Summer is the right time for gourmet teas

FRANK ON FOOD

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Frank ChLumsky

As I mentioned in a recent column, I can't say enough about Todd & Holland Tea Merchants. This has been true since the very first (serendipitous) day when I walked into that extraordinary tea shop (formerly in River Forest) and met Bill Todd.

That chance occurrence happened a little more than five years ago and, apart from the eye-opening introduction I had to the vast world of fine tea, it gave rise to my first ever attempt at feature writing and launched my career as the food columnist for the highly revered Wednesday Journal. Serendipity.

So let's talk tea. Todd & Holland has just opened their new shop on the happening "new" Madison Street in Forest Park, and I have to say there's nothing comparable to this remarkable, one-of-a-kind tea shop in or around the entire metropolitan area.

If you haven't experienced the wonderful malty aftertaste of Assam tea, the gracefulness of Darjeeling from India, the subtlety of the myriad green teas and fragrant oolongs of China, or even more special, the rare and delicate white teas from Japan, you have a unique opportunity to do so close to home.

Free tastings of the various tea categories have been happening every Saturday in July with proprietor and tea connoisseur Todd giving short "tea talks" at noon and 3 p.m. This Saturday, July 16, will feature a newly arrived batch of green teas from China and Japan, and on July 23 you can sample an array of the finest oolong teas I've ever enjoyed.

July 30 rounds out the month with an unusual selection of "Tisanes," commonly called herb teas. Technically speaking, they aren't really tea, but they're made in much the same way, by steeping various herbs, spices or flowers in hot water. They're caffeine free, quite tasty and just as intriguing. One of them is even named Serendipity.

August is "free tea month" at Todd & Holland and with every quarter pound of tea you purchase, you can select any two sample sizes you like. Better yet, on Sept. 8 and 15 you won't want to miss their annual 50 percent sale where you can save a bundle on all sorts of selected teas as well as assorted tea accessories.

No one, of course, has to be reminded that we're in the throes of a very hot summer, and if you like iced tea you won't believe how different and wonderful it can be when made with fine tea. Todd & Holland has a special selection of teas that are perfect for icing.

Imagine the taste of Island Mango, that wonderful fruit blended with both black and green tea, or Summer Solstice, with the taste of lemon and apricot. Better than anything you'll ever find at the supermarket is the simple but delicious Todd & Holland Iced Tea Blend, pure strong tea that's just right for icing.

Incidentally, here's a tip from Todd that will turn cloudy iced tea to clear: just add a tablespoon of hot water to your cloudy tea and it will clear right up. How's that for serendipity?

Todd & Holland's new location is at 7311 W. Madison St. in Forest Park.

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