Tea in Minneapolis: Part I focused on a great place to stop for tea in Uptown Minneapolis, but unfortunately The Tea Garden/Steepery Tea Bar does not have a location in downtown Minneapolis. Luckily for us, downtown is not bereft of tea, and if in need of a cuppa, you can make your way over to The Northern Lights Tea Company. You won’t find this small independent teashop by wandering the streets of downtown. In fact, you might have to intentionally seek it out at this time of year with the nice weather, because it is tucked away in the one of the enclosed pedestrian footbridges that makes up the downtown Minneapolis Skyway System.
Northern Lights has over 180 teas ranging across the types of black, green, oolong, white, pu-erh, as well as rooibos, mate and herbal infusions. They also carry two blooming teas, and some seasonal green teas. Currently these are Hashiri Sincha and Sakura Sencha, both listed as available only in spring. While they can make any of their teas up hot or iced, they have four different teas on tap every day: a pure black, a pure green, a category labelled as “other” that encompasses everything else, and one iced. I tend to enjoy places with “daily teas” because it is a good way to try teas that I might not otherwise pick out. But if this method doesn’t suit your tea drinking style, they have a detailed menu that lists all their teas from which you can select the tea of your choice. Northern Lights Tea Company has a welcome emphasis on sustainability, aiming to reduce their carbon footprint, and offering organic and Fair Trade teas. These teas are marked on the menu as such, and are impressive in number.
I found their selection quite comprehensive, and even came across a few teas I was unfamiliar with. However, I took issue with their categorisation. For example, they have “Flavoured Black Teas” but then also “Tea Blends” in which they include things like Earl Grey, which I would put in the former category. And if you are looking for Lapsang Souchong in “Black Teas” you will not find it; it is in a separate category of “Smoked Tea.” But these are small quibbles; different brains organise things in different ways, and I always look through the entire menu before deciding on what to order, so I would not have missed anything even if it was not where I would expect.
Tucked into the corner of the Skyway, the small size of Northern Lights does not facilitate the experience of sitting down to leisurely enjoy your tea. They do have a couple tables and chairs if you need a rest, but the shop is more of a niche in the busy, commercial Skyway than an enclosed space where you can contemplate life as you sip your tea. It is therefore more of a place to pick up tea to drink as you go, than a teahouse in which to while away the afternoon. That said, Northern Lights Tea Company provides an excellent alternative to the usual options for grab-and-go tea. Instead of fretting about the lesser quality of bagged tea you’ll get if you stop at a coffee shop, or café, you know you’ll get an excellent cup of tea here, whether you decide to stay to drink it or not.
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