Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Seeking SXSW asylum at Austin's Tea Embassy

Back from last week's SXSW music mayhem in Austin, Texas (read my findings here). The best part about the whole trip was the weather, cloudy and in the 70s most of the time, my favorite. They're talking snow flurries here in Chicago tonight. Eliot had it wrong: March is the cruelest month.

Visited a capital tea shop in Austin: the Tea Embassy. In a small, historic home on the northwest edge of downtown, the Tea Embassy enjoys a naturally cozy configuration. One front room is a shop with tea and teaware; another front room is a simply but smartly furnished sitting room; beyond that is a room with cafe tables; next to that is the tasting counter and the wall of tea tins. I couldn't help but linger, not only because I was weary from hiking between SXSW shows but because one of the "tea mabassadors," Tim, was nice enough to chat about tea while I revived myself with a sample of a simple but sturdy Bi Luo Chun.

The Tea Embassy is the first place I've found teas from Georgia (country, not state). They've got three: Georgian Caravan (too Lapsang-smoky for me), Georgian Beauty and Georgian Village ("from Nagobilevi, a Georgian village set up in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains near the Black Sea"). I bought some of the latter; it's the first tea of 2011 that's challenged my taste buds, offering the expected solidity of an artisan black tea but with some surprises my brain is still computing (citrus? no, banana? maybe graham cracker? definitely honey).

They also boast an unusually large Rooibos menu, for those who dig the other bush.

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