Monday, March 14, 2011

A Wintry Tea Moment

Minnesota winters can be the stuff of some peoples' nightmares. Blizzards, snow drifts as tall as houses, temperatures of -20 degrees F.  This winter has been particularly harsh there. One gentleman told me that in his 26 years of living in the Twin Cities, he can only recall one winter this cruel.  I was fortunate enough to visit the area when it was a balmy 34 degrees F. Just the right side of freezing. But outdoor temperatures aside, the thing that really warmed my heart was a trip to Teasource and a visit with one of my tea mentors, Bill Waddington.

When walking into the St. Anthony location, the first sight that greets you:
Isn't it lovely?  At 10:30 on a Tuesday morning, the place was already lively with nearly every table full. Tuesdays have become quite popular, as this is Sample Day where patrons can try 5 teas for a jaw-droppingly low price. There is a new theme each week, and in one month of Tuesdays a patron can experience 20 different varieties of tea!

Ah, Bill! Always such a pleasure to see you! He ushered me back into the inner sanctum, his office lined with bookshelves and world maps - of tea origins, of course.  We chatted about his latest travels, courses he has been teaching, and the article he wrote for an upcoming issue of Fresh Cup. And of course, what's in his own cup. As before, I was not disappointed. This visit, he introduced me to Dark Green Needle. From the Hunan Province of China, this is a must-tea. What I like about Chinese green teas is that they are not as grassy as the Japanese greens. They are earthier, and in this case, nuttier.

Now, in addition to being a bit of a tea nerd, I am also a operations nerd. In fact, my undergrad degree is in Production/Operations Management. I studied the concepts behind organizing warehouses, streamlining production processes, and all things kanban. And so, it was my greatest delight to be taken on a tour of Bill's tea warehouse! Row after row of perfectly organized, perfectly shelved teas. Over 250 different teas in all! As he walked me through the basic system design, my face literally began to ache because I was smiling so broadly.

"I have just achieved Nirvana," I told him. He just smiled. And nodded.

In addition to the glorious warehouse (and I just saw the store's warehouse. Apparently there is a much larger facility. Next time.  Next time...), I got to see tea blending in process. While a good deal of the tea is blended according to Teasource specs overseas, a lot is also blended in house.

The cold, wintry Minnesota wind blew outside, snow lay in drifts outside the front door, but I could not have been warmer or more comfortable. To see a person in his or her element, pursuing a true passion, is inspiring. Bill and his team's enthusiasm for tea is contagious. They are just as excited about a moderately priced, really good tea that is afforable as they are about a rare and spendy one.

And so, as I wrapped up another lovely visit to Teasource, I got to savor a few more moments and make some tea decisions of my own. A shopping bag full of teas, a tea cupping set, and some Ceylon Vithanankanda, FOP for my patient cab driver, and I was one content girl.

Thank you, Bill, and everyone at Teasource. It's always a treat to see you!

St. Anthony Store2908 Pentagon Dr. NE
St. Anthony Shopping Center
St. Anthony, MN 55418
(612) 788-4842
Store Hours:
M-Sat: 8:00-8:00
Sun: 10:00-5:00