Everyone enjoys a warm cup of tea, just do not raise your pinky or clank your teaspoon on the sides of the teacup. Tea has been an important part of history for many countries. These countries have developed different ways of producing countless teas and practicing different tea ceremonies to mark special celebrations. Tea can seem very pretentious with these ceremonies and types of tea production, but one tea shop in Dallas has no problem spilling the tea on tea.
The Cultured Cup is a small, appointment-only tea shop that specializes in tea. They are also one of the few tea shops that offer tea tastings on Saturdays from noon to five. They offer over 150 types of tea, as well as some coffees. Kyle Stewart, the owner, is a certified tea specialist and a Specialty Tea Member mentor and board member. He has also given a TED x SMU TEDTalk on the aesthetic philosophies of the Japanese tea bowl.
As you can tell, he really loves tea. He partnered up with Bill Krampetz, a huge coffee lover, to open The Cultured Cup. Together, they have amassed a following of tea and coffee lovers including members like Laura Bush. One of The Cultured Cup’s associates, David Parrish, works part-time at The Cultured Cup but loves tea nonetheless. He was able to take time to explain tea and share some of his favorite flavors.
Tea is anything that comes from an infusion of the camellia sinensis plant. Teas also comes in many shapes and sizes to make them taste certain ways. “Tea is processed differently for different flavor profiles,” says Parrish. For example, white teas and green teas are completely unprocessed and are not as exposed to oxygen, or oxidized, like black teas and oolong teas. Black teas and oolong, a traditional Chinese tea, are shaped and are oxidized to deepen its flavor. Dark teas, like kombucha, are fermented to enrich their flavor.
Parrish say, “It is important to keep in mind how oxidized the teas are, or how much oxygen the tea has been exposed to, when brewing.” Teas that have been more oxidized require hotter water to release the flavor from the tea leaves, while less oxidized tea requires cooler water. “If you use water that is too hot, then the leaves will burn and cause more caffeine to be released, making the tea bitter. But if you use cooler water, less caffeine will be extracted, and the tea will be sweeter. Then again, the proper way to prepare tea is to your own liking, says Parrish.”
This February, the teas Parrish recommends are filled to the brim with history. The Big Red Robe tea, also known as the Da Hong Pao tea, is a dark tea that has been venerated in China after providing tea that healed a Ming Dynasty emperor’s mother. To thank the tea plant, the emperor sent red robes to cover the bushes.
Another tea, called the Emperor’s Tribute, is an oolong that was named after a Chinese emperor’s favorite consort, Gui Fei, was executed because her family was involved in a rebellion against the emperor. He resurrected shrines in her honor and later named this tea to remember her. David also recommends a tea called Love Potion, a partially-fermented black tea with chocolate and caramel notes, as well as a floral and rosy tea called St. Valentine.
Tea has been making its way across deserts and trade routes and into our tea cups since the third century. Thanks to tea shops like The Cultured Cup, that tea will still be filling our cups so we can keep on spilling it.