My hometown never belonged to the group of great metropolies. It’s not big, rather medium-sized with many places of green – like parks, tree alleys and a forest at the east end of city limits. We don’t have much interesting places to go here. No cinema, no shopping galleries or fancy perfume boutiques. But what we have here are cafes. They’re placed all around the town square and when May begins those cafes go outside and organize open air gardens with decadent tables, chairs and umbrellas. Tea is an important part of my lifestyle and it was first before perfume came into my life. One day I made a discovery that taught me a good lesson.
It happened in September, few weeks before my friend’s birthday. I was walking around an Old Town trying to figure out what can I buy. Many thoughts were rushing through my mind and then I passed next to that place. A small shop with on old lamp that gave a warm, orange light. The place was closed for many years and now that it was open I was curious what kind of shop I’ll find inside. So I walked in and got greeted by a lovely lady who said “welcome to my shop, a place where dreams come true if you let them guide you.” That’s a mystery.
Discovered place happened to be a tiny tea shop. Inside there were shelves, high to the ceiling, all covered with jars filled with different tea compositions. Lady told me a story of creating the place and about her passion for tea. On the table there stood an old style weight and a samovar. A big part of interior design was taken by a brown leather couch and a coffee table. You could try the tea before you made a decision of a purchase. I became a regular visitor and befriended the owner lady. Two months later I came with a visit but the shop was no longer there. It disappeared for half a year. It returned in a new, bigger place and a whole new concept.
Finding a new location was a relief for me when I saw a face of the lady again. New place got a name of Atelier de thé and offered completely new experience to it’s customers. Instead of ready to brew tea compositions (which still are being sold) you were asked to create your own blend. The same old jars were placed on different shelves and put into groups. Jars from the shelf on the left contained tea leaves, more than 20 different kinds; green, black, red, white, rooibos and many more. Jars from all other shelves were hiding treasures – tea ingredients. Dry petals of roses, violets, osmanthus, jasmine. Rinds of grapefruit, lemon, lime and orange. Particles of lyophilized strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries. Spices like cinnamon, star anise, red pepper, cardamom, coriander were also available. Not to mention confectionery chocolate, candied sugar, caramel pieces. It was like heaven. The number of available ingredients for flavouring a tea was overwhelming.
Paying a symbolic amount of money I could create 3 blends, brew them immediately in a cup to decide if I’m satisfied. If I was happy with my creation I could purchase a 50 gram bag of my tea blend. At my first attempt it took me 3 hours before I went out with my first tea composition. It was a valuable experience. Not only it taught me a lot of combinig tastes but also an experience to my nose. It was impossible not to smell the content of every jar. Smell of rose petals or cinnamon was intoxicating. Now there’s a thing to regret… The owner, mrs. Kate decided with her husband and daughter to emigrate to Netherlands. New owner of Atelier de thé made one step backwards. Tea shop no longer offers a custom created tea blends, the offer is filled with wide variety of ready compositons only. Luckily she agrees to order artisan ingredients for me and other regular visitors.
Would you like to try and create your own tea composition? If yes, what would you like to put into your dream tea? Or maybe you already have your all time favourite. Share with us and we’ll have some tea chit-chat here.