I spent the recent Labor Day weekend in St. Mary’s, Ontario, at a small convention of people I know from the Independent State of Caledon, a neo-Victorian, Steampunk community in the virtual world of Second Life. One afternoon, four of us went into nearby Stratford for lunch and a very pleasant (and informative) tea-tasting at Stratford Tea Leaves.
The proprietor, Karen Hartwick, is one of only a few certified tea sommeliers. She began by asking each of us what kinds of tea we enjoy drinking. She then took canisters off the shelves for us to smell, pointing out how each tea was similar or dissimilar from teas we mentioned enjoying.
Each of us selected a tea to taste, which Karen carefully prepared as to quantity of leaves and steeping time. She used special tasting cups, which had lids to keep the tea hot as it steeped, and a section of grooves in one edge, so the tea leaves could be captured in the cup when the liquid was poured into a drinking bowl.
Karen gave us smaller cups so that we could give each other samples of our selected tea. Two of us tasted several additional teas and went home with happy purchases.
If you are ever in the area, I recommend a visit. Karen told us that she plans to add online ordering soon.