There are just a few places that I have returned to many times. Northampton, Massachusetts is one of them. For a few years now I have had the opportunity to visit once or twice a year. Whenever the opportunity presents itself I jump at the chance. Why? Well I enjoy the hospitality of the people, the energy of the town, the artisan arts and crafts, and the finds at the local antique and thrift shops. Over the years, I have made many acquaintances and while there, I visit the various shops to say hello, catching up on their health and welfare. Some of my visits:
Artisan Gallery, Brooks & Butterfield – The Day Spa, Don Muller Gallery, Faces, Glimpse Of Tibet, pinch, Silverscape Designs, Ten Thousand Villages, Jakes and of course Thornes Marketplace.
On these excursions I am focused, going to my usual haunts first then proceeding to the new establishments to scope their wares. One recurring theme in many shops is teapots and teaware. Artisan teaware can be found in most every shop from fashion to food.
Her work fits my whimsy. Although I did not make a purchase on this trip I am hoping to do so sometime in the future. What I did score, at pinch, at a half price discount, were what I fondly refer to as my leaning cups.
What I had never done on any of these trips is a tea search. Well this was the trip to search tea. A dear friend of mine Terry an accomplished musician and artisan had mentioned a tea establishment that had opened recently near where she lived. I made the quick connect call to see if she would be available to join me for tea. I was so excited that she and her hubby had the time to join me and mine for a relaxing cup.
Queen Of Cups, located in Greenfield Ma. was my first stop for a tea experience. A lovely tea cafe with a British Flair. The space is well laid out with a traditional flavor. The tea and food offerings are listed blackboard style. A quick conversation with a regular patron convinced me I should have the English Breakfast which she said was on the stronger side of EB with just a hint of bergamot. She also suggested the Maple Walnut Scone which is so popular I got the last one of the day.
Her recommendation was excellent. My hubby got his lemonade and was surprised they served his favorite brand along with Cream Corn Chowder. Our guests shared a pot of Lapsang Souchong. What a nice start to the day. The wait service was attentive even though there were many customers. The English Breakfast lovely, strong with citrus notes, very different than usual.
We ate reminisced and talked of future plans. It was wonderful catching up. I wish we lived closer so this would be a regular event.
The afternoon was spent visiting the shops and checking the wares.
The last stop on my list was a place I should have found years ago. On my many visits we have always stayed at the North Hampton Inn.
What I never realized was there was a tea retailer directly across the street. The sign “Cooks Shop Here” deceived me I was totally unaware that tea, “Tea Trekker”, was the second part of the business, not just tea but in addition, a wonderful, studied, accomplished tea educator so close (talk about missing opportunity). Robert J. and Mary Lou Heiss have co-authored several books about tea “The Story Of Tea and Hot Drinks”, and most recently “The Tea Enthusiast’s Handbook”.A guide to enjoying the world’s best tea. Robert is well versed on the topic of tea and took the time to discuss the wide variety of offerings he had at the store. He also got my hubby interested by mentioning some recent historical facts about tea trade in the U.S.
I had come in prepared with a list I downloaded to my phone but found it did not download properly and I had to rely on memory to place the order (not easy).
There was Himalaya Sikkim Temi, a tea mentioned
in the first installment of the Tea Writers Collective, which I had not tried, Ying De #9 a black tea from Guangdong Province, China, Joseph Hawley’s Smugglers Blend, which is a blend of fine teas with a smokey end note. This tea also has a New England tea story behind it as the tea is named after an actual person who lived in the area. There were three greens, Cui Lu Spring Green from Yunan, Taimu Shan Snow Sprout Xue Ya from Fuijan and a special Green Tea blend for cooking. I also picked up a Mini tuo-cha Shou Pu-erh sampler which included samples from Lao Cang Tea Factory 2009, CNNP Tea Factory 2007, Xinghai Tea Factory 2004, in preparation for the MC Sunday, G+ event. Robert also gifted me a generous sampling of Yong Cha Sheng pu-erh from Yunnan.
The final stop in Massachusetts, Atkins Farms Country Market, Amherst a place I could spend the day grocery shopping. They have a wide assortment of fresh local vegetables, baked goods, delicacies and tea.
Though short, this trip
was made memorable due to my good friends, and meeting Robert at Tea Trekkers as I am still enjoying these teas today. As I type Joseph Hawley’s is in my cup.