“Shopping” in Your Own Tea Cabinet

We moved from the NYC area to semi-rural South Carolina a little over seven years ago. Up north, we were living in a post-war garden apartment complex; the apartments, although well-constructed with thick brick walls that provided good insulation and kept most of the tenants’ business private, were not exactly spacious.

The results of my "shopping"! (Image is from the article author)
The results of my “shopping”! (Image is from the article author)

To store my teas away from the aromas, heat, and humidity of the kitchen, I stashed them in the dining area – some on bookshelves and the rest in a rolling cart that held our bread machine. The teas got shaken up a bit during the kneading cycle, but remained unaffected by environmental contaminants.

When we arrived in the Southlands, we stayed in an apartment while we shopped for a house. Knowing we’d be moving again shortly, we left most of the cartons packed. It was only after we moved into our house some eight months later that I could at last liberate the books, shoes, towels, and tea things that had remained in their cartons – either because we could manage without them temporarily, or because we simply couldn’t locate them!

I hadn’t realized that there were also several packages of tea mixed in with the non-edible items. It was a corporate move so the movers did most of the packing; their general carelessness is a whole ‘nother topic that I won’t go into here.

When I finally unpacked, I arranged my teas and tea things in our new tea room/library. Teas went into pretty grass baskets on the shelf, or into a wooden box designated as a tea chest. As more tea arrived, some of the older teas got “lost.” So I recently decided to do a little de-stashing, and was very pleased to find teas that I had completely forgotten about. Wow! It was like an in-home shopping spree!

First I gathered up most of the flavoured teas, which I rarely drink these days, and gave them to a friend who enjoys them. Then I took all the teas that were inadequately packaged – in paper or thin plastic – and used them for either tea-dyeing or garden mulch.

And then something wonderful happened. I started finding forgotten treasures from some of my favourite tea vendors: Several full-sized and samples, mostly India teas, from a vendor in Toronto. A couple from another vendor in the Midwest – one in their old packaging, another in their latest packaging, and neither listed in their current catalogue. A first-flush Darjeeling from a vendor in Quebec that specializes in “the Champagne of teas.” All high-quality teas from as far back as 2004, all from vendors I trust, and all carefully sealed into substantial packaging.

The most delightful find, however, was several untouched teas from Junglesque. This New Jersey-based company sent me numerous teas to sample and review during their all-too-brief existence in the late 1990s. (The owner was forced to close due to health issues.) I opened one sack; like the others, the fresh, high-quality leaves had been carefully packaged, and they still produced an excellent cup. Or perhaps they simply improved with age, as some teas do.

I’m hoping that all the teas from these top-quality vendors will be as richly fragrant and flavourful as the ones I recently steeped up, and can’t wait to sample them. If you haven’t “shopped” in your tea cabinet lately, why not give it a go and see what forgotten surprises you find?

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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