Tuesday, 3 May 2011

on The Path of Tea

In the South (of the United States), the natives drink a very aptly titled concoction called Sweet Tea. It's iced tea mixed with as much sugar as it can possibly take. Actually, there's normally more sugar than can actually be dissolved in the tea. You get to the bottom of a glass of Sweet Tea, and there's a syrupy sludge that is surely a dentist's nightmare.

I had few illusions that I'd find anything promising when I did a search for tea shops/tea rooms in Houston, Texas. It seemed like an exercise in futility.

Boy, was I wrong.

Almost immediately, I stumbled across The Path of Tea. I knew I had to visit this one. The site is beautiful and informative, but the shop itself is an experience.

The webpage introduces you to Thia McKann and says that she's the only Certified Tea Master in the State of Texas. That Texas needed more than one tea master, I would've sarcastically questioned before seeing this site. It was clear I'd need to keep my snarky comments to myself. I resolved that I definitely needed to see this shop.

The thing I liked most when I arrived was that there was absolutely no tea snobbery. There was an incredibly friendly woman that ushered us deeper into the shop and quickly put us at ease in a way that seems oddly second nature to people from this part of the world. She explained to my mother in very understandable detail what health benefit each type of tea offered. We hadn't even met the owner/tea master, but we were already in good hands.

I've often felt uncomfortable making claims of tea's health benefits, but I like the very concise list that's offered on the website here.

There was quite a nice selection of teapots and teacups, and it was instantly evident that this place was not willing to sell a bit of Kitsch, while sneaking in the good stuff. The owner laughed when she recounted how people told her a shop that focused exclusively on tea would never be successful here. She'd insisted on a shop that focused on quality tea and just tea, and the result speaks for itself.

The best part was the selection of tea that was on offer. There was a display case with little cannisters of loose-leaf tea. Unlike so many places where the tea is jealously guarded behind a counter, this case was out in the middle of the shop where the customer was encouraged to open and look at and sniff at each sample of leaves. Like I said, the whole thing seemed to discourage any sort of tea snobbery.

They'd received a shipment of various Chinese green tea, and the staff was happily pouring cup after cup not only amongst themselves but also with the customers milling around. Our conversation veered wildly away from tea issues and we found ourselves in a lively chat about anything and everything. Exactly the way it should be.

If anyone asks you, there is tea drinking in Texas.

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