Today I made a special two hour trip to Middlebury to visit the Stone Leaf Teahouse. For those unfamiliar with Middlebury, I recommend a GPS; for me, the area was confusing to navigate by car. The Stone Leaf Teahouse is located in a small business plaza that has its own parking. One can enter the teahouse through a side entrance, located in a covered walkway between the teahouse and another business, or through a back entrance.
Upon entering through the side entrance, you will come to the service counter and teaware display area. This teaware is all for sale and they have the largest selection I have seen yet in Vermont. (The exception being the Teavana store in Burlington but with $65+ markups on their cast iron teapots I hardly think they’re worth mentioning.) The Stone Leaf Teahouse sells cast iron, steel, glass, ceramic, and Yixing clay teapots. They also sell other tea accessories like chanoyu/gongfu ceremony equipment and, of course, teacups.
To be served you can seat yourself and a menu will be brought to you. On the lower level is traditional western-style seating, but if you ascend to the loft (taking off your shoes before you do) you’ll find three low tables with very short zabuton sized stools with cushioning; they’re attractive but not quiet as comfortable as one might hope. Each table also has a rug underneath providing added comfort if you like to stretch your legs out. There is no back support unless you take the table closest to the stairs behind the screen, there one person can lean against an outside corner and its wall.
The Stone Leaf Teahouse provides patrons with books to read from a small bookcase found at the base of the stairs. There is also free internet if you prefer. I entertained myself with my own book: The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am by Kjersti A. Skomsvold. It was perfectly suited to the occasion. The music played was, as with most teahouses, eclectic but generally soothing; I overheard one patron ask and the owner indicate that Zoe Keating was being played. If one needs the restroom, they will have to exit the teahouse through the side entrance and cross the covered walkway to a single-occupancy restroom.
There is a moderately large selection of teas, maybe 70 by my guess. Be forewarned however, there is no high tea here. All you will find to eat is snacks—delicious snacks but snacks nonetheless. I ordered a pot of Hojicha. It was a very interesting and exciting green tea that comes to a honeyed and reddish brown color when brewed. This is because the tea is fired at a very high temperature during processing. Its smell was delicately strong and its taste similar. The Stone Leaf Teahouse’s Hojicha has a very light and airy flavor with an echo of earth that hangs like the final hum of the E string on a guitar. Overall I would describe it as a mellow tea well suited to the evening palate.
My Hojicha was expertly but comfortably served by the owner. I was provided with a Japaense yokode kyuusu for brewing my tea, a pitcher for serving my tea, a teapot with water and tea warmer to have hot water on hand for additional infusions, and of course my teacup and saucer. My tea was served on a lovely little tray that the teahouse actually sells for a reasonable $16. In addition to my tea I ordered some mochi and almonds to keep my stomach from complaining too much. The almonds didn’t compliment the Hojicha per say, but I found the mochi suited very well and the almonds added the bulk I needed to prevent hunger.
At the Stone Leaf Teahouse you’ll find an atmosphere of calm and serenity highlighted by their natural dim lighting. It’s possible you’ll hear some chatty fellow patrons but if you’re there for a long sit they will come and go and you’ll find yourself centering easily again on the quiet peace of the space. There is never a rush to leave and when you do you’ll quickly be eager to return. I know I hope to make monthly trips in the future.