Behind the Scenes of a Blending Class at Churchill’s Fine Teas, Wherein I Confess That the Delightful Drink is My Soul Mate

Oh, tea! You are my special chum. How I love thee in every possible cliched way. Is there a writer, alive or distantly dead, who has never savored your goodness? The ghosts of your famous lovers must be everywhere. Oh, tea! Piping, steaming, swirling with heat. Homey: a silent, sympathetic witness to innumerable sorrows and hopes. Out of dainty cups, chipped cups, disposable cups, any cups at hand. Sweet or plain. Oh, tea! You are always by my side as I write or read. This, this is adoration. Please bask in that love while I tell my patient readers a story.

Tea in the Bedsitter by Harold Gilman, 1916

Tea in the Bedsitter by Harold Gilman, 1916

Every time the blonde child walked into the kitchen, she asked, aloud, the same question. “Is there anything, world, more beautiful than a brightly coloured tea tin?” It was, to be sure, a frankly odd thing for a six-year-old to think about, but think about it she did. The answer, internal rather than vocal, always echoed from her heart with happy assurance: “No! No! No!”

The blonde child liked to pretend the tins were hers instead of her mother’s. In these games, she lived in an alternate universe where she was a tea-drinking adult. One day, one day when she was big, the playacting would come true. One day, one day when she was big, the nameless mysteries trapped inside the fragrant, gem-coloured boxes would be known. Until then, there were thick-rimmed lids to pry open and exotic aromas to furtively inhale. The scents of orange and lemon and cinnamon lingered on her small fingers like the remnants of fancy perfumes. What heavenly things lived in those tins!

“When I am grown,” said the blonde child, “I shall have my own pretty tea boxes. I’ll make tea the colour of amber, and drink as many cups of it as I wish. Isn’t that the most magical sounding thing, Mr. Bear?”

***

“Come oh come ye tea-thirsty restless ones–the kettle boils, bubbles and sings, musically.”-Rabindranath Tagore, Collected Poems and Plays of Rabindranath Tagore

That the little blonde girl grew up to make a mean cup of (proper) tea should be no surprise to regular followers of this blog. Brewing tea, step by careful step, is an act of love; pouring it for others, an act of comradeship. I love shopping for it almost as much as I enjoy making, sharing, and drinking a nice cuppa. My favourite local (Cincinnati) store for loose-leaf is Churchill’s Fine Teas, which is located in a lovely old building at Findlay Market, Over-the-Rhine (OTR). The staff is friendly and knowledgeable; the tea is exceptionally tasty and budget-friendly.

Churchill's Fine Teas

Churchill’s Fine Teas

Last year, I entered a contest on Churchill’s Facebook page–and then promptly forgot about it. When, weeks later, the email announcing my winning entry hit the inbox, I was doubly surprised. The prize: a private tea tasting or blending class led by store founder and co-owner, Kathleen Kern. I chose the second option, and took my mom and husband along for the fun. Some highlights:

The man himself:

Mr. Churchill

Mr. Winston Churchill

Although Churchill’s Fine Teas is the largest purveyor in the Midwest, their store is cozy and welcoming. They blend many of the 265-plus varieties in-house, which is why I selected this class. Check out those tins on the wall behind me. My favourite–Victorian Earl Grey–is there somewhere.

Me, waiting for the class to start

Me: Waiting for the Class to Start

After being educated about blending basics, we were free to mix our own:

Concocting a Loose Tea Blend

Alchemy!

“His guests found it fun to watch him make tea–mixing careful spoonfuls from different caddies.”-James Hilton, Good-bye, Mr. Chips

"My" Teapot

“My” Teapot

Lovely China

Lovely China

It wouldn’t be tea time without something scrumptious to eat:

Assorted Desserts

Assorted Desserts

Churchill’s also sells beautiful tea pots and accessories. Their merchandise-as practical as it is charming- is my kind of eye candy. You can see some of their selection on the wall behind The Chef:

My Husband: The Chef

My Husband: The Chef

“Wouldn’t it be dreadful to live in a country where they didn’t have tea?”-Noël Coward

Tea is both a luxury and a necessity: a comfort, a ritual, a meditation. Tea drinking can be social or solitary. It enhances our existence, whilst contributing to the basic need of nourishment. Sipping a cup of this universally enjoyed beverage is an invitation to slow down, to relax. Preparing and imbibing tea is one of life’s truest pleasures, and, as Churchill’s proves, it needn’t be an expensive one.

Pig Business Card Holder

A Reminder That This IS Cincinnati: Churchill’s Fine Teas’ Pig Business Card Holder

CHURCHILL’S FINE TEAS

FINDLAY MARKET

122 WEST ELDER

CINCINNATI, OHIO 45202

866.511.1455

CHURCHILLSTEAS.COM

“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”-Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

18 thoughts on “Behind the Scenes of a Blending Class at Churchill’s Fine Teas, Wherein I Confess That the Delightful Drink is My Soul Mate

  1. Lovely piece! I so enjoy tea, too…not very sohphiticated about it, though my husband is. I adore iced tea starting in late spring, as well.And nice to see your smile and your partner in tea heaven included. What a great store–wish I was nearby!

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    • Thank you so much! My love of tea started early, mostly because my mom does not drink coffee (and neither do I). I actually made iced tea a few days ago, which is something I rarely do. But it was so hot outside! Churchill’s is a lovely shop. If you ever find yourself in this part of the world, definitely visit them!

      Whilst I often mention The Chef, he rarely makes a photographic appearance here. He doesn’t mind me sharing from time to time, though. 🙂

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  2. A wonderful post. I love tea time and so agree with your Noel Coward quote. Even though my daughters have left the nest, my tea time is still sacred. In France it’s called le gouter, which means the tasting 🙂

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    • Thank you! N.C. was correct about many things, including this! I’m glad you indulge in tea time; it is a nice excuse for some quiet time. I have a tea station in my studio so I don’t have to go downstairs to the kitchen to brew a pot.

      Thanks for sharing the little factoid about le gouter, very interesting!

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  3. Lovely post maedez. I enjoyed the photos very much. Isn’t it great that there are still these little specialty shops around and we can step through the door into a bit of the past and its customs and gentility.

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      • I found a spice and herb shop outside of Denver – just overwhelmed with the selection. Then I found out there is one just like it in Tucson, my home base! Duh.

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      • That is good, though! At least you know now, and can take advantage of it when you are in Tucson. We have great spice shops at the public markets in Cinci (where I currently live) and Columbus (my hometown). I also went into a charming spice shop in Asheville last week. I bought a couple of delectable things to try.

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  4. This looks like one of the best tea places. I like that it’s funky and has a sense of humour – and isn’t at all old-lady-ish with tea cups that match the flowered wallpaper.

    How fun to mix your own tea! I want one of those tea shops where I live.

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    • It is a great little shop, and so much fun! It is definitely not stuffy. Churchill’s is co-owned by a couple, an English woman and an American man. They are so nice and knowledgeable.

      And tea blending is really easy, too!

      If you like tea, I’d definitely recommend ordering off their website. Their tea is so affordable, and extra yummy. 🙂

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