and enjoy the fresh, flavorful aromas. Don’t be shy – it’s part of The Spice & Tea shopping experience.
“Come in and Smell the Spices” is not just the company’s tagline, it embodies the desire to welcome and invite guests to take part in the whole Spice & Tea Exchange experience. It’s part of the company’s DNA. Entering a Spice & Tea Exchange store is an experience like no other. Each store is unique, following the framework of an 18th century trading post. Heavy wooden beams, nautical and antique fixtures and displays highlight the open and airy fresh market feeling that evokes a sense of stepping back in time.
Background on the Owners
Joy Quinn: An engineer by training, Ms. Quinn has always pursued significant interests of self-expression through the arts, specifically in music and cooking. Growing up under the wing of her mother—an accomplished gourmet cooking enthusiast—Ms. Quinn leverages the recipes and knowledge gained while assisting with innumerable dinners and cocktail parties. Outside the home, her culinary tastes and interests have matured under the influence of her worldwide travels.
Taruna Reddy: Not a chef by education, Ms. Reddy has been lured by the fascinating rituals of the kitchen—both the culinary and spiritual center where she cultivated her passion for the traditional flavors of Indian cooking. Ms. Reddy is faithful to the authentic homemade dishes of her youth, but also is a champion of the great diversity that India has to offer and the continual evolution of these multitude flavors in today’s global environment.
The Spice & Tea Exchange
320 King Street
Old Town Alexandria
Written by: Lani Gering