Whether it’s an appropriately overcast, windy wintery day or a balmy 80 degrees and sunny outside, there’s something about the longer nights and shorter days of fall that just screams out for tea. The Edible Baja Arizona office is in full-on cold winter-is-coming mode, with every desk chair sporting a casually draped sweater or jacket, and recently two staff members actually opted for wearing their coats inside on a particularly chilly day.
The most telling sign of cooler weather is the increased presence of mugs around the office. While each launch of a new issue coincides with a sharp uptick in coffee consumption regardless of the time of year, it wasn’t until late October that the watercooler conversation turned to a discussion of what types of tea we like best.
Enter Seven Cups Tea. This local Tucson tea shop started selling their loose-leaf teas out of a booth at the St. Phillip’s Farmers Market in 2002, and opened their current brick-and-mortar location at 6th Street and Tucson Boulevard in 2004. Offering everything from traditional tea ceremonies to over 70 loose leaf Chinese tea varieties, Seven Cups is a local resource for exploring both Chinese tea and the traditions that surround it, and they seemed like the perfect collaborator for new cold weather blog series.
What started as a casual conversation about tea led to Seven Cups general manager Andrew McNeill swinging by the Edible office, box of teas in hand. As with everything else in the food world, once he began telling us about the teas he had brought, it became clear that there was a lot more going on with the teas on Seven Cups’ shelves than what gets printed on the packaging. Over the next eight weeks, we will be sampling a few of the teas Seven Cups receives from their 22 producers spread across China, as part of our new seasonal series, “Teatime Tuesday.”
Seven Cups has also established a number of local partnerships, spreading the knowledge and flavors of Chinese tea tradition throughout the Tucson community.
Some highlights from the list of Seven Cup’s local collaborators:
Iron John’s Brewery used the Jin Guan Yin wulong tea to finish one of their wheat beers this past summer. They named the beer “Seven Cups.” A more heavily roasted version of this tea is used by Black Mountain Springs Fermentary for their kombucha.
5 Points Market & Restaurant brews up a lot of Yin Gou Mei “Silver Fishhook” as their iced green tea. Andrew McNeill, general manager at Seven Cups, states that it was a long selection process for the restaurant, pointing to the challenge of incorporating an unfamiliar tea with a long Chinese name into an existing menu. McNeill describes the tea that they eventually chose as “a classic, unpretentious green tea,” and reports from 5 Points suggests the tea is a big hit with their customers.
Reilly Craft Pizza cold brews a custom blend Yunnan black tea provided by Seven Cups for their house iced tea, and it occasionally turns up in cocktails as well. Fans of Reilly’s tea can find a similar flavor in the Jin Kong Que “Golden Peacock,” available for purchase at the Seven Cups tea shop or online.
Tea drinkers who frequent local coffee shops stand a good chance of running into some of Seven Cups’ teas: both Cartel Coffee Lab and EXO Roast Company source loose leaf teas from the tea house. McNeill describes the benefit of the longstanding relationship between Cartel and Seven Cups: “The team there is very involved making sure their tea has the same standards as their coffee. We’ve been able to take [Cartel’s] feedback back to the Zhang family in Fujian to make orders to Cartel’s specifications.” Meanwhile, EXO Roast Company has supported the spread of puer tea drinking by serving Gong Ting Palace Puer. McNeill describes this tea as virtually unheard of outside of “serious tea crazy circles,” but says it is catching on with the help of places like EXO who aren’t afraid to risk putting it out there.
Perhaps the most surprising local use of a Seven Cups tea is found at Wilko, where bar program captains Luke Anable and Sara Roche are using Seven Cups’ Lapsang Souchong Strong Smoke in a mescal tincture as part of their fall cocktail menu. The name of the resulting drink is “Tears Stupid Tears.”
One other location of note featuring Seven Cups teas is Time Market, who is currently serving the Eight Treasures herbal tea and hosting tea tastings on the second and fourth Saturdays of every month from 10am-12pm, led by McNeill and Nick Andrietti.
Which brings us to our post series – we decided to kick things off with the Eight Treasures herbal tea, a blend of berries, blossoms, and leaves traditionally believed to boost energy and help with recovery from illness. While this is a loose leaf tea, the blend is packaged together into seven individual serving packets to ensure a consistent mix for brewing. Hand blended from herbs, Eight Treasures is strong enough for four infusions (we tested, it’s true), and is a mild tea that tastes great sipped straight – the better to enjoy its fruit and flower scents. Eight Treasures retails for $14.95 and can be purchased in-store or online.
Stay tuned for next week’s tea highlight – we’ll put the kettle on!