Sometimes a serendipitous encounter is the beginning of a new venture, as it was for Bob Long, who owns and operates The Spice & Tea Exchange with his wife, Jill.

While the couple was vacationing in Florida 10 years ago, Bob walked into a little spice shop in Saint Augustine.

“I was standing there saying, ‘This would work in Asheville,’” Bob recalled.

After talking with the owner of the shop, who had an interest in expanding into North Carolina, Bob and Jill decided to start their own business in September 2009.

Opening the shop was a new experience for the couple. Bob is a retired nuclear engineer and Jill is a counselor in private practice.

And launching The Spice & Tea Exchange in the midst of a recession didn’t particularly concern them.

“We figured we had nowhere to go but up,” said Jill.

After looking a various properties, the Longs decided on a Haywood Street location, which is busy with shoppers and visitors.

The attractive shop filled with culinary spice and tea blends has thrived and grown since its beginning, according to Jill.

“Every year has been better than the year before,” she said.

Customers who come in to browse can choose from an extensive selection of blended spices that are freshly made in small batches at the store.

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A large variety of teas can be found at The Spice & tea Exchange.

“It’s a labor of love,” Jill said of the blending process, which involves time-intensive preparation of ingredients such as lemon zest for the culinary products.

One of the most popular is the Tuscany Spice Blend, which can be added to oil to make a flavorful bread dip, Jill said. This blend, which contains garlic, tomato powder, lime frost sea salt, onion, salt, black pepper, olive oil, rosemary, basil, green and red bell peppers, parsley, crushed red pepper flakes, aji Amarillo pepper, coriander, cumin, oregano and thyme, also adds flavor to poultry and other meats, she said.

Among the 75 varieties of culinary blends at the shop are those especially created for Indian and Mexican dishes along with others for seasoning fish and other foods.

The shop also carries a large selection of single spices, as well as seasoned salts and flavored sugars such as bourbon black walnut and salted caramel. Current summer sugars include watermelon, blackberry and Florida Sunshine.

The Spice & Tea Exchange also has many creative blends of teas including white, green, black and herbal varieties. Standing on shelves in glass jars and packages stamped with the trademark compass logo of the business are teas such as Green Tropical, Ginger and Turmeric Herbal, Tiki Punch, Ginseng Hippie Herbal, Coconut Oolong, Black Pu-erh and Jasmine Pearls, a green tea with fragrant floral notes. Among the many herbal teas are fruit blends and chamomile selections.

The vast majority of the teas and spices at The Spice & Tea Exchange are organically sourced and have fair trade designation, Jill pointed out.

“We order weekly so everything is really fresh,” she added.

Along with teas and spices, the shop has a wide selection of accessories including tea infusers, tea pots, cups and many items from which to choose.

The Spice & Tea Exchange, 46 Haywood St., is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 pm. and Sunday from 1 to 6 p.m.

For more information, visit the website at www.spiceandtea.com or call 828-505-7348.

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