Feb. 10th to13th
The Michigan Daily I michigandaily.com I Thursday, February 10, 2011
Reading the leaves of
Ann Arbor's tea culture.
By Erin Steele,A
As many college students will attest,
coffee has become the number one
way to power through long weeks
of homework and studying. But what hap-
pens when they've grown tired of the daily
latte? Perhaps it's time for coffee addicts
to embrace their adventurous sides and
explore the endless varieties of a less com-
monly consumed drink: tea.
Steeped in tradition
When visiting TeaHaus on N. Fourth
Ave., it's impossible to ignore a sign nearthe
door that reads, "Only the best .5% of the
annual world tea harvest is of high enough
quality to be considered for our collection at
Opening the door and walking inside,
customers are greeted by the sound of clas-
sical music and the aroma of the store's 180
varieties of black, green, white, oolong,
rooibos, fruit, herbal and ayurvedic teas.
Neatly stacked silver tea tins cover one wall,
while the other side displays teacups, pots,
strainers and other tea paraphernalia that
only experts would recognize. In the adja-
cent tea room, there is a wall covered in
books accompanied by a sign: "Learn fur-
ther about tea!"
There is certainly a lot to learn.
"Tea is justas complex - if not more com-
plex - than wine. The topography of where
it's grown, the seasonal and climatic chang-
es - everything plays a big part in what your
end cup will taste like," explained TeaHaus
owner Lisa McDonald.
"We're not fancy," was McDonald's first
reply when asked what she would sayto the
average University student who might be
mystified or intimidated by tea culture.
"We're actually just really casual people,"
she said. "Two of the people who work here
are students at U of M. We're not gonna diss
you because all you've ever had is Teavana."
For McDonald, the most important char-
acteristic of the tea house is its emphasis on
taking things slow. She feels that because
Americans are always in such a hurry, the
closest people will come to taking a minute
to slow down is when enjoyingtea.
"I think there's something about tea that
kind of makes you sit down for a minute,"
she said. "We sell a lot of tea to go, but there
is something to be said about (having) to
wait two minutes for a cup of tea to brew, so
there's two minutes of your life you have to
be willing to give up to enjoy a cup of tea."
When TeaHaus first opened, McDon-
aId refused to put in Wi-Fi Internet access.
After a while, she gave in to popular
demand, but she still turns off the Wi-Fi on
McDonald's fascination with tea began
on a backpacking trip through, Europe,
which turned into a 14-year stay, during
which she worked as a business consultant.
"I did a lot of traveling for business,"
McDonald said. "Every village that I went
to had an apothecary-style tea store with
up to 300 types of tea, and so it just became
what I would do - I would go into these
towns and look for the tea store."
McDonald began taking courses to
become a tea sommelier - someone with
training and extensive knowledge of tea as
a hobby. In the process, she became some-
what of a tea expert.
"One of the things that is a surprise to
most people is that Germany is the world's
largest tea purchasing country and also has
the strictest quality control," McDonald
said. "They have a zero tolerance for pesti-
cides and heavy metals."
After moving to Ann Arbor, McDonald
began looking for a career that would allow
her to raise her two young sons. She opened
TeaHaus in December 2007 with about 200
different loose teas, all imported from Ger-
McDonald is quick to point out that what
most Americans think of as the typical tea
house is much more refined than the vast
majority of the traditional ones throughout
"In the U.S., most of the tea rooms have
a lot of doilies, flowers, a lot of pink, alot of
mauve," she explained. "Most of the really
fancy tea rooms in Europe are for the tour-
ists. Most of the tea rooms I went to were
just like what we would call a cafd - they
just happened to sell tea instead of coffee. It
just happened to be ina building that is 250
years old, so it kind of oozed a little quaint-
ness, but not on purpose."
In keeping with this statement, the actu-
al tea room of TeaHaus, which opened in
September, is more consistent with the tra-
ditional European tea house."
"We don't have the big hats and the white
gloves and the doilies and stuff like that,
because in 14 years of living in Europe, I
never once saw that," McDonald said.
See TEA, Page 4B
Craving some jam band
in your life? Complete
with a trippy kalei-
doscopic light show?
Good, because self-
let Hippopotamus is
comin' to town - so
hippies, put on your
hemp beanies and head
on over to the Blind
Pig tonight, where the
Grand Rapids natives
are performing. Tickets
start at $10, and doors
open at 9:30 p.m.
-@1 O ITE S AV NTR
The 53rd Annual
Grammy Awards will
broadcast Sunday night
at 8 p.m. on CBS. This
year, frontrunners Emi-
nem, Lady Gaga, Katy
Perry and Cee Lo Green
are scheduled to take
the stage. Whether
"Glee" goes Grammy
or the Recording Acad-
the addictively British
Mumford & Sons, the
Grammys provide the
most accessible free
concert of the year.
VI T RIN E RL G E
So it's the weekend and
you're a family values-
loving American look-
ing for a movie: What
to do? Well, this Sun-
day at 1:30 p.m., you
can head to the Michi-
gan Theater, where,
on Sunday, the Family-
Friendly Film Series
presents Joe Johnston's
classic 1989 comedy
"Honey, I Shrunk the
Kids," a tale of a nutty
scientist whose latest
shrinks the kids.
Are two jazz ensembles
better than one? Find
out this Saturday when
two of today's hottest
jazz groups appear
at the Power Center.
Vijay lyer will perform
at 8 p.m., followed
by alto saxophonist
pa's Apex ensemble.
Both lyer and Mahan-
thappa are New York-
based musicians whose
works are influenced
by their Indian heritage.
Tickets from $16.
DESIGN BY MARISSA AVRIT-MADORSKY MCCLAIN
FIV0E FLOER FA IRY LEND