Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Verdant Moment

There's that certain time in early spring when suddenly everything is covered with a layer of bright green. The trees are no longer bare and grey. Instead of sharp edges there are softened curves. Life is springing up every which way you look. The landscape is verdant.

\ˈvər-dənt\ - something that is lush and green

And so it is that I find Minneapolis, despite it being October and my need for a coat. Verdant in the sense that I always find this community lush and green in growing creativity and opportunity.

Verdant Tea Minneapolis Tasting Room's name says it all. They know Tea. They are a Tasting Room in Minneapolis. And they are Verdant in their community.

Lily and David wanted to share the stories of tea. Not just any tea. The tea of some of their friends who skillfully and lovingly run tea plantations in China. What started out as an online business blossomed rather suddenly when they returned from a trip to China in May and decided to open a Tea Room. In July.

And they did.

Upon arriving, Lily greeted me and decided I needed to try their Kombucha on Tap. Kombucha, which is fermented tea, is new to me. And apparently it is often described as not tasting too great. However, this kombucha was something magical. The three they have on tap are each slightly fizzy, slightly sweet, and totally delicious. My favorite was Pink Robot. (The one on the far right - though in this photo, they all look the same!)

The space is large, open, and accommodates a wide variety of uses. There's the prep bar in the far back corner, there's an open studio area perfectly suitable for group discussions or yoga classes (which, yes, are available), there's a section of small, comfortable, booths for café style tea service, and then there is what I consider their piece de resistance - the grand tasting table that rests in the middle of the space.

Built of heavy wood with graceful vines hanging above, you almost feel like you're in a woodland oasis while seated there. And that's where we sat and chatted.

About the He family, about Mrs. Li, and the other tea farmers they work closely with. David brought over the He family's Lao Shan tea, both black and green. I've never had the experience of tasting tea from one garden that is processed two different ways. There are as many subtle similarities as there are differences. And I got to learn fascinating tea facts like the reason Chinese green teas can have that nutty taste is due to the soy plants that are often grown next to the tea plants. The bugs like the soy plants more, so they eat that instead of the tea leaves. Voila! Organic farming at its best! And because tea plants absorb the flavors and scents that surround them, it absorbs the soy, nutty flavors.

I love this kind of stuff.

Then they both insisted I try Mrs. Li's Dragonwell. And with good reason. It is hands down the smoothest, most perfect Dragonwell I've ever experienced. Her joie de vivre that shines brightly from her portrait on the wall is captured perfectly in her tea. If you love green tea, you must try this.

As Lily told me the stories of the tea families, it became more and more evident that this is more than a business. It is a community. Underscored by the fact that their space is also home base for a variety of start-ups in need of commercial kitchen space. For Lily and David, it's a no-brainer. They have a huge commercial kitchen. They have creative and entrepreneurial friends who need to prepare food. And a community is born!

There is Sweet Science Ice Cream who uses space and also entreats the Tea Room staff to be guinea pigs when it comes to new ice cream flavors (tough sell, I'm sure!).

There's Nate Uri - inventor of Pink Robot Kombucha and other fine flavors, and also the YouTube sensation Hot Date with Nate

Real Deal Chocolate - and the name says it all!

And The Birchwood Café.

What I have found in Minneapolis, and what I find proven at the Verdant Tea Minneapolis Tasting Room, is that good ideas are celebrated here. People come together to cooperate and support those who have the willingness and bravery to put their dream on the line.

Verdant indeed.

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