Sometimes the unplanned trips turn out to be the best ones. My Navigation tool on my smartphone told me that RadioShack was less than .5 miles away. However, I pulled over and parked because David’s Tea logo in Tiffany robin’s egg blue and white drew me to inquire about this hot spot. Why did it look futuristic white-out bright like Stanley Kubrick’s infamous Milk Bar in A Clockwork Orange?
The interior is modern without being cold. The warm hue of a yellow-pine hardwood floor make the stainless steel canister lining the tea barkeep’s wall from appearing severe. Woodwork signs painted in Baby Courture Store colors (i.e. teal, fire wagon red, and fingerpaint green) represent tea types sold.
|Photo Credit: Renee Marchol David’s Tea Forever Nuts|
The clerk in dark-framed glasses and a gray-plaid newsboy cap starts a conversation with me. I walk in at an odd-hour before 5 P.M. The store seems to have an anti-oak barrel retail coffee spot vibe. No wooden crates will straw or raffia here. There’s simplicity and mystery in these screw-top tea tins big and small.
Eight loose-leaf tea canisters the size of lip balm pots are open. Smokey, spicy chocolate I detect. This tea bar is unlike a faux rustic Peets, Starbucks or Coffee Republic. In fact, it can’t be described as cozy. It feels like a climate controlled lounge on a spaceship. Unlike a spaceship, the floor-to-ceiling windows allow natural sunlight to flood the interior from three sides.
|Photo Credit: Renee Marchol David’s Tea Organic Lapsang Black Tea|
I approach the white-on-white chair-less bar. The head clerk listens to me rather than pummel my ears with pitches about their flavors of the season. Unlike a barista, she is a pro-listener. She excudes confidence if the shops without saying much. I initiate the conversation, “Why does the chocolate smell smokey?”
When I stumble over the pronunciation of Rooibos, she doesn’t correct me or acknowledge my error. She seems to read my mind but actually she observes my nonverbal cues that show curiousity. It’s true my body language including my raised brows might have communicated, “What is that? Why is this labeled so?”
|Photo Credit: Renee Marchol David’s Tea Movie Night Loose Leaf|
|Photo Credit: Renee Marchol David’s Tea Gold Black Tea|
She gives me the tour. She never says an ill-word about competitors. Instead she says, “Would you like to smell Movie Night? Take a look at Birthday Cake? Can you tell there is dried chili in this Mango Tea?” I linger so long, sniffing and taking shots of just steeped Strawberry Rhubarb and a nutty tea with vanilla yogurt chips.
The nutty tea is in a separate heat-proof glass. I recall the warmth of a glass of Hot Irish Coffee. The tea glasses are clear like cylinders about 2″ tall. I close my eyes to taste each one. I share that I tend to choose hazelnut coffee at the cafes and nutty tea in the grocery aisle. I confess that I want to branch out. The strawberry-rhubarb is tart but not sharp like a blackberry tea or apple cider. When I close my eyes I can imagine fresh rhubarb like pink stalks of celery.
During this whole experience, I am never rushed or pushed in any way. In fact, it is a full 20 minutes after I savor my Black and Gold $3 hot tea that I offer to pay. Though there are white chairs in the front window, I choose to stay near the head clerk and her helper. Excuse the play on words but I really drink everything in. Knowledge. Delicious.
When I mention that SmartyFellas are also readers of this blog, she opens the most popular loose leaf selected by young men. I am taken aback. The opened canister throws leather, tobacco and hickory fragrances. It’s so strong but not unappealing. I take another sniff. The head clerk tells me that many young men who frequent the upscale cigar store down the street also ask for this tea blend. I can imagine why. Since most SmartyFellas are Gen Y-ers few of them smoke. However, the David’s Tea junior clerk points out how many foodies use this tea to give fish and other savory meat dishes as liquid smoke flavor. Brilliant!
Because of the odd-hour I am spared from the packed house of Saturday and Sunday afternoons. I can envision this. I ask the junior clerk about how first time visitors handle the wait in line. “Do they become impatient or do they understand the steeping process?”
She answers that some get antsy but when they experience the steeping of their individual order they want to come back and decide the tea is worth the wait.
I agree. It’s the visual experience. The delight comes from closing my eyes also and feeling the flavor and temperature. The thrill is noticeable. The head clerk explains that she does not say “No” to customers who want to break the rules. For example, the tea bartenders will prepare any tea iced or hot based on the customers preference. If the customer wants to be a rebel and steep the tea for longer than recommended, no micromanaging.
Experiment is encouraged. The head clerk shares tins of chai for me to view and answers every question I care to ask. I exit twice to feed the short-term (stupid 24 minute meter) directly outside the shop.
Finally, we get to the question that will lead me to purchase my hostess gift to bring to a friend’s home the following evening. “What else can you do with tea?” I ask.
“Customers have steeped chai tea and used it as a natural flavoring for cupcake frosting.” says the David’s Tea head clerk.
She walks over to a display shelf lit by recessed lights. She slides open the plain beige boxes with uniform labels. This unveals recipe cards and vacuum sealed loose leaf tea for cocktails. Yes, cocktails. Jasmine Mojito.
“Amazing!” I say.
|Photo Credit: Renee Marchol David’s Tea The Foodie Collection|
When she opens the Foodie collection, I reach out my hand to claim it. Recipes for tea to flavor salmon. Tea to flavor banana breads. My Associate Editor of SmartyGirl is visiting for a few days so I know this is the gift for her! She is the kale-chip maker, green smoothie blender, steel cut oatmeal in a Mason Jar type of Foodie Hero for this!
When I remark that it seems that natural foods, anti-artificial flavor consumers would take to this the head clerk remains neutral. She explains that David’s Tea is a lively bar that has hopping nightlife and packed weekend afternoons because it’s not narrow but has wide appeal. She points out the organic tea and then the blends and then the wilder artificially flavored ones. Birthday Cake for example has the usual artificial colors and flavors that are innate to sprinkles. “Something for everyone” she says.
I exit with my David’s Black and Gold Tea in a paper cup and my collection for the intrepid tea foodie in a David’s Tea robin’s egg blue and white bag. For some reason the design for the lettering is so attractive that I try to brainstorm ways to reuse the container.
It’s sitting next to my indoor succulent and mini cacti garden as I write this. I wonder if other fans of contemporary decor and art are as drawn to David’s Tea as I am.
Disclaimer: I am an intern for Leafgram.com online gourmet tea. I have not been paid in anyway to endorse David’s Tea. I chose to write about this from sheer enjoyment during my off-hours.