You’ve all experienced it – you are at dinner with friends and one of them raves about a new gadget she has just purchased, one you have never heard of.  Then, over the subsequent days, that gadget seems to pop up around every corner.

Santa BarbaraWhen I fell down the tea hole several years ago, I immediately began experiencing this phenomenon.  Reminders of tea were everywhere, even in the unlikeliest of places.  Now that I have moved into the tea hole and made myself comfortable, you would think I would be acclimated and surprises would be fewer and farther between.  Thankfully that is not the case.  Clearly, the world of tea is growing and there are new things to be excited about all the time.

Over the past month or so, I have accumulated several happy tea stories that illustrate just how the world of tea is expanding.  In December, my husband and I escaped mid-week to Santa Barbara to celebrate our thirtieth anniversary.  Santa Barbara being Santa Barbara, I expected a number of tea shops and tea rooms to choose from, but was unpleasantly surprised to find that not to be the case.  However, there was at least one cafe that kept popping up as a spot for tea when I searched online for “Santa Barbara” and “tea.”  Located in the middle of the Historic Arts District, right across the street from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the Arts & Letters Cafe (don’t you just love the name) is perfect for both the tea lover and the food lover.  Not only do they feature loose-leaf tea from a tea company I’m partial to (SerendipiTea), but their staff understands (and clearly appreciates) good tea and how to steep it to perfection.  I ordered an Assam that was delightful.  And because I expressed such an interest in their teas, our server gave me a sample of another of their teas to take home with me.  Wow!

teaOn New Year’s Eve, I paid an afternoon visit to a childhood friend, stopping by Whole Foods beforehand to pick up some tea for her.  I chose the Art of Tea’s Earl Grey Creme.  When I arrived, my friend had baked a delicious apple pie and had prepared a pot of tea with a couple of Earl Grey tea bags.  However, she was eager to try my gift of tea, so after a cup of the tea she had already prepared, I walked her through the preparation of the tea I had brought.  When it was ready, we sat down again to a nice hot cup and were both blown away by the difference.  By the time I left, my friend was disposing of her stash of ancient tea bags and vowing to turn over a new leaf – quite literally.

Recently our local mall underwent a dramatic face lift.  New businesses moved in, including several new anchor stores.  Just after the holidays, I had the occasion to check it out and discovered to my delight and amazement that among the new businesses was a retail tea shop!  Bird Pick was a name I already knew from a friend, who had visited their first store in Pasadena.  But a Bird Pick right here in Culver City – just minutes from my home?!  I could hardly believe it.  Bird Pick is a spacious store with a soothing vibe.  Canisters of tea are arranged in clusters by type (black, green, white, and so on) throughout the space. In the far left corner of the store is a tea bar with a small, but representative, sample of teas, including a couple of tea lattes.  At the end of my first visit, I walked away with a tea latte in my belly and a bag of Assam Black in my hand.

Every day I am grateful to the forces that be for kicking me off my complacent perch and into the tea hole, where one tea adventure after another awaits me.