Shop Review: Mootz Run Tea Shop and Petali Teas

The Columbus tea scene is pretty limited (well, the commercial tea scene anyway) considering that we claim to be the cultural and foodie capitol of the Midwest. There are only one or two shops I am willing to stop by in Columbus on a regular basis, but I feel as though I am pretty well connected with the private Columbus tea scene. Imagine my surprise when I learned that almost no one has heard of Petali Teas or Mootz Run Tea Shop before. It’s a crime that no one in Columbus seems to know about it, but it’s not surprising at the same time.

  1. This shop is located in the middle of nowhere. The first time we drove up, I thought for sure that the barn in the middle of the corn fields was some elaborate scheme to murder people who obsessively search for tea in the Columbus area.
  2. Mootz Run Tea Shop sells Petali teas. What? Why not just call it Petali Tea Shop? They seem to be the same company as far as I can tell.
  3. The owner doesn’t seem to be that active on social media. I’ve seen a post or two on the Facebook group, but that’s not where the Columbus tea freaks hang. That’s really not even where most of the national teaple hang. They sell on Amazon, but they don’t seem to market to the cool internet teaple, like reddit and Steepster.
  4. The hours are atrocious–Friday and Saturday from 11 to 5. I get that it’s a small shop, so you have to weigh cost vs. customer traffic. But that leaves just 6 hours a week for a Columbus resident to visit, and there’s too much going on in Columbus on Saturdays to want to leave.

But for all the criticisms, this shop makes up for it in everything else. Driving up to the shop for the first time makes you wonder if you’re in the right place, but after the first time, it’s quite literally a breath of fresh air. The wind is blowing through the gentle slopes of grass, corn, or snow, depending on the season. The shop itself looks like it’s a converted barn next to a lovely Victorian house that I want to move into. There’s even a cat sitting by the garden gate for crying out loud.

Fat orange cat sighting!

It’s pretty obvious that the owner either knows a decorator or should have been one. The shop is stunningly beautiful. Light streams in through the many windows and bounces off the high, white ceilings. Looking at my pictures, they don’t really do the place justice. Someone is apparently a fan of plants and animals, which matches up so well with people who love tea. The leaves and vines mingle with the teaware in the bright sunlight and make me feel so warm and fuzzy. I wonder what a couple of cozy armchairs with some kettles for brewing tea would do to a place like that. It’s certainly a room I want to hang out in.

As I said before, there isn’t a huge tea scene in Columbus. If you want to buy a gaiwan or a nice steeper, you’re pretty much stuck with buying off the internet. I’ve gotten a yixing swan set and a nice elephant tea spoon here, which is pretty incredible considering many teashops in the US are English style. In fact, the shop seems to be well balanced between Indian, Asian, and English tea traditions, with English taking the lead because one must, of course, cater to customer preference. They also seem to have some unique sources for teaware, as I haven’t seen many of these on Ali or ebay.

And why not add a little activism to your tea? This shop is a big supporter of elephant approved teas and merchandise. These teas are grown on plantations that participate in reducing human-elephant conflict in India. Are you telling me that I can buy an elephant spoon AND support the conservation of elephants? Elephants are one of my favorite animals; sign me up!

I thought this tea bar to make your own creations was a really interesting touch. But since I am forever the introvert, I am too antisocial to ask how it works.

Okay, on to the teas! Price wise, things are weird. Teas are priced by volume instead of weight. This is great if you prefer the blends that contain heavy fillers, but it kind of sucks if you want something light, like the Hua Shan Yellow. It might just be a great way to price up teas they feel are more expensive. They certainly don’t skimp on the tin-filling, so no worries there. You have to be careful whenever you open a new tin, as the teas will spill out everywhere! Petali also offers discounts for returning customers that bring in their tins and punch cards. I feel their prices are pretty fair.

Petali definitely favors flavored blends. While I personally don’t care for the majority of flavored tea, I do have some favorites. Many of the teas in here I actually can’t stand the smell of, but I can’t fault them at all on personal tastes. However, each time I have been here, I have been able to walk away with 3-4 teas. They are usually dessert blends; my favorites have been Mexican Wedding Cookie, Maple Crème Brulée, and Brown Sugar Bread Pudding. Some of the blends that I’ve had are pretty light on the tea, heavy on flavor, off the wall, but still pretty good, like Choco Coco Toasted Oolong and Honey Polenta Oolong. You can see here in my haul shot that I continued with the dessert theme. The Pumpkin smells scrumptious! Also, I thought the tin labels were a very nice touch.

The wall itself is very well organized, with separate, color coded sections for the different tea types, and different canisters for plain teas versus blends. All the information is printed on the front label, including ingredients, and you’re invited to take all the tins off the wall to sniff at your leisure.

The oolong section. Can we all take a moment to appreciate what a terrible photographer I can be?

From the looks of things, Petali tends to favor Indian for the plain teas (though I imagine they also use them for the blends a lot too). They have some Chinese oolongs, but the spotlight is on their unflavored Darjeelings. They do carry some Nepalese teas, which is pretty rare for a shop, and they also have some things that I’ve only seen “real teaple” get, like puerh stuffed in oranges and wrapped in bamboo!

But for all this innovation and creativity, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if this area were to experience a good Laoshan, Dianhong, or Ai Lao from China. What about a good Jin Xuan or Shan Lin Xi from Taiwan? A sencha or gyokuro from Japan? These, to me, are the best of the tea world, and it would be nice to see them in shops now and then. They don’t even really need flavoring, but imagine what fantastic bases they would make!

Since many of my readers (all one or two of you) aren’t in the Columbus area, you can see some, but not all, of the teas made in this beautiful little shop in the middle of nowhere on Amazon. Another silly thing they do is separate their shops by merchandise type, so you may have to dig a bit.

Happy teaing!

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Northwest Tea Festival 2016!

You know how you go on vacation, and it’s difficult to get back into the swing of things? Ever since my trip to the Northwest Tea Festival in Seattle, I’ve had trouble adjusting to regular life: regular sleeping and eating schedules, job schedules, and certainly blog writing. Hopefully you’ll forgive me for waiting an entire month before posting about this trip.

Seattle was an incredible opportunity for me because it was my first time traveling alone. My husband was stuck at home for work reasons while I got to make the decisions on where to go, when to go, how long I should stay, and how to get there. While I’m usually involved in some way in making most of these decisions when we travel together, there was just something different about not even having to consider someone else’s input. There was something thrilling about being in a completely strange place on my own, with the closest person I knew over a thousand miles away. If you’ve never traveled on your own, I recommend you try it at least once in your life.

Seattle Skyline

Of course, one is never truly alone in the tea community; you’ll “know” people in cities all over the world from r/tea, steepster, or wherever you hang out. I think there were a good 5 or 6 teaple I knew either living nearby or visiting for the festival. You’ll have to forgive the quality of these pictures; I learned some lessons after being overwhelmed at all the action going on here!

The tea festival wasn’t what I was expecting. I’m used to those enormous gift shows in Atlanta, with rows upon rows of vendors offering up sales pitches and samples. This was more like a small town gathering, a festival, if you will, of people coming together to celebrate this hot leaf juice. The best part of the festival for me was seeing how people combine their love of tea with their artistic expressions, such as the steampunk tea booth with tea sold in test tubes by a man dressed as the Mad Hatter or the weekend-long gongfu session from the stunning tea table with Crimson Lotus.

Steam Punk Tea
Loved all the creativity of this booth in particular. I wish I hadn’t been so distracted that I didn’t remember to get their name.

 

Crimson Lotus Table
I can’t imagine having to cart this thing around! It made this booth extra popular though. This was one of the rare moments there were seats available!

My tea collection is getting a bit large for my taste, so I exercised restraint in my tea haul. The unsmoked lapsang from Phoenix Teas stood out among the three billion samples I tried while there. I had heard that Crimson Lotus Tea’s 2012 Bulang Gushu was the ultimate in shou puerh, so it was the perfect opportunity to pick up a sample without having to pay shipping. Floating Leaves Tea had too many good samples to name, so I picked up some house oolong and gyokuro, one of my favorites.

Tea Haul
My total tea haul from the Northwest Tea Festival

At the end of the day, in case I wasn’t feeling caffeinated enough, I stopped by Floating Leaves Tea (the store) and sat down with Noah for a couple of hours (turns out I even kept him past closing, poor guy). I ended up accidentally adding some Shanlinxi to my stash from that conversation.

If it’s something you have the opportunity to do, I’d recommend attending tea events, even if they are just in your area. It’s a convivial experience, getting together with a bunch of strangers and leaving friends because you already have this one thing in common.

Maybe I’ll even see you there.

Happy teaing!

 

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Meet my tea cabinet!

Milche on the tea cabinet.
Milche enjoying the view of the kitchen from the tea cabinet.

There’s something a little delicious about looking at other people’s tea stash. You get a rare opportunity to compare your crazy to the craziness of others, and at the same time, you may get to find out that you’re not as crazy as some other people.

Tea cabinetCraigslist is my friend. If you look long enough, you can find pretty much anything there. For $50, I found my tea cabinet, which fits perfectly in my kitchen! The seller told me that she got it 20 years ago from “an importer of Asian goods,” which I took to mean World Market.

Open cabinetAnd here is the insanity: 150 kinds of tea, but fortunately, most of them are less than an ounce. Hopefully, my collection won’t outgrow it!

I want to see some stashes! Show me pictures of your collections and where you keep them. Teaware stashes count too!

Happy teaing!

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