My recent trips to a couple of tea places and a distillery really got my juices flowing these past few weeks. The first of these was to Harney and Sons, a cute little place in Millerton, NY. It's a tea shop, tasting room, and cafe, all in one beautiful, light-filled open space. The tasting room is set up around a L-shaped counter with tins of tea stacked to the ceiling with anything, tea-wise, your heart could wish for. I sampled my way through light to dark oxidized oolongs--it was a great way to taste and see what sorts of teas I prefer. Of course, I came home with some new treasures, including this sweet mug from the aviary collection at Danica Studio. Believe me, I don't need any more mugs, but when you know that something will make you happy every time you use, you figure you can find a spare corner in the cabinet for it.
The second half of my adventures was a trip down to Connecticut and South County (otherwise known as the southern Berkshires). In Pursuit of Tea is based in northern Connecticut and is a mail-order business that supplies fine teas to restaurants and retail customers. I was familiar with the company from my days as a baker at Izabella's, who carries their teas. The very generous owner, Sebastian Beckwith, took us through a tasting from white teas to pu-erh and sent us home with more samples! Our next stop was Berkshire Mountain Distillers, a craft distillery producing spirits from local products. Chris is doing some really interesting things including using local grains for his vodka, gins, and whiskeys. We were able to watch a little bit of the distilling process and taste some of his products. I highly recommend the gins--the botanicals are amazingly bright. They remind me of perfume (in a good way) in their clarity and purity of aroma and flavor. The day was sunny with an impossibly blue sky, making the setting all the more pastoral and idyllic, the apple trees descending down the hill, the view across to the mountains. For more pictures of our field trip, click here.
The thing that really struck me about both tea and spirits is that they're such intentional products. The products are carefully crafted by hand in many cases and made slowly. They have to adhere to certain processes, but waiting is a large portion of the formula. Waiting for leaves to wilt, waiting for the mash to ferment, waiting for barreled whiskey to age. Slow foods...and I'm a slow food kind of girl.