Chicago has an Adagio tea shops. The shop is set up with a display at the front and a long wall of teas. There is a shelf that lines the wall with glass jars filled with loose leaf teas for you to try and smell. Below are the bags filled with loose leaf tea or tea bags. They sell tins, tea pots, cups, and all sorts of tea accessories as well as blooms, sugars, and honey. The sugar comes in an interesting small rock form in either a clear-ish white color that sweetens but doesn’t really add flavor while the brown has a brown sugar taste. The honey is made specially for tea so that it won’t clump at the bottom of the tea but instead will infuse the tea or spread equally throughout. The shop usually has about 4 different teas set up for self serving samples at a time.
One of the awesome things about the shop is that if you want to try something they’ll make you a cup of it. you can even buy a cup of tea to go. But no matter how much I love Adagio (which is a lot) I think my favorite thing is the fact they will work with you to create a blend. They will let you pick out whatever teas you want and will work on the science experiment with you.
Why did I make a blend? One of my friends is leaving for a semester and she always works so hard taking care of the people around her (and me) and she told me she’s packing all of her tea to take with her and I decided surely there’s enough space for another packet of tea in her suitcase. So I enlisted another friend to help me taste test. We picked out a couple of teas, which they have behind the island that they work at. While it brewed we explored the shop. The worker was extremely helpful and didn’t mind brewing cup after cup. The first cup was horridly bitter that we instantly set it aside and went to work figuring out something else. The man who worked there would put a teaspoon of one thing in a taster cup (they use porcelain so that it keeps the flavor from being ruined by plastic or metal) then a teaspoon or half a teaspoon of the others in the cup, changing things so that it would change subtly and the flavors of one kind of tea would get to flourish while in a previous try it had been overshadowed. Eventually we got into an aesthetic idea and began adding things like marigold which doesn’t really add flavor but adds color. About 8 cups of tea and an hour later we had figured out the correct measurements and the tea looked like a garden in a cup, smelled wonderful and tasted delicious. After the final choice he went to work with a large bowl mixing the ingredients so that the blends of different teas were well mixed, opening up bags and tins filled with tea and mixing and tossing the tea.
It was a fun thing to do, took awhile and we learned as other workers showed up that there apparently were other ways of creating custom blends that may have taken up less time, but it was fun to just experiment with teas.