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FOOD GLORIA'S FOOD - October 2015 - Kansas City
By Gloria Gale
Steeped in history and tradition, the ancient art of brewing tea blossoms in the heart of our community.
You won’t find any tea balls at the Stacie Robertson’s tea shop. “That’s because a tea ball tortures the tea leaves. There must be enough room for each leaf to unfold and become infused in order to release flavor," she explains.
This is but one nugget espoused by Robertson, tea aficionado and owner of the Tea Market in Kansas City’s Crestwood Shops.
As passionate as she is about the many aspects of tea, walk into her shop and it’s hard not to ogle over the sheer volume of 90 whole leaf loose teas properly stored in ceramic canisters. Look beyond the tea to find an array of accoutrements that will dazzle the novice or ‘Teavangilist’ (as Robertson calls her loyal tribe).
“You’ve got to have the right tools as well as the right ingredients. I don’t sell cute, dustables, I sell functional tea equipment from pots and kettles to books, mugs, cups, and infusers,” says Robertson.
The tea shop of her dreams didn’t happen overnight, however.
“When I opened the shop in 2002 the Kansas City area was a wasteland for the tea drinker. The only availability was a smattering of 4-ounce tins you couldn’t even open to smell,” she says.
That’s when Robertson’s idea of opening a tea shop started to bubble. She poured her entrepreneurial spirit and patience into learning the intricacies of brewing.
After years of reading books, attending seminars, participating in workshops and Professional Series classes Robertson received her “Certified Tea Specialist” designation from the "Specialty Tea Institute in Connecticut.
She caught the curve as the popularity of tea exploded on the cultural scene. “According to the Tea Association of the U.S.A. Inc. the millennials are propelling the tea market. Within the 18-35 year old demographic, tea is trending upward. This age group wants to experience more than coffee,” says Robertson.
Today, Robertson proudly boasts an expert staff trained to help the un-initiated discover a customized blend right down to the gram.
She admits, “We are all about fussing over a perfectly brewed, artisan cup of tea for our customers. Taking a cue from coffee shops that routinely hand-finish a cup of coffee; we’ve opened a Tea Bar in the shop complete with a reverse osmosis water filtration system. Now anyone can stop in and have a cup of tea to go.”
Beyond her retail shop, other culinarians in the area are taking notice. Robertson’s signature blends are featured at Dolce Bakery, Woodside Racquet Club and Aixois.
Tackling the learning curve
Her classroom is the downstairs level of her shop. Here Robertson provides a series of classes to customers who want to learn more about the history and complexities of tea. “It’s not just dumping tea into a pot of boiling water. Coxing the most out of the leaves to change water into an aromatic brew comes down to an experience,” she says.
Robertson adds, “I want people to know the Tea Market is a retail shop with the heart of a teacher. I teach various classes from Matcha, (The Mother of All Green Tea) to the Fundamentals of Tea. Every quarter, I host an Afternoon Tea pairing 5 teas with scones, sandwiches, soup, tart, and dessert.”
And she’s happy with the uptick in customers want to know the difference among the various varieties including, white, black, green, oolong, and herbal infusions.
Every once in a while there’s an amusing stickler. “I had a good customer bring in 3 friends. Everyone was in high spirits but I wasn’t able to win them over until...exasperated, my customer said to her friends, “I don’t get it–you can’t drink vodka all day!” Admittedly, this was a teachable moment.”
Tea Market 329 E. 55th Street, Kansas City, MO 64113 Phone: 816-822-9TEA (832)
Kansas City writer, producer, and photostylist Gloria Gale is a sleuth when it comes to discovering interesting features for the media.
As a native she's compiled a burgeoning collection of editorial features on food, travel and lifestyle for national and local magazines, books, individuals, and corporate clients.
Most recently, Gloria profiled area restaurants as a columnist for 435 Magazine and was one of KCUR's Food Critics radio program.
Want to know where to find the best tastes in town? Contact Gloria: firstname.lastname@example.org