Guide: Local tea blends to try

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Sweet Simpliciteas

Aisha Echol's first teas were designed to produce calm and quiet-for herself. She blended her first chamomile tea when her infant daughter was teething. The blend has become Berry Calm, made with dried cranberries and hibiscus. Today, Echols blends 30 different dessert teas and sells them online and at area retailers like Celebrate Local at Easton. One of her most popular selections is the Lady Marmalade, an earl gray blended with vanilla, bergamot and citrus. She also experiments with chai, making chocolate chip and pumpkin pie flavors.

Stauf's Coffee Roasters

Shawn Schulte is a vocal advocate for tea in Columbus. He maintains the Facebook page Tea Around Town, dedicated to Columbus tea. "On my desk I have an oolong from Sumatra, a black tea from Guatemala, a black tea from Japan, white needle teas, a Korean green tea," Schulte says. Since the 1990s, he's been with Stauf's where a passing interest and an acute sense of smell made him the go-to for tea. "My thing is transparency," he says. "We educate our customers. We want to know where [tea] comes from. We want to create a connection." Schulte maintains a collection of about 90 teas, with a focus on single origins. One of his recent scores? Teas from Sakuma Brothers, a fourth-generation Japanese family growing teas in Skagit Valley, Washington. "It's the only tea technically grown below sea level," he says.

Koko Tea Salon & Bakery

When customers come into Ava Misseldine's Gahanna tea salon, she gives them context. "I like to tell people a little about tea. Empires have been built and lost on tea," she says. Having grown up in Hawaii, Misseldine is fluent in tea and tea culture: "We put it in everything-in our cooking, in our baking." Hawaiian tea culture is influenced by cultures in Asia, where teas aren't sweetened as much as in the U.S., but Misseldine has nonetheless crafted her own sweet blends of tea. Her French Lemon Cream builds on a base of red tea with lemon and vanilla. Her Carrot Cake tea includes carrots, clove, cinnamon, vanilla, black tea and calendula-petals from the marigold plant that lend creaminess to the tea. "Tea is about friendship and sharing," she says.

TehKu TeaAt her Dublin tea room, Inggrie Merriman bases everything on tea. She serves it hot or cold, she creates her own blends and she incorporates it into sandwiches, salads and soups. "Even the chicken noodle soup," she says with a laugh. Her popular scones (she bakes about 30,000 a year) incorporate green, earl gray, lavender and chai apple teas. TehKu is known for matcha tea, a Japanese style of green tea ground into a powder. Merriman purchased the equipment to grind the tea herself and often mixes it with sweet flavors like mango, vanilla and blueberry. Her tea blends are brewed at local restaurants like Rigsby's, Tasi Cafe, Katalina's, J. Liu and Village Crepe. Merriman also serves a traditional afternoon tea and hosts a tea tasting the first Saturday of every month.