Chocolatea was originally discovered by Scott a while back and he recently introduced me to this new shop down in Portage. It’s located at 7642 South Westnedge Ave between Schuring Road and Centre Road. They have great hours, open during the early mornings on the weekdays, close at 9p and open at 9a on the weekends. It has become our preferred spot to begin our mornings during the weekends.
I never thought I liked tea, my maternal grandmother loved tea and she would always make tea via teabags and boiling water and it would make this bland brew in her white porcelain teacups. I drank it once and didn’t like it, it tasted like hot tap water with a plant in it. My folks, including the entirety of my paternal side of my family all prefer coffee. They are all very avid coffee drinkers, my mother prefers hers without additives and my father prefers his additives with a little bit of coffee. I will drink coffee if it’s available but I won’t brew it myself and I won’t go out of my way to obtain it. I find black coffee to be too bitter for me. Other people enjoy it so I don’t begrudge them their preferences.
So I drank a lot of soda pop, then tried to get it out of my diet due to the high fructose corn syrup that they use to sweeten it. I switched to diet soda and that was really not much better. I swapped out one unwanted chemical (HFCS) for another (Nutrasweet). So I gave up on soda pop altogether and once I got my HydroFlask, I’ve been enjoying my native element quite a lot (Cancer is a water sign).
It wasn’t until I visited Chocolatea did I re-discover Tea. They have two walls completely devoted to various kinds of looseleaf tea. Almost all of it is high quality full-leaf teas, with only a few powdered teas to speak of. They have apparently a full spectrum of teas from what I’ve been researching. They have White, Green, Black, Oolong, and Pu-erh Teas, some pure, some with additives. They have Earl Grey, with it’s delicious citrusey Bergamot oils in Black and Green varieties, which I really appreciate as that was (and still is) one of my favorite flavors of tea. They also have some Tisanes, Rooibos and Yerba Mate teas to round out the selection. Everything is stored in these glass spring-sealed jars that line the walls. The type of tea has it’s name and an index number and the price per ounce listed plainly on the label. Most of their teas are between 2-4 per ounce and while it seems not very much, tea is exceptionally not-dense, so you get a LOT of tea for the money.
Chocolatea also has a fully stocked supply area to explore tea and I never knew that teabags were a conceit to sell crappy tea to ignorant consumers. It doesn’t help that Americans rejected tea as a drink after the Boston Tea Party (and no, we aren’t going to honor the modern “tea party” whackjobs here) and Americans never recovered a taste for tea. This particular American however has. Chocolatea sells everything you need to make an exceptionally excellent cup of tea. They sell Bodum cups, which are double-walled and insulated so you can pour boiling water into them without scalding your fingertips as you try to drink. They also sell tea infusing baskets, which are cup-sized stainless-steel microfilter baskets that you put the loooseleaf tea into and then pour water on top of. The basket allows water and the soluble parts of the tea to pass in and out while keeping the leaves sequestered in the basket. Making tea this way is so much better than using teabags that I’m amazed there still are teabags!
Chocolatea is 80% about their teas and they sell as well as brew tea to order. They also have a great selection of lattes, coffee, and specialty tea-derived drinks as well that are quite nice. The other 20% of their business is selling supplies, food items and desserts, and their chocolate selection. If you like tea you owe it to yourself to visit Chocolatea, if you like Chocolate, you owe it to yourself to go. Even if you don’t like tea or chocolate (and frankly I don’t know if I want to know you if you don’t like at least chocolate) the atmosphere is incredibly conducive to writing. There is ambient music provided by XM/Sirius celestial radio, but it’s very subdued. The people sounds are the predominant feature in Chocolatea as they do a brisk business. The ever-present mishmash of people talking quietly is very soothing, at least to me. You can’t really make out individual conversations but the droning chatter is pleasant.
Chocolatea has a frequent customer program and if you sign up they ask you for your email, address, and birthday. I can only imagine that they have something clever, marketing wise up their sleeves when they ask for birthdays and email. The owners work their store and I’ve run into them from time to time and they are incredibly helpful and amazingly pleasant people. Their employees are very nice and are always free with kind smalltalk and smiles. One thing I did discover to my chagrin is after buying tea, which they have a little area set aside for dosing out the teas you want into plastic baggies – it’s important to write the name of the tea down as well as it’s index number! I had three baggies with just numbers and not a clue what was in the baggies. After calling Chocolatea they were very happy to help me identify what each baggie contained and now when I buy tea there, I always include the name.
So far, for my explorations I love their black teas, mostly “Paris”, “Earl Grey”, “Cream Earl Grey”, and the Green “Bangkok”. Their Yerba Mate blends are excellent and I just purchased sight-unseen some Pu-erh Tea and that is AMAZING. I keep on marveling at how good tea is now that I’m making it with high-quality ingredients and brewing it the correct way. The owners of Chocolatea are always pushing tea education even when you call them to get names of teas from just having index numbers. They are free with advice on how to brew whites, greens, oolongs, and black teas. Both the temperature of the water, how much tea to use, and how long to let it steep. If you go to Chocolatea, you will get an expertly crafted cup of tea and after you are done, you can hand them back the cup and ask for re-steeps. I had no idea that tea leaves could steep over and over again! The refills are complimentary! One thing to note, if you get an Oolong tea, apparently that particular tea can re-steep a LOT and the flavors in each cup unfold with each steeping. There is so much to explore there, and the prices will not break the bank.
If you have never been, I heartily recommend it! If you love to drink coffee then you really should ask for them to make you a cup of Caramel Pu-erh Tea. I bet you’ll fall head over heels in love with it and want more!
If you would like to get set-up to make tea I can make some good suggestions, first off if you have a tea-pot already then use it. If you don’t, then Rival or GE make a very nice electric kettle for $12 or $30 respectively. I bought a Rival electric kettle for work so I could fill it with water and heat up my water by my desk. The Rival is nice (as I assume the GE one is as well) in so far that when the water boils the unit pops off. When you hear the click, the water is just about at 200 degrees which is perfect for black teas. If you wait just a little bit longer, the water cools so you can make whites or greens too. The infusion basket is $10 and is permanent, so with careful cleaning you’ll never need another one. The Bodum cups are $10 as well. So right there for about $40-$50 of an initial investment you can enjoy tea the way it was meant to be enjoyed! After your initial investment you just have to buy the tea itself and as far as I can tell loose-leaf tea is shelf-stable for a long while, so it’s not like there are any timers that are running if you don’t get around to a particular tea in time.
If you go to Chocolatea and you discover that you like tea as much as I do, please leave comments about what teas you like. I’m always looking to explore more and the selection at Chocolatea is enough to keep you occupied for a very long time.