Once relegated to our grandmother's doily-covered tables and our neighbors across the pond, tea's temperature is rising in Cleveland. Locals are discovering unusual new flavors at cafes and shops dedicated to piles of leaves. It's a big change from a few years ago, says Amber Pompeii of Cleveland Tea Revival in Ohio City. "I started talking about this shop five years ago, and people were like, 'No way, you have to do coffee,' " she says. Today, she's not getting resistance as new varieties hit the market and advocates such as Dr. Mehmet Oz have started pushing tea as a new kind of superfood. Whether you're a coffee drinker or a tea novice, Pompeii encourages you to test the waters. "It's just tea," she says. "There's something for everyone."
Steeped in tradition and history, tea is gaining popularity thanks to new flavors and varieties. Explore the soothing selections at these three spots.
Cleveland Tea Revival / Amber Pompeii worked at a tea shop in Seattle before returning to her native Cleveland to start her own cafe. The Ohio City spot resonates with history, from the refurbished wood bar to the salvaged tin ceiling, but features a modern approach to her favorite pastime. "What we're trying to do is really pure, organic, loose leaf teas," she explains of the shop's 50 varieties. "I'll pull every canister down, and you can smell every single one, and you can see what you like." Try This / Pu-erh Tuo Cha ($7-$8 per ounce), a fermented tea that produces an interesting flavor — think dirt and seaweed. 1434 W. 29th St., Cleveland, 216-375-8476, clevelandtearevival.com
Emerald Necklace Inn Tea Room / Gloria Cipri-Kemer didn't have tea in mind when she opened the Emerald Necklace Inn. But she offered teatime, just as her grandmother had taught her. The Victorian-style afternoon break became so popular, Cipri-Kemer started offering high tea to the public more than a decade ago and today features around 75 loose leaf teas. Its popularity has increased as people realize tea's health benefits. "It's a matter of having quality tea and understanding what it's doing." Try This / Her custom blended papaya and marzipan-flavored Gemini Rooibus Tea ($7 for 2 ounces). 18840 Lorain Road, Fairview Park, 440-333-9100, emeraldnecklaceinn.com
The Tea Lab / At this modern, Bauhaus-inspired take on retail therapy, loose leaf tea is the star. While it's more store than casual cafe, you can buy a cup to go and sip it at tables in the 5th Street Arcades, says owner Bob Holcepl, who started the Tremont-based coffee shop Civilization with his wife more than 20 years ago. "It's a very stark aesthetic, very clean, focused, easy to understand," he explains. You can choose from more than 100 teas — a limited selection as far as Holcepl is concerned. "I think people want to have a choice, and they should have a choice." Try This / An Indian tea called Niligiri Special Frost Oolong ($4.50 per ounce) — new buds are picked on the coldest days, leading to a palate-pleasing beverage. 530 Euclid Ave., Suite 17, Cleveland, 216-650-7017, thetealab.us