We’ve talked about our friendship, how The Cosy Book Shoppe was dreamed up, as well as our vision for The Cosy Book Shoppe…how about we talk about how we got into Loose Leaf Tea! Each of our stories is different, but yet intertwined in a way and they are both wonderful stories to hear. Read on!
Aleta: I’ve been a tea-drinker my whole life. When I was a little girl, I remember my mom always having a mug of tea somewhere…the countertop, the kitchen table, the microwave, or even resting a mug of tea on her pregnant belly while sitting in her rocking chair. I grew up watching my mother drink hot tea, and inevitably—with such a tea-lover for a mother—tea parties and after-school tea time were a natural part of my childhood. For my sisters and me, “tea time” was a special time; for my mother, tea was an essential part of her every day.
I remember taking a hot-pot to college with me so I could make my own tea. (Sure, it also served as a ramen-noodle-maker, but with inconsistent results…perhaps a boil-over or two. Lesson learned.) Then as a young adult I remember searching the shelves of discount stores like Marshall’s to find the marked-down versions of the “good tea” i.e. British tea: Yorkshire, Typhoo, PG Tips, London Cuppa…it was like finding gold! I always used tea bags to make tea because that is what I grew up with. I knew about loose-leaf tea, obviously…but it wasn’t as readily available (at least not at my much-loved discount stores) and also, loose-leaf tea was sort of a mystery to me at that point. I always assumed I would need a whole new batch of tea paraphernalia in order to make the switch to loose-leaf. It seemed quite a daunting thing.
All this changed when I discovered a lovely tea room in a nearby town…one of those quaint Southern towns with old houses and a picturesque Main Street (pretty much the only street in town with a traffic light). This tea room is still one of my favorite spots, and its assortment of teas led to my current loose-leaf tea addiction. A few years ago, I ordered a tea there after reading the description on the menu. It sounded delicious; slightly different but not too “out there” so I ordered it. Innocently. Unwittingly. Unaware of how it would completely change my life! (Too dramatic? I’ll try to tone it down a little…)
So, the tea arrived in its pot, and I poured a cup and continued chatting with my sister or mom or whomever I was with at the time…until the first sip. Glorious! I had never tasted anything like it! Now mind you, I was not a tea novice at the time…far from it. I even considered myself to be a bit of a tea snob. I had never experienced tea like this…it tasted beautiful. In fact, if you could liquefy the word “beautiful” and add steam, that would be a good description for this tea. Everyone at my table was in love with it, so we asked the server if it was for sale in the shop. Her face got that apologetic, forehead-wrinkled look and she stated that they were actually running out of it, so it was only being used for serving and not available for purchase. We must have been completely convincing in our devastation because she managed to sneak upstairs and bag some up for us. Wait…bag? Oh yes, it’s loose-leaf tea. My elation immediately turned to apprehension. I didn’t know anything about brewing loose leaf tea! I remember saying something to our server like “I’ve been meaning to get into loose-leaf tea, but just haven’t made the leap yet.” She reassured me how easy it was, and even gave me a few complementary t-sacs (which basically looked like a long, paper pocket for a tea cup) to assist me in brewing it at home. I left the shop that day a little nervous, but mostly excited to try tea a new way.
Mia: For me- tea drinking was not as large a part of my childhood. My dad was the one who drank tea and his way of drinking was just a cup every once in a while in the evening. He liked tea well enough, but was much more of a coffee drinker, both my parents were. Right around junior high I really got the bug to start drinking tea. One evening when the water was boiling for my dad to have a cup, I decided to have one too. My tea was limited though to herbal or green tea up until late High School. I would only have black tea occasionally and it wasn’t until my Junior or Senior year of high school that I really got heavily into drinking tea.
I had on occasion the “good” black tea that Aleta mentioned earlier, but for the most part I was drinking Tazo Tea’s (which are definitely very good, don’t get me wrong!) or whatever I could find at either a cafe or discounted through stores. While I was in college I would grab a cup of tea from the cafe’s on campus whenever I could and that would be a good standard cup of black tea. All of these were pre bagged tea’s.
I had never really give loose leaf tea much of a thought as I was…I like to say “stuck”…in my bagged tea ways. I figured loose leaf tea, while it would be different, would be much of the same. Young, foolish me- I had no idea what I was missing out on!
I remember very clearly the morning that Aleta came in and told me that I had to try this tea she had. She didn’t really give me the option to say no, but just simply brewed me a cup. She knew that I would not say no to a cup of tea, even if I’ve already had too many to count. I remember very clearly the first smell of the tea while it was steeping and I very clearly remember being speechless. I had never smelled anything so magnificent in a tea before. As soon as I was able I took a sip of tea and quite literally, my tea drinking life changed in an instant. That may seem dramatic, but I promise that was my thought at the time (both Aleta and I take our tea very seriously – dramatics can happen 😉 )
This blend of tea was absolutely incredible and I just knew that I had to have it in my collection. Aleta had explained to me that this was a loose leaf tea and while I was surprised about that, I was more interested in what other blends could be out there. I didn’t really know too much about loose leaf tea in terms of preparation, storage, or really much of anything, but it didn’t matter. With this cuppa, I knew that I wanted to learn and try more!