One of the most difficult days of my life was the day my family left me in Auburn, Alabama.
It's not like they abandoned me. I chose to move there for school—doctoral work in English Literature. We drove the 900 miles in caravan, my worldly belongings fitting into the back of the Suburban pulling a medium U-Haul trailer and my purple chevy cavalier. They stayed a few days, helping me navigate my new life, setting up my cinder-block wall grad school apartment. And then they left. We were all teary eyed. The sight of their grey vehicle pulling away seemed the end of the world.
I went inside my hot apartment (September in Alabama is akin to, well, no month in Wisconsin!), pulled out my journal, turned on NPR, and made a cup of tea. I wrote. I listed to Kiri Te Kanawa sing my favorite aria, "O Mio Babbino Caro." And, I sipped the steaming darjeeling.
The tea worked its magic, and I was momentarily centered.
While I've waxed poetic before about the joys of coffee, I love tea. Tea parties, sweet tea, iced tea, hot tea. Nearly every night I drink part of a mug before drifting to sleep. Tea comforts and soothes in a way that coffee just can't.
Last Spring my friend A mentioned a tea shop in Appleton, and I filed the information away into a corner of my mind. Before our epic Christmas shopping trip last month, I did a little research and discovered Fava Tea Company, which, according to their website, carries over 300 different types and varieties of tea! G and I added it to our list of stops for the day.
As the shopping began to take its toll, and some of us started becoming a little unhinged (me), we headed towards Fava. We stepped into the busy shop, and somehow all that tea began to work its magic again. I felt reassured and soothed.
This past weekend we visited again, and I fell even more in love with the place.
The shop layout is striking and simple. Shelves on all walls hold large silver canisters with the tea name, origin, and price displayed on the front. Small tables located by each section—black, green, white, non-caffeinated, red, other—hold little sample jars of the tea. You select a tea menu, write down how many ounces you want of each one, hand it to one of the helpful Fava employees, and wait for them to expertly fill your order.
Fava Tea also stocks tea pots and tea accessories, which we browsed while waiting for our order to be filled. From gorgeous Mikasa porcelain pots to squat, cheery bee house tea pots to German brewing baskets, Fava offers quality accoutrements. Samples of brewed tea are available. They offer a membership so they can keep your favorite tea selections in their database, and after spending a certain amount of money, you receive discounts on future tea purchases. Genius!
We waited about twenty minutes for our order to be filled on both occasions, but didn't mind the wait. The employees are happy, knowledgeable, friendly, and are clearly enjoying their work.
When I lived in Alabama, my friends and I would visit a fancy tea shop in one of the malls. This store, part of a national chain, featured an aggressive and elitist staff that would cajole customers into purchasing fancy teas. I fell victim to their charm and purchased a tea that I didn't actually like once I brought it home. I was put off by the shop.
Fava, on the other hand, delivers a perfect moment of tranquility and zen. It is all that a tea shop should be. Soothing. Comforting. Home.
I can't wait to return and explore more teas...