I’ll be the first to admit that my affinity for tea isn’t the most environmentally conscious of my choices. The 3 or 4 varieties of tea I typically enjoy each day are produced far across the globe. As wonderful as it would be to grow tea locally in New Mexico, unfortunately, it is far too arid for thirsty Camellia sinensis. Some varieties can grow in marine climates (found in much of Europe); however, most prefer tropical and sub-tropical conditions and demand at least 50 inches of annual rainfall. It is also claimed that teas grown at higher elevations are of superior quality to those grown nearer sea level. If only we had more water way up here! In any case, it is impossible to find locally grown tea in New Mexico, unless one limits oneself exclusively to tisanes (herbal teas.)
It is possible, though, to support a local tea company! New Mexico Tea Company, located at 12th and Mountain, offers a wide variety of loose, whole leaf tea, some of which is blended right here in town. Not all of the teas offered at the store are house blended – some are imported directly or sourced from other importers. But their collection is well curated by several tea experts. They carry many organic blends and a single local tisane. There is an impressive selection of single estate teas and a vast array of traditional teas. They entice from the walls of this tiny shop, with delightful labels emblazoned on their cans. Klimt’s Adele Bloch-Bauer adorns ‘Black Jasmine Cream,’ a blend of black, green and jasmine teas; a myriad of rice paddies defines the ‘Royal Yunnan’ black tea. Each image thoughtfully evokes the spirit of its tea, inviting you to explore the possibilities in a cup.
The complexity of the concoctions themselves is quite remarkable. The founders and interns of New Mexico Tea Company are masters of tea, no doubt. The quality of ingredients and expertise in blending account for the character of these teas. Opening a canister of Lady Londonderry or Masala Chai and taking the first sniff of the intriguing mélange within, it’s easy to forget you’re in public. I wanted to swoon and fall back into a velvety chaise, ensconced in the exquisite aroma. This is no common tea.
One of the teas blended in house is the Masala Chai. A classic concoction, this particular Chai is quintessential – neither obtrusive nor refrained. Chamomile Compassion is also blended in house; the rainbow of herbs and flowers, it exhilarates the palette. Others have more exotic additions – a pan mai tan green tea is accented by pomegranate. Their most popular blend – blood orange rooibos – is powerful in aroma, predominantly citrus with hints of hibiscus and rosehips. I have yet to sample a blend from New Mexico Tea Company which didn’t delight – even those of which I was skeptical, such as ‘Sergeant Peppers,’ a rooibos accented with red peppercorns and chile!
If you’re a tea lover and looking to try some interesting new tea concepts, you should definitely check out New Mexico Tea Company. They host tea tastings for $5 to $10 occasionally – sign up for the newsletter on their website to keep in the loop and to receive a free monthly sample!