Wednesday, July 2, 2014
The summer I was 18, I worked at an upper-crust barbershop in London called Trumpers. Aristocrats and members of the royal family came in for clips and shaves. My job was to greet them and make tea for both customers and staff. The gentleman who interviewed me asked if I knew how to make tea. "Of course," I replied. I was an American girl raised on Lipton’s. I thought it was a silly question, because the only thing required was to drop a bag in a mug of boiled water. For some reason, he believed me. Needless to say, I learned about my ignorance the first (nightmarish) day on the job. And I got quite the education in the following months.
Bob Holcepl, founder and proprietor of The Tea Lab, also knows a thing — or three — about tea leaves, water temperature and the science of proper steeping. He opened a downtown location in the 5th Street Arcades last September, just as trend forecasters at CBS News and the Food Channel were predicting a tea drinking craze for 2014. They were right. He was ahead of the curve, and there's now a second Tea Lab outpost on Detroit Road in Lakewood. He also sells brewed and loose leaf tea at City Roast, his coffee stand in the West Side Market.
I recently stopped in at the downtown shop, just slightly bigger than a kiosk but packed with a huge array of products. It looks like a hyper-modern apothecary with canisters lined up neatly on the shelves. The contents are a world tour of tea: African red rooibus, Chinese oolong, Moroccan mint and a blend called French Breakfast. There are black teas and green ones, herbals and fruit flavors. He's got all sorts of cool equipment and accessories, too. Staff know their stuff and questions are welcome.
I bought myself a cup of iced tea, sat at a table in the newly renovated and repopulated space and contemplated the tea-making tutorial I first got in Great Britain long ago and the many wonderful "cuppas" in my future.