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Happy Earth Tea Rochester, New York

by Steven Daniszewski - Staff Writer
Wed, Feb 26th 2020 02:00 pm

This past week made for perfect weather for tea; wind and a slight cold temperature with fluffy snow subtly falling. Enough to make it mildly unpleasant to stand outside or walk but not enough to hide at home all day. Just enough to make you feel calm that when you walk through a set of doors, you realize you were slightly grimacing and bracing yourself on the walk over.

One such day, I drove to the South Wedge for a walk and some shopping. For the unfamiliar, this is what my mom would call a revitalizing neighborhood; my grandma would call it too trendy for her tastes and may remember old stores. In some cases, such as Midtown, they’ve been demolished and remain empty. While physical reminders of a great-grandfather’s errand for bolts remain at Wilsons, other memories have melted away into the ground, like snow on a sunny weekend after a wintry week.  

Happy Earth Tea is a recent addition in comparison to my grandma’s memories, having opened three and a half years ago, but it’s possible the stories and memories will last and become a feature in a new chapter of history. Tea, certainly, is a product that has a wealth of stories to tell about it, and when you visit a tea shop — not the tea aisle of Wegmans, but an honest, dedicated tea store — you’ll meet passionate people filled with knowledge. 

In the tea shop there is a tea bar; unlike a dive bar, there are no arguments in the background, and unlike an espresso bar, the area is brightly lit. There is a welcoming face behind the counter, calming music and two menus to browse. Prices range from $4 and up, with my guy behind the counter, Jack, giving me a tour around the menu and explanation of what tastes to expect, I decided to go out on a limb and have my first cup of pu-erh, brewed in traditional gong-fu style. 

 While I browsed the shelves, Jack trimmed the brick and placed the leaves in a gaiwan, a ceramic cup with a lid. The water was heated, poured over leaves and then the lid held just right that pure tea was poured into a waiting pitcher on a serving tray. Heated water was poured over a tea pet, then spilling into a water-tight compartment underneath, the steam gently warming the pitcher and a small, fine China cup.

I received advice from Jack on what herbal blend to buy — seren-tea, a bright, colorful herbal blend that’s popular with everyone. One bag contains 2.6 oz, a healthy size for personal drinking as well as for gifting. Some stores, such as Kucha in Boulder, Colorado, offer small sample sizes of their blends for first-time buyers; currently, Happy Earth Tea does not offer this size, but there are plans once room is found. Besides tea, there is a selection of snacks, including Red Fern vegan cookies. You are more than welcome to read lecture notes or write, whether you enjoy a traditional gong-fu brew, a matcha latte or a traditional Western-style mug. 

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Taken by Vincent Croce:
Staff Photographer

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