My doc says I should relax and cut down on the caffeine, so I was especially looking forward to visiting Teavana, which just opened this weekend at Crossgates Mall.
So what exactly is "a heaven of tea"?
Teavana's an upscale store where the emphasis is on loose tea, teapots, tea sets, and tea-related accessories more than selling individual cups of hot tea. If you're already a tea aficionado, you'll probably feel pretty at-home; if your idea of hot tea is a microwaved mug of hot water with a supermarket brand tea bag steeping in it, you may feel out of your league -- and quickly.
The staff is really knowledgeable about the dozens of teas Teavana offers, seeking to connect tea drinkers with the blends that best fit their health goals. For example, the herbal infusions have lots of vitamin C and antioxidants; the Rooibos teas are said to be good for your skin and digestion and help with fighting allergies.
The teas are priced for 2 oz. of loose tea, which makes about 15 16oz. cups of tea; prices range from $3.30 to $18 or so per 2 oz. Hot tea samples were plentiful, giving customers lots of opportunity to try the different teas before buying any. The sales staff was enthusiastic to the point of hard-selling their products (it was a really short trip from "We have lots of different teapots available -- do you like this color better or that one?" to "So I'll wrap that up that whole tea set for you?") so I'd recommend picking up one of the Teavana booklets at the entrance of the store to get an idea of what you're interested in before walking in feeling like a deer in the headlights.
I'd already picked out the 13 oz. Joli Mug and Infuser ($15.95) so I was kind of prepared. The infuser sits in the mug and has little slits in the glass instead of holes, which seems to cut down on the loose tea bits that drift to the bottom of the mug (a pet peeve of mine with loose tea, what can I say?).
There are beautiful and understated china tea sets for sale that run about $90 and up. There are also full Japanese cast iron sets (teapot, five cups, coasters, teapot warmer, bamboo mat, and black lacquer tray) for $380 and up. The china sets are sold at sets but the cast iron pieces may be purchased individually (the small cast iron teapot was $69.95, cups $12.99 and up, coasters $9.99 and up). You can also buy mugs that include the infuser, tea tins, individual teapots, kettles, books on tea ceremonies, German rock cane sugar, and more.
Hardcore tea drinkers are more likely to find the store a tea heaven; regular old tea drinkers may find the whole experience a bit intense ( I left with my new mug and then went and relaxed at Starbucks with a decaf skinny caramel latte). If you're looking for someplace more relaxed and low-key (read: low-pressure) to try out new tea, I'd recommend The Good Leaf on Lark St. in Albany.
The Bottom Line
Shopping tip: Get one of the Teavana booklets that lists all the teas and many of the tea-related products available before you shop.
Albany, NY 12203
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