Comstock's magazine 0618 - June 2018 - Page 36

n TASTE TEA TIME Consumer education is key for Capital Region tea shops BY Jennifer Berry PHOTOS: Fred Greaves W Leo Hickman opened Classy Hippie Tea Co. in Oak Park in 2017. 36 | June 201 8 hen Leo Hickman returned in 2003 from an eight-month tour in Ku- wait as a combat engineer in the U.S. Air Force, he wanted a way to spread peace. With no idea how, he set out on a journey of self-discovery and back- packed through 27 countries. “What I found is the only way I know how to break cultural barriers is sitting down over food, breaking bread,” says Hickman, owner of Classy Hippie Tea Co. in Sacramento. But he found that quality food was expensive and didn’t allow ev- eryone a seat at the table. That’s when he discovered tea. During his travels in Guatemala, Hickman visited a bar where he met for- mer members of the Israeli army. “Now all of us were in this separate country look- ing for peace, and we were drinking tea,” he says. Classy Hippie Tea, which launched in 2013 and is now based in Oak Park, joins the ranks of a growing industry in the Capital Region. Tea shops Nautilus Tea Company in Fair Oaks and Tea Xotics in El Dorado Hills also opened their doors in recent years. These newer shops, along with older ones like Tea Cozy in Sacra- mento, have all made a concerted effort to grow their business through consumer education on the health and social bene- fits of high-quality tea — which comes at a steeper price than the average consum- er is used to paying for commercially- produced tea. The history of tea dates back 5,000 years ago in China, which became an economic power when it monopolized the industry of growing the tea plant,