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Published: Thursday, 3/1/2007

Tea is no tease, it's first true love for shop owner


When it comes to tea, Elaine Terman admits that she has been bitten and smitten.

For the last several years, she's steeped herself in the passion and romance, the history and the mystery that swirls around tea - types of tea, tea grading, tea preparation and methods, tea-tasting guidelines, tea gardens, and tea estates.

And stir in some tea kettles, tea carts, tea cups, tea parties, tea pots, and tea rooms.

Owner of Elaine's Tea Shoppe in Sylvania, Ms. Terman of West Toledo has a word of warning for anyone who is considering a journey into the world of tea.

"Hang on. It's an adventure," she said as she watched dragon pearls - tight little balls of tea leaves - unfurling and dancing about in hot water in a clear glass vessel.

As hot water covers tea leaves, the reaction is called "the agony of the leaf," she said.

"I love that description."

Ms. Terman, who has owned and operated her tea shop for six years, including three years at its current location at 6600 Sylvania Ave., has just published her first book entitled Tea Tasting Journal, a Primer for Those New to the Journey into Tea.

"There are lots of books out there on tea. Tea has been around 5,000 years, maybe longer, and it has a fascinating history."

But, she added, her book is the "first and only tea-tasting journal in print."

From the great Clipper ships to the ancient Silk Road to the rebellious Boston Tea Party, "tea has a weighty place in history," Ms. Terman said.

And currently, "tea is becoming much, much more popular," she said. Part of that popularity could be tied to the health benefits of tea.

Whatever the reason for the growing interest, Ms. Terman decided that now would be a good time to publish a tea-tasting journal.

With more than 10,000 different varieties of tea on the planet, Ms. Terman's journal could come in handy, particularly for people who participate in tea-tasting events.

During such events at her shop, she has noticed that people scramble to find scraps of paper on which they could jot down notes.

Ms. Terman's journal, which is available for purchase at her shop and online at her Web site www.thetealady.com, includes pages where tea tasters can keep track of such details as name and type of tea; country of origin; leaf grade and appearance, including color, fragrance, texture, shape, and size; water temperature, time infused, and vessel used when the tea was made; description of the tea's color, aroma, and consistency; first infusion cupping notes; general notes of the day; foods that go well with the tea; where the tea was purchased, and notes about whether the customer would buy the tea again.

So much goes into a good cup of tea, from selecting the tea to the first steaming (or icy) sip, Ms. Terman said.

"People often want to write down some notes," she added.

The journal, which includes basic tea information, outlines Ms. Terman's journey into tea.

She says that "tea truly is a treasure of the world. Once bitten by the tea 'bug' your life is never the same.

"It becomes enriched with ritual, relaxation, better health, and in incredible variety of flavors, textures, and characters. Special times are to be had over this wondrous cup."

On a recent day, several customers gathered for lunch at the tea shop, including Mary Kay Garn, of Sylvania, and her sister Jane Black of Windsor, Canada.

"I much prefer tea to coffee. I have always been a tea drinker," said Mrs. Garn, who has visited the tea shop numerous times for lunch and to purchase tea.

"I have some tea from Elaine's in my cupboard at home," she said, and her sister chimed in, "So do I."

Customers said that they like to browse through the shop that is stocked with more than 100 loose leaf teas from around the world.

A tea-tasting journal would come in handy, indeed.

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