A Quick Guide to Fabulous Tea

I’m not going to pretend I don’t like food. I’m a pretty small person – height-wise AND around – and people think I diet to stay my size. I don’t. I have a terrible, terrible habit of eating everything in sight, especially when I’m sitting down to write, which is really inconvenient because I’m a college student living with my parents and they don’t like the huge grocery bills my eating habits produce.

Thankfully, I’ve found an alternative to food-chomping that’s a much quieter, less messy, more healthy alternative: drinking tea. I’m turning into a bit of a tea snob, actually, to the point where I rarely accept tea from a bag and refuse Teavana except on rare occasions.

If you’re looking for something to fill your stomach that’s not incredibly messy (like Cheetos or queso dip) or if you’re trying to get off the coffee habit, you may want to consider switching to tea. Here are a few tips from someone who’s been on the bandwagon for almost two years:

  • For best results, use loose-leaf tea.  This is probably just my tea snobbery, but I never really liked tea until I tried loose-leaf tea.  I’m absolutely convinced it’s because I could taste the paper from a tea bag.  You can do a quick Google search for “tea shops” in your area to locate the nearest one.  In Toledo, where I live, you can check out Elaine’s Tea Shoppe on Monroe Street for basically all your tea-related needs.
  • Make sure you brew it for precisely the right amount of time.  For green loose-leaf tea, brew for three minutes if you like it a bit stronger.  For black loose-leaf tea, brew for #### minutes to get it nice and strong.  For less of a kick in your tea, or to enjoy a more mellow taste, let steep a minute or two less.
  • Buy in small amounts unless you drink like a fiend.  If you do drink like a fiend, you probably know how much you need, but if you’re starting out, make sure you just buy an ounce or two when you buy a specific type of tea for the first time.  You’d be surprised how long two ounces lasts.
  • Use an appropriate sweetener for the type of tea you’re drinking.  There are plenty to choose from: honey, sugar, German rock sugar, and artificial sweeteners, to start with.  But not all sweeteners fit all types of tea.  I prefer honey for green teas, but I can’t stand honey in chai or black tea – for those, I stick with white sugar or German rock sugar, which is brown.  You’ll develop your own taste for sweeteners over time – or maybe decide you don’t want any sweeteners at all.
  • Figure out how to use creamers.  I personally like whole milk as a creamer, but I have friends who prefer heavier cream or skim milk.  Very few green teas taste good with creamer, except for chai, but I only like black tea with creamer!  This is another example of you figuring out what you do and don’t like, but take my advice: most green teas taste awkward with cream.

Now, none of these rules are set in stone, and rules are frequently meant to be broken – but keep these in mind if you haven’t really enjoyed tea before or if you’d like to take up loose-leaf tea drinking.

Did this blog help you decide you’d like to start drinking tea?  Do you already drink tea and agree/disagree with me?  Let me know in the comments below!

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Indie Toledo: Elaine’s Tea Shoppe

Part of a series about independent restaurants and retailers in the Toledo area.

Toledo isn’t exactly the place you’d expect to find tea and scones, but you can in fact find a place that serves tea and scones on Monroe Street in West Toledo.

Elaine’s Tea Shoppe, which has been in the area for about 10 years at various locations, sells loose-leaf tea, tea accessories, and other paraphernalia as well as offering a tea service at all times of the day.

Elaine’s is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Food & Beverage

Elaine’s offers a tea service to customers who stay in the shop which has a variety of offerings.  The main menu is a list of the varieties of tea available at the tea service.  I vastly prefer the green teas, but that’s more of a personal preference.

The shop has multiple varieties available, primarily black teas, oolong teas, green teas, and white teas.  Each type costs $3.50, which includes multiple re-steeps.

There are other things on the menu, as well, including Elaine’s recipe for scones with jam and cream.

Products

The greatest variety at Elaine’s includes the various tea-related accessories and other items that a casual browser might enjoy.

First off, there are a variety of teapots, tea strainers and infusers, and other items to help a tea enthusiast to brew tea.  Currently, since it’s summer, the shop is carrying iced tea makers as well as regular pots to make hot tea in.

Apart from single pots, the shop also carries sets – for my birthday, my friends bought me a set with a teapot and a cup, while other sets come with a pot and two cups.

Elaine’s also carries food products, particularly loose-leaf tea (nothing comes in bagged form) and flavored varieties of honey, which – incidentally – are created locally in Waterville, Ohio.  The honey comes in several varieties, such as Lemon, Cinnamon, or Lavender.  There are also other sweeteners available, such as the popular tea sweetener German rock salt.

In terms of tea, Elaine’s carries black teas, oolong teas, white teas, green teas, herbal tisanes, and blooming teas.  All of these line one long wall on the right side of the shop.  They come in small or large bags – you can purchase packs of 4 as well – and you can always buy a 2-oz or 3-oz tin and buy loose-leaf tea to be put in the tin if you don’t like to use up a lot of packaging.

Critic’s Conclusion

If you’re interested in learning more about tea – and maybe discovering a new brew – then Elaine’s is the place for you.  Elaine is one of a handful of Tea Masters in the country, and she can answer practically any question on the topic.

My best recommendation is to visit with the intent of having tea in the shop.  The service is very nice, there is a wide variety of teas to try for $3.50, and you can try something new each time.  My favorite thing to do?  Have tea with a friend.

*Please note that Elaine’s Tea Shoppe requests that you pay by check or in cash if possible.