Tea: Not Just For Girls
As children, we were indoctrinated with the idea that tea was a part of a tea party, an activity that girls took part in during childhood with friends, family, and stuffed animals. For many, tea was something given to us by our mothers when we were sick, or a drink consumed by our grandmothers during red hat lady get-togethers.
The reality in the tea industry today is quite opposite. While many tea cultures exist and the idea of having a “tea party” is very much alive today, many other rituals surrounding tea consumption are growing in popularity and are driving the growth of the tea industry. While there are many places in Chicago today where you can enjoy this spectacle of an afternoon tea with a spot of milk, some sugar, and light fare, the rich culture of tea is rooted elsewhere and several men in Chicago are helping to bring tea back to it’s roots.
What are these roots you ask? Tea has been consumed for thousands of years, true tea comes from the camellia sinensis plant, a plant native to China and transplanted elsewhere around the world. Tea originated in China and thus the Chinese were the harbingers of modern tea culture.
When prepared correctly, Chinese loose-leaf tea needs neither milk or sugar, it is best consumed alone and without complicated tea-ware. The Chinese invented the gaiwan a simple cup with a lid, the lid is tilted slightly to allow the tea to escape when it’s ready leaving the leaves behind. This method of tea steeping has been around for hundreds of years and tea aficionados regard it as the best way to prepare a tea infusion. You may not know it but Chicago is experiencing a male-led tea renaissance, this is not your grandmother’s tea, this is pure loose-leaf tea from the country that started the whole tea thing.
Meet the guys:
Chris Bourgea, Adagio Teas | http://www.adagio.com/stores/
Adagio just opened their third retail location in the Chicago area on State Street, Chris Bourgea has been working to meld Adagio’s online shopping experience into their new retail side of the business.
Dan Robertson: The Tea House | http://www.theteahouse.com
Dan has a storefront in Naperville and has also been running trips to tea plantations all over Asia for years.
Tony Gebely: Chicago Tea Garden | http://www.chicagoteagarden.com/
Tony has been selling tea online at Chicago Tea Garden and holding monthly tastings at his warehouse in West Town, his tea can also be found in several Chicago retail outlets. He has also been working on a book about tea.
Rod Markus: Rare Tea Cellar | http://rareteacellar.com/
Rod Markus has been selling his Rare Tea Cellar tea to Chicago’s top restaurants for several years now, chances are, if you’ve tried pu-erh at a restaurant in Chicago, it passed through his hands.
Bill Todd: Todd & Holland | http://www.todd-holland.com/
Bill Todd of Todd and Holland started his company in 1994 and has been selling at his retail location in Oak Park since, he buys direct from origin and has a great array of tea and teaware in his shop.
Shane Talbott: Talbott Teas | http://www.talbottteas.com/
Shane started Talbott teas and has been selling in the Oprah store and was recently featured on QVC, his tea was also featured as one of Oprah’s favorite things in 2011.
My customers are about 60% male, and men make up the majority of attendance at my tea tastings. Why guys? I think guys are fascinated by the history and culture of tea, and view tea as a hobby — seeking out the best of the best, matching tea with tea ware, using ancient steeping methods. It’s fun, it tastes great, and us guys love hobbies.
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