Comstock's magazine 0618 - June 2018 - Page 37

Camellia sinensis, from which all tea originates. Today, the tea industry dom- inates the world of beverages, ranking second in global consumption only to water. In the U.S., the market rose from under $2 billion in 1990 to $12.5 billion in 2017, according to the Tea Association of the USA. While the national market continues to grow, it still trails far behind the coffee industry, which raked in $225 billion in 2015, according to the National Coffee Association. Katharine Burnett is the director of the UC Davis Global Tea Initiative, which launched in 2016 to study all aspects of tea and to serve as a global hub of exper- tise for the industry. She says, traditional- ly, consumers have purchased tea at a low price without knowing where teas came from or what was involved to make them. That makes it hard for people to un- derstand why they should pay more for certain loose-leaf teas. This is where the specialty industry — w hich aims to pro- duce a higher-quality tea that comes from hand-crafted production — is try- ing to figure out how to better educate the consumer, Burnett adds. For exam- ple: What regions consistently produce a good tea, how was the tea produced, what food pairings might be satisfying, and what might one prefer to drink in the morning, afternoon or evening? This focus on education is central to specialty tea shops like Tea Xotics, which launched as a wholesaler in 2010 and opened its retail shop in El Dorado Hills in 2016. While it wholesales to high-end restaurants such as Milestone Restau- rant in El Dorado Hills and Sutter Street Steakhouse in Folsom, as well as to a cus- tomer in Saudi Arabia that sells 75 of Tea Xotics’ blends, business is booming in its inviting tea shop. Tea Xotics’ owners — Hannah Plan- je, her mom Renée Planje and Hannah’s sister-in-law Lesley Planje — say sales are growing each month, tripling since they opened their retail store. And while made-to-order tea drinks are the shop’s biggest profit margins (the shop also sells tea accessories, vinegars and olive oils, and bath, beauty and culinary gifts), it’s the loose-leaf tea that’s the biggest seller. Tea Xotics’ custom blend Matcha Coco- nut Grass Skirt is its most popular prod- uct. Renee says that’s because they’ve educated their customers on the health benefits of matcha, which according to several studies has significantly more an- tioxidants than green tea. The co-owners purchase about 40 percent of their loose-leaf teas di- rect from tea farmers they know and trust. They have traveled to India and Japan to learn about the customs and culture of tea, and how it’s grown, pro- cessed and prepared. They share their knowledge with customers — the prod- ucts’ origins and why loose-leaf tea is better quality and more environ- mentally friendly than commercially- produced tea, and how it supports the livelihood of regional tea farmers. The goal is to unravel the mystery of tea and make it more accessible, Hannah says. “That’s how we can do this with pas- sion, because of all the places we’ve been to, because we’ve experienced it there,” Renée says. Nami Thompson has been selling loose-leaf tea from around the world at Several shops in the Capital Region, including Classy Hippe Tea, sell loose-leaf teas. TEA SPOTS IN THE CAPITAL REGION Classy Hippie Tea Co. 3226 Broadway, Suite A Sacramento Tea Xotics 4356 Town Center Blvd. #112 El Dorado Hills Nautilus Tea Company 11771 Fair Oaks Blvd. Fair Oaks Tea Cozy 1021 R St. Sacramento Temple Kukuri 10723 Fair Oaks Blvd. Fair Oaks Jade Valley Tea Arts 236 Commercial St. Nevada City Sokiku Nakatani Tea Room & Garden Sacramento State Lower level, University Library 2000 State University Dr. East Sacramento June 2018 | comstocksmag.com 37