And, just this spring, My Cup of Tea began selling at the Memphis Botanic Garden Farmers Market.
According to My Cup of Tea owner Mary Beth Bryce, offering samples of iced tea — Mango Tango Green and Black Currant, among them — has been key to selling at the market.
And while Bryce says there’s no clear favorite among the teas sold at the market, she has been getting feedback from a particular demographic. “I have some great male customers,” she says. "[At the market], men feel very comfortable.”
She also notes that the Lipton tea we grew up with is a whole different ballgame than the specialty teas she sells.
“Lipton is blended for consistency. Specialty tea differs each year,” she says, pointing out that tea is a lot like wine. Crop conditions and other factors can impact the flavor of the tea season to season.
Bryce brings up the wine comparison again when discussing the Specialty Tea Institute. She has completed three and half out of four levels of its certification program.
“Cupping” was part of the instruction. “It’s the most interesting class,” she says. “It’s tasting and trying different teas. Like wine, you pick up flavor nuances — fruity, vegetal, light, buttery … And like wine, you slurp. Not lady-like at all.”
As I mentioned in the Letter from the Editor, a part of Bryce’s business is education and hospitality. To that end, she offers presentations to groups, which extends to children.
During these tea parties, Bryce uses Powerpoint to cover history, social customs and etiquette, and international trade.
“For children, the teas are geared toward values and manners,” she says. (They learn the proper way to eat scones!)
Finally, Bryce has some tips for brewing tea:
• Use fresh water
• Use one teaspoon for every 6 ounces water
• Use the appropriate temperature for the type of tea
• Don’t oversteep. If you want it strong, use more tea.
And one last thing:
“You don’t extend your pinkie,” Bryce says, knocking down that particular tea trope. “No need to put on airs when you’re enjoying a cup of tea.”