A Tea Addict's Journal

Independent teashops

July 23, 2008 · 2 Comments

I find it amazing that independent teashops survive in this country. This is not a friendly place for tea, and for the most part people drink crappy bagged tea. I’ve always wanted to take some pictures of the tea section in a lovely place like a bad supermarket in the midwest…. it really gives you a good idea of what people are imbibing.

That makes it all the more pleasant when you go to a place that at least tries to provide a nice experience drinking tea in a shop, despite all the extra hurdles that they have to go through to get off the ground running. There’s something philosophically attrative about an independent store that survives despite the onslaught of the Starbucks of the world. I guess they’re the modern equivilent of homestead farmers who make it despite the tough conditions of the frontier and establish a foothold in a hostile land (occupied by its rightful owners, at least on this continent).

I went to a place called Tea Chai Te yesterday while having to do some waiting around, and spent a good hour there just sitting and sipping tea while reading a not very good book about green tea. I wonder how independent shops gather the 100 or so teas they offer — I suppose it’s from wholesalers of various ilk, and sometimes directly sourced from whoever it is that sells such things. I ordered the Wuyi Oolong, usually one of the safer choices out there (no varietal specified). The tea was brewed for me and came as liquid only in a Chinese made small tetsubin, enameled lined and all. I suspect it was made in an infuser basket. I got a drinking cup too — some fairly large red glazed thing, which was fairly pretty, although the tetsubin and the cup’s colour meant that I couldn’t judge the tea. The tea was all right — I think the water makes it better here, and there was some throatiness to it. They also served other more esoteric things, including a few puerh, although most of those are mini-tuos that I wouldn’t dare try.

Still, if only they have such stores everywhere I go — unfortunately, that’s not the case here, and in most cities you’d be hard pressed to find even one or two such things. Oh well, at least, I think, things are starting to change.

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2 responses so far ↓

  • djn7304 // July 23, 2008 at 4:23 pm | Reply

    Sounds similar to the experience I had at a small independent tea shop in Tampa, FL. I tried their (again unspecified) Wu Yi wulong. I asked the young lady at the counter if she knew where this tea came from or anything else about it and she just gave me a blank look. The young man who made it just used an “ingenuitea” type infuser/dispenser, so I too was not given access to the leaves. The presentation was pleasant enough ‘tho. It was served in a small white ceramic teapot with a plain white ceramic tea cup on a bamboo tray. The tea itself had a firm enough texture and light golden color that made it fairly memorable for a tea shop in this part of the country.

    As far as selection, they had the usual wide variety of generic sounding teas and blends with even a few inexpensive ripe pu-er’s on wall. All of which were a bit dusty. 😛

    Hopefully, the recent US instant and bottled tea trend will peak at least few folks interest in learning more about what they’re drinking and how good it can get.

  • mulcahyfeldman // August 3, 2008 at 7:24 am | Reply

    Is it the mini-tuos freshness you worried about or the quality of the tea or do you just have an aversion to the form? Please explain. Eileen

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