First, it was ice cream and fudge, then coffee was added to the mix — and now owners of the Frederick Fudge & Ice Cream shop and The Frederick Coffee Company, Mike and Terri Winder, are also offering tea. The Shab Row Tea Emporium opened this summer at 112 North East Street.
I got the chance to chat with Mike Winder and one of the tea shop employees, Diana Ray, about the new business. The original plan, Winder said, was to eventually offer more exotic, loose-leaf teas in the coffee shop (beyond the typical stock tea bag options). However, there really wasn’t enough space, and the pace of things next door was a little too fast. The Winders were really just waiting for the right location; when the shop right next to The Frederick Coffee Company became available, it seemed the time had come.
The shop currently has 225 different loose-leaf tea varieties, but Winder said the goal is to get upwards of 300 varieties. The Shab Row Tea Emporium also carries the largest selection of kosher teas in Maryland. The wall of tea tins is quite a sight, but the drawers of test tubes make the shopping experience a little easier. The test tubes hold every variety of tea carried in the shop, and they allow customers to see the tea, open the tubes and smell. Shoppers can save their favorites on particular racks, and Diana and the other sales associates are there and ready to help with picking out a blend.
The shop boasts indoor and outdoor seating as well as WiFi. A small second floor includes some chairs and unique Indian wedding tables, perfect for getting a little work done remotely or even hosting a small meeting complete with snacks from The Frederick Coffee Company.
The tea itself is created fairly locally. The Tea Emporium gets its tea from Green Alchemy in Lovettesville, Va. This company sources teas from all over the world, does all the blending and provided training to the Tea Emporium staff. Part of that training of course was the proper way to brew loose-leaf tea.
I’m always interested in perfecting my tea-making skills (since I personally can’t drink coffee) so I asked shop associate Diana what goes into making the perfect glass of iced tea. Diana suggested using an infuser. They sell these at the shop, but it’s essentially a tea pot that will also strain the tea. It makes pouring tea directly over ice super easy.
The next question: How much tea is needed? Diana said to double the amount of tea leaves suggested for hot tea (because the tea will get diluted with the ice). So a 16-ounce glass needs approximately 8 ounces of water and two heaping teaspoons of tea. Many people think steeping tea longer will make it stronger, but Diana said that’s not the case. Using more tea is really what makes tea stronger. In some cases steeping too long only leads to a bitter cup of tea. Most teas only need about five minutes to steep. The other really important tip, is to sweeten tea before pouring it over ice. Otherwise the sugar or honey won’t be able to dissolve.
There are still a few more months of warm weather left to enjoy using these tips for refreshing iced tea. Those who don’t feel like brewing their own though, will find the staff at Shab Row Tea Emporium is happy to brew a cup of any blend — hot or iced. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The website, www.ShabRowTea.com, will be up and running soon. Reach the shop at 301.378.8537 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah Withers is the owner of Taste Frederick Food Tours. She also writes about her own adventures in the kitchen at www.BySarahRae.com. Find her tweeting about all things food and Frederick at @tastefrederick.