The South is a place that prides itself on the drinking of tea. But if you have ever wondered what washes over the tastebuds of the rest of the world's tea drinkers, a downtown department store may have answers.
The Curiosity Shop in downtown Aiken is holding a series of four tea seminars on Thursdays in January and February, starting this week. The winter tea-tastings are a chance to experience not just classic black tea, but white, green, red and herbal varieties, all poured by local experts.
“It's kind of a new interest. A new public interest in tea,” said Amy Neeley, Curiosity Shop co-owner and registered tea expert. “People are so interested, and there are so many varieties and so much information out there about tea. People come in here ... and they don't know where to start. It helps to get a group together, to sit down and say 'OK, this is what white and green teas are.'”
Each tea seminar will be separated into types, where participants will taste at least seven teas over the two-hour seminar held in The Dickens Cafe.
“We are registered experts; we've done the coursework with the national tea institute,” Neeley said. Everyone will have an opportunity to taste and discuss the teas. Then, we will briefly go over the growing and processing of the tea and what makes them different.”
“We are starting out with the white and green, as it is lighter and easier to get into,” she added. “I think they are going to find out that green tea is a really nice, refreshing drink”
On Jan. 24 at 4 p.m., the seminar will feature Oolong and black teas. On Feb. 7 at 4 p.m., the seminar will focus on African red and flavored black teas, while the final session on Feb. 28 at 4 p.m. will feature herbal infusions and flavored green teas.
Neeley has a simple goal with the series.
“We hope to get people to open up a little and say 'Yes, I can drink my tea without sugar. I'm from the South, and I drink my tea with sugar in it, but it is possible to enjoy it without sugar.'”
The cost of each seminar is $20, and tickets can be purchased from The Curiosity Shop.
Editor's note: This version of this story has been updated to correct the dates for the seminars. The Aiken Standard regrets the error.