Our Story

 Brewing Fine Tea since 2010 

Here at the Phoenix Pearl Tea Company, we care about two things above all else: Quality and Taste. We offer single-source estate teas from around the world, wonderful blends — many produced right on premises under the "Made in Montana" program — and bulk herbs.

We're not herbalists looking to cure your maladies, nor are we a stuffy tea company demanding you drink our tea the way we want you to. We focus on making sure we sell good tea that tastes good. our tea master, co-founder Gwendolyn Gunn, personally tastes every single tea and blend added to our menu, confirming we can serve & sell the right blends for you.

​All blends and teas we sell have instructions included with them based on steeping suggestions from our tea master, co-founder Gwendolyn Gunn. There's no obligation to drink it the way she suggests. Consider it a starting point. If you want to steep it longer, add milk & honey, or use a different water temperature, go for it! We won't judge.​

 

Roughly 1/3 of our 200-strong selection is blended in-house by Gwen or her father, co-founder and owner Gary Robson. Both are trained in the art of tea-craft and have been blending teas for the company for over seven years. Each blend is painstakingly blended, tested, and re-blended to make it perfect. We don't release a single blend into the wild until we're all satisfied with it. We take great pride in not only providing the traditional blends, but also interesting experiments to set ourselves apart. You can count on us to get you a unique blend you've never had elsewhere.

 

Not only do we take pride in our house-blended teas, but also our sourcing. A large portion of our pure teas are single-estate, meaning we have sourced the tea down to a single farm (a single picking, if we can). We are transparent about our sourcing, as we want you to know where your tea comes from, and what quality to expect. If we can get the name of the person that picked the leaves, we'll put it on the bag. We cultivate relationships with independent farms wherever possible to get you the purest tea we can.

The Phoenix Pearl Tea Company is in Great Falls, MT. We're an independent family business, and Gwen herself is an out and proud lesbian and transgender woman. We support her, and all members of the greater LGBT+ family. When you support our business, you directly support LGBT people.

 Our History 

Phoenix Pearl Tea has a long and storied history. It began as a bookstore in 1986 under the name Broadway Bookstore in Red Lodge, MT. The original store was a tiny closet of a store across from the signature Red Lodge Cafe. The original owners had a metaphysical focus, the next owner ran it as a used bookstore, and the third owner had a mix of new and used books with a focus on Montana history.

Gary and Kathy Robson purchased the store on October 15, 2001, renamed it Red Lodge Books, and moved it to larger quarters in May 2002. We expanded again in February 2010, bringing in journals, maps, toys & games, quality cigars... and a tea bar. This is where the first incarnation of Phoenix Pearl Tea was truly born. Eventually, due to the raging success of the tea, we renamed it Red Lodge Books & Tea in 2013.

Game Nights were a regular occurrence in the bookstore, as we stocked a modest selection of tabletop games, and used it as an excuse to bring people together once a week to play games, drink tea, and be merry. Because of Gary and Gwen's mutual love for tabletop games and RPGs, the theme of fantasy/sci-fi infusion into our tea blends was present at the very beginning. Gary played D&D back when it was called "Chainmail," and played every edition afterwards, and raised his daughter, Gwen, on it growing up. She started her first campaign, entirely homebrewed in D&D 3.5, at the age of 16, and has been running games ever since.

In 2016, Red Lodge Books & Tea sold to a new bookstore project opening in Billings, taking with it all the inventory, fixtures, and management. After less than a year, Gary and his daughter & tea bar manager, Gwendolyn Gunn, decided to open a new shop back in Red Lodge under their own banner once more. Thus was born the Phoenix Pearl Tea Tavern.

Phoenix Pearl Tea came about because of our love of tea, our love of Red Lodge, and the need for a place of calm, relaxation, and safety. The name is not just an allusion to "rising from the ashes" of Red Lodge Books & Tea, but also from a style of tea that all of us adore. In our rising from the ashes, we brought about a tavern in town to come where you could enjoy the quiet and calm, rather than the energy of a bar or a coffee shop, somewhere you could have a drink with your friends that didn't necessitate alcohol, somewhere to relax, feel comfortable, and be safe. But more importantly, we carried forth our mission from the very beginning to provide a source of high-quality, delicious tea that the average person could enjoy, perhaps over a tabletop game or a nice book.

 

The Phoenix Pearl Tea Tavern was a source for calm, providing a space to play tabletop games, drink tea, commune with like-minded people, and to learn about teas and more. It stayed open for five years, until April of 2022, when the doors closed, and our operation moved entirely online. The Tavern lives on in our hearts, and we miss all of our regular patrons.

Today, Phoenix Pearl Tea continues as a source of calm in an increasingly-stressful world, providing levity and delight wherever we can. We try to make it as simple as possible, teaching about the origins and sources of tea, the flavor profiles, and making sure you can brew it expertly without the need for years of experience and tradition.

As rabid gamers, readers, and fans of fantasy/sci-fi, all of our names come from a genuine love of whatever we're talking about, and are blended with that theme directly in mind.

 The Names 

As stated above, Gary (co-founder and owner) and his daughter Gwen (co-founder, general manger, and teamaster) were both raised on science fiction and fantasy, and tabletop roleplaying games in particular. Gary played Dungeons and Dragons before it was called that (back when it was "Chainmail"), and raised Gwen on D&D from the age she was old enough to understand it. Gwen started her first D&D campaign, fully homebrewed in D&D 3.5, at the age of 16 and never stopped, still running campaigns nearly nonstop to this day (though she mostly prefers Pathfinder 2e these days, and enjoys running indie TTRPGs between sessions).

This love from both came out in our tea blends from when the tea first started in 2010. Our D&D blends were the first, like Magic Missile, Prestidigitation, Turn Undead, and Desperate Fury all came from actual abilities we've all used in D&D and Pathfinder. Blends like Dwarven Ale and Elven Alarm came out of a classic love for fantasy starting with Tolkien. Blends like Warchief, Deadmines, and Black Arrow came from their mutual love of the Warcraft mythos. And it carried on and on with every fantasy and sci-fi series to capture their love.

From the beginning, Gwen and Gary wondered why it is that tea is so often relegated to simple names like English Breakfast and Earl Grey and Cinnamon Orange Black. Why can't tea have fun names like the countless breweries out there? So from early on, we gave fun, interesting names to our teas to draw people in. And it has worked. People love to see their passions and memories reflected in the things they drink, and love to share. We delighted every time a sorcerer would cast Magic Missile at a table in our Tavern and would proudly take a sip of their Magic Missile tea as they did. We would gladly pair teas to a person's character or class. Because that's who we are.