Last month I was in downtown Wheaton for reasons other than knit group (even the crocheters call it that) and visited Serene Teaz. It’s a lovely shop. Bright, inviting, lots of space, lots of teas that are nicely arranged, and friendly staff. You can sample any tea there. They’ll whip it up at the tea bar. There’s no pressure to buy which makes me want to buy everything. It feels more like going to a friend’s house and trying tea than being in a store. The only thing I don’t like is that they’re not closer to me. That’s my only complaint about a lot of places. I can choose any of dozens of places for Italian beef or trendy mall shops within 10 miles, but no awesome tea store.
Serene Teaz offers a Tea 101 class. I signed up right away. I’ve tried a lot of tea but it’s either been stuff made in a Starbucks or Seattle’s Best (*sigh*) or that I brewed at home. I know it’s rarely properly brewed and I wanted to try tea done the right way to see what I really like. In the class, Sarine talks about how tea is grown, picked, what the health benefits are, how to brew it, and more. She and her husband became certified in tea before opening the store and part of that was being encouraged to teach. She says she was very nervous her first time presenting but there’s no sign of that. It was still like being in someone’s home and them sharing something they love. Which it kind of was. You don’t open a tea store–let alone two of them–without love.
We sampled white tea, green tea, oolong, black tea, rooibus, and herbal tea. She talked about puerh and lapsang souchang and said they’d brew up samples for anyone who wanted to try them so I tried those as well. I was surprised about what I liked best. My favorite tea before the class was a lavender Early Grey. I just recently found that I love Earl Grey and I’m a fan of lavender. They work well together. But the black tea we sampled was my least favorite. I loved the white tea. Another surpirse was the rooibus. I’ve had that a bunch of times at coffee shops despite not ever liking it. It was brewed way wrong. Loved it. I knew I was brewing green tea incorrectly and had given up on doing it right. Sure enough, it’s pretty good when you do it right.
I was really interested in puerh. I knew it has a funky smell and is something more than just tea leaves but that was it. Found out it’s sprayed with a bacteria that’s really good for your stomach. That got me interested. My mom has some stomach issues sometimes and I thought it’d be worth getting her to drink stinky tea. The smell of the tea reminded me of the smell at the Children’s Zoo at Brookfield Zoo. The smell never bothers me there. I actually liked the smell of the tea–I have good memories of the Children’s Zoo and found myself sniffing the tea more than drinking it. It doesn’t taste like it smells at all. But I got a blend with caramel in it in the hopes that my mom wouldn’t refuse to drink it. I brewed her a cup without saying anything about the smell. She didn’t notice it and she really liked it. I did tell her about the bacteria and what it does. I’m drinking a cup now for the caffeine and I’m disappointed that the scent isn’t so strong.
Sarine said that when they first started out and were trying so much tea she stopped drinking soda and lost weight. I had stopped drinking soda (for the billionth time) but got headaches from caffeine withdrawal. Now I drink diet soda which isn’t any better. I’m going to try to replace that with tea. One cup of a tea with caffeine a day. No scary chemicals. At least not from drinks.
I got a bag of the white tea we tried (white peony) and I’d like to have a cup of that a day. I’m not in the tea habit yet so I’ve had one cup at night and that’s it. The other tea I got is a tiramisu/marscapone rooibus. There was a customer review next to it that said it tastes just like tiramisu. I don’t think it does but it is nice. I found I need two teaspoons of tea and a longer brew time than I’m comfortable with to get the best taste. If something says 3-5 minutes I think that more than 4 will kill it. It’s the opposite of when I color my hair and will leave the dye on a few minutes past the longest recommended time.
I’d like to try the white tea that’s just the buds of the plant. I also want to get the lapsang souchong. It’s smokey. Really smokey. Very cool. And I’ll probably want the pure puerh. And some double-walled cups. My tea has gone cold already.
Serene Teaz does a Tea 201 class once a year that goes beyond the basics. I think I’d like to take that, too. Tea is pretty fascinating. I was so interested I almost didn’t giggle when Dr. Andrew Weil was brought up. LSD was not discussed.
I had taken a picture of my row of sample cups but it’s all blurry 🙁 So no photos this time.