It’s officially September, and it will soon be fall. The air grows cold, the skies turn slate grey, and the mind wanders in search of the comfort it can only find inside a mug of fresh brewed tea. Now, of course, you can go to Starbucks for whatever they’re passing off as tea right now, and you could also get some Tetley or Celestial Seasonings down at the supermarket. But what if you want to move beyond the mundane, to try something new and different? Maybe you want a tea that doesn’t just taste good, but pairs with your favorite book? Maybe you want a mug of something named “Raspberry Imp,” “Loki’s Kiss, or even “Wibblycog?”
Nestled in the back of the hall between the Artist’s Alley and a steampunk hat shop, Dryad Tea’s booth was almost always busy, mostly because they offered something different from the t-shirts, props, and expensive costuming at other booths. I got to have a chat with the owner, operator, master blender, and self described “Tea Maven” of Dryad, Rubiee Tallyn Hayes, who gave me a rundown of their products and a little backstory on Dryad.
The brand originally started while Rubiee was in the “dark faerie Celtic vocal band” Pandora Celtica, singing about the dark sides of the fae world. In order to support the band, each member picked up a side gig. For Rubiee, that was her tea blending and pottery. The initial blends Dryad carried, still in their catalogue today, were directly inspired by the characters and world Pandora Celtica constructed in their music. When the band went into semi-retirement, Dryad Tea lived on thanks to an overwhelming amount of support and a successful Kickstarter. Since then, she’s expanded her blends to reflect her love for mythology, literature, and general geekiness.
Dryad Teas is a full service tea company, in that they do not carry only one specific kind of tea. They’ve got your usual assortments of blacks and greens, herbals and rooibos, and even single-note teas for purists or home blenders. Dryad works to make sure their tea is ethically sourced, and tries to make their blends as organic as possible (some ingredients can’t be bought organically). Evil tea displeases the spirits, after all.
While the general grouping of Rubiee’s teas are recognizable, her blends are wholly unique. When making her blends, she tries to construct a tea that plays off of more than one sense. While the obviously taste delicious, they also smell just as good, with some blends like “Seelie” (a floral rooibos) being as much potpourii as tea blend. They played on this beautifully at GenCon, with samples of seventy-five teas out for free smells. You don’t even need to go full wino with it either. One sniff and you can immediately get an idea of what the tea will taste like. I bought a pack of Early Grey blends that, in theory, would not end up being a diverse profile but in actuality smell and taste totally different from each other while retaining that core Earl Grey flavor (even the green tea blend!).
The themes for the tea also play into things, with a great deal of her recent blends coming out of discussions with creators in the fantasy community. Some of the people she’s spoken with and inspired blends include authors like Seanen McGuire, Jim Butcher, Paul Lell, and Catherynne Valente, as well as the music of SJ Tucker and Bekah Kelso. She also draws less direct inspiration from things like Warhammer 40k, Alice In Wonderland (every tea shop has to have at least one Alice blend), Shakespeare, and even Pokemon Go! (the Mystic, Instinct, and Valor teas were a recent passion project for Rubiee). They also debuted brand new premium teas at GenCon, a special white and a Jasmine Dragon Pearl green, that are more expensive thanks to production costs but also offer unique and truly exquisite tastes.
Teas are available in sizes ranging from the three cup sample size all the way up to the 100+ cup eight ounce size. You can also get tea in travel tins and as part of gift packs, or even in the monstrous “Battle Box,” a “one of everything button” for Dryad’s teas that contains a sample of every single one of their teas. You can also get a randomized mix of teas, custom blends, a “grab bag,” and even the “Mad Tea Party,” a tea blend composed of all the other teas mixed together.
Like any good tea shop, Rubiee doesn’t just stock the tea itself. She also carries a full range of accessories for your tea drinking life, and even makes the vast majority of them! At GenCon, everything they had was made by Rubiee, except for the honey sticks she carries. That is reflected in their stock, which features handmade special dice infusers, ceramic tea pets and trivets (things that hold your used tea bag or infuser), and special crystal infusers. They also carry sweeteners like the honey sticks, silicon tea infusers, and timers. She’s even got a special herbal blend called “Vampire’s Bane,” a mix of herbs and garlic that is less of a tea and more of a marinade.
Rubiee also is a hard working potter, working with her apprentice to produce mugs and bowls for purchase along with her tea. The two of them have different styles of pottery, meaning that there’s a fair amount of diversity even within a two-woman operation. While her stock of mugs is currently still replenishing after GenCon, you can still see what else she has in stock and even put in special requests.
For details on Dryad’s full range of teas, and to get some for your very own (at pretty damn reasonable prices for hand blended tea), you can visit their website, as well as the Etsy shops for both tea and pottery. If you’d like to support Dryad on a longer term basis, you can sign up for their Tea of the Month Club to have samples sent to you each month, or become a Patron and get access to samples, tokens, and even Dryad’s discord channel. You can also follow Rubiee on Twitch, where she streams her pottery throwing and tea blending. You can even see her in person at Wisconsin’s Teslacon or on their home turf at Denver’s MileHiCon, where they’ll be slinging tea and tea accessories.
(Editorial Note: We’ve corrected some things after talking with Rubiee. We mistakenly called the Jasmine Dragon Pearl’ tea a Darjeeling, referred to all of their tea as organic (which is impossible due to sourcing limitations), and referred to Rubiee as the sole potter when she in fact has an apprentice)