In 2005, I became one of those obnoxious tea toters. Not totallers. That’s something completely different, although I’m one of those too! I mean, when I traveled, I was the snob that packed my own tea. I’m not anti-teabag. I’m anti-crap tea and, more often than not, I had a hard time finding decent tea. So, I had a little kit I would put together that included a few small tins of loose-leaf teas, some folded-up, compostable / disposable tea bags, and the timer app on my phone. Thus, all I ever had to find was hot water and a mug. To be totally honest, if we were driving to our destination, I took my own mug, too. I know. My husband thought I was totally ridiculous.
I live in Las Vegas, but I am originally from San Diego. My family and I took a quick weekend trip a couple of years ago out to the coast and I didn’t pack my tea. I figured I could get by for a couple of days and we have young kids, so we were already three hours late getting on the road. To my surprise, not having tea with me forced me to really examine what was available to tea drinkers in other cities and, in the end, I found some wonderful gems in San Diego. It became almost a game in future travels to see what I could find in the cities we were visiting and I have since discovered some great tea offerings in places I would have traditionally missed. Call me crazy, but I think this tea thing is catching on in the United States!
In the last 18 months, I have been so pleased with the availability of not-just-decent bagged teas, but good loose-leaf teas. In San Francisco, I was finally able to visit a Samovar Tea Lounge and didn’t want to leave. I had a phenomenal monkey-picked oolong with a scone that was off the charts! They even provided a really cute milk-and-scone presentation for my son (who at the time was 3). I tried, and very much enjoyed, a coconut white tea blend at a cute little cupcake shop called Frosted Robin in Seaport Village (San Diego). That same trip, I had an excellent Assam at a breakfast place over by SDSU and have added at least a half dozen other tea shops / restaurants to my “Must Visit” list. When exploring the Grand Canyon, and doing a little pre-season baseball action in Peoria, Arizona provided me with some of the best cups of Assam and English Breakfast teas, all at simple family restaurants. My tea latte virginity was stolen by a quaint, seaside Santa Cruz coffee shop that was actively expanding their tea menu and perfecting the recipes the day I popped in. Even tiny Salinas, CA, surprised me with Gold Leaf Spice & Teas. It’s a small, family-owned shop with the nicest owners and an antique bar that was jaw dropping. And Chicago, oh Chicago. You never let me down! I fell in love with tea in Chicago and not a trip goes by that I don’t discover a new shop or cafe that I can’t get enough of.
Who’s next on my list? Washington, D.C.! My husband and I are celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary with a family vacation to our nation’s capital. I have a few places on my radar and, as usual, my husband thinks I’m insane with my “Tea Itinerary.” Lay it on me! Where should we stop? Retail? Restaurants? Cafes? Give me your #1 D.C. tea hotspot and I promise that my next post will be a recap of all of the tea madness that is had while rubbing elbows with the likes of one A. Lincoln!