You know what is just awesome about traveling, getting to try local tea shops! Nestled in quaint New Cumberland, PA (near to Harrisburg for those who are not familiar with PA’s plethora of small towns) is a little slice of the UK. When I lived in the area I would visit for snacks and to occasionally pick up some tea, but mostly I was there for the nostalgia. My father’s family was from Northern England, and my mother’s family is very proud of their British heritage, so I was raised with proper British food, tea, and sensibilities.
The Tea Corner at Oxford Hall was the perfect destination for my mother and myself on the rainy day we decided to visit, sadly we goofed and visited close to closing and missed out on some of the yummy foods, but we were told that they never deny anyone tea. That is a mindset I share, and considering the quality of the weather that day, it was incredibly welcome. While we were waiting for tea (it took us a few to settle on which one we wanted) we perused the rather sizable selection of tea in large canisters. Usually it is a red flag when you go into a tea shop and see all the teas in clear glass, but since their tea shelves were in the corner away from light and in those fancy sealed canisters, I was not at all surprised when the teas looked and smelled super fresh.
We finally selected a tea (it was a sweet oolong with caramel, forgive me I have forgotten the name) we decided to select a few to take home for later sipping. I selected a beautiful Golden Monkey and a Green Chai (it has rose petals and almonds!) and my dear mum selected some Lapsang Souchong and Nutcracker Sweet. We took a whopping five minutes to select teas and the proprietor let us know that we should probably get to our tea which has been steeping the whole time. My insistence to pick an oolong paid off since those can take a long steeping pretty well, I know how we are when it comes to shopping.
The setup is lovely, it is not a lace-tablecloth, doilies everywhere, and a need for a full corset and bustle type of sit-down tea, this tea corner very much so captures the feel of walking into tea shop in England and sitting down for a cuppa. I love that, sadly I am not too huge into the full on Victorian Tea, I want the cozy feeling of having tea that my family instilled in me. The tea was wonderful, even with its long steep the taste was great, on a whim my mother and I added a little milk and sugar (love the little chilled milk pitcher) and it was like drinking an oolong themed Creme Brulee.
Yours truly is very excited to go back, I certainly want to try their food (they offer gluten free options, so yay for me!) and they have real Butterbeer! I am definitely thinking I am going to go for a Butterbeer on my birthday, or perhaps I will go for their Afternoon Tea. The price on their Afternoon Tea is very reasonable, you get a nice pile of food and tea, though since I am unable to eat scones I am not sure it is the best idea. I feel I would sit there and just sadly stare at the scones. If you are in the area (or passing through) I definitely suggest a visit, it is well worth it.
I dusted myself off and came out of my basement Tea Lair for a bit of an outing today, one bus trip downtown later to Crown Center and I was at my destination. Today is the Grand Opening of Shang Tea’s Brewing Station! This is also my first time visiting their new location, which, might I add, looks amazing.
For those not familiar with the shop, Shang Tea offers some truly wonderful teas, including the very unique Pao Blossom White and White Wu-Long. Shang grows his teas high in the beautiful Fujian Mountains, and after trying a few of them, it is certainly not hard to see why several of his teas are award winning.
While visiting the shop I was treated to sample tastings of the Pao Blossom White (always a favorite) and the Tangering Blossom Red. Of course all of the teas are presented in clear ‘sniffing’ canisters so you can enjoy the aroma of the leaves before purchasing sealed packages. While I was busily sniffing all the teas and selecting samples to buy, one of the very courteous members of staff pointed out the Shang Tea Sampler which Ben was sweet enough to buy for me. I certainly recommend getting it if you want to try an assortment of their teas. It doesn’t have all of them, but it is a great starter.
After ogling the teas and various tea brewing gear, it was time to visit their new Brewing Station and try their specialty, the Tang DynasTea! Back in the Tang Dynasty of China, tea drinking really hit its stride, it was during this time period that Lu Yu wrote The Classic of Tea, the Tea Horse Road was created, and when Japan was introduced to tea. It became more of an art form than just a medicinal drink, usually with things like onions, ginger, pepperming, cinnamon, oranges, and salt added to it (though women of the courts preferred their tea with fruit juices). Shang recreates the artistry of a time long passed with his Tang DynasTea, blending Brick Aged White Tea, Ginger, Cinnamon, Wild Honeysuckle and a touch of Himalayan Salt.
The aroma of this tea was incredibly balanced, blending the cinnamon and ginger warmth with gentle sweetness and a whisper of floral. It has a smell that I can best describe as welcoming. The taste is a great adventure, it starts out subtly sweet and spicy, the sweetness has a floral quality to it that blooms into a stronger, heady floral at the midtaste. Next is a gentle malt quality that still has an underlying sweetness, and for the finish, we get the salt. Usually with an odd taste like this I would preface ‘this might not be for everyone’ but the salt is mild and has the effect of making you salivate more leaving a sweet aftertaste. The salt really accentuates the other tastes, not something you would expect to work in a tea, but I can see why it was so popular back in 618-907AD. If you are in the Kansas City area I certainly recommend giving their brewing station a visit!