Tea Talk, The Starbucks of Tea

Entrance to Tea Talk.

Upon walking in, my eyes were bombarded by the numerous shelves of teas positioned against the walls: Ginger Oolong, Peppermint, Chai, Jasmine and a wide selection and variations of more. The dim lights and cozy furniture all created a warm and picturesque view. Looking around one could see that the store preserves its Asian cultured roots through the use of its décor; floral paintings, Asian inscriptions, pottery such as tea cups/pots and bowls and many other trinkets. Near the register, baked goods lay to rest and ice cream freezes in the fridge. All the employees are attentive and smile as they tend to their customers.

Views of the various teas.

Tea Talk is a local store located at 2600 South Road Suite 33 within the shopping area plaza. The business was started in 2012 by Jenna McCarthy, who is of Chinese decent. It had been a dream of McCarthy’s mother to own a tea house and though her mother was not able to attain this dream, McCarthy along with her brother felt that it was necessary to fulfill it.

Tea has been a tradition of which has played an important role within McCarthy’s life.

“We have tasted the best teas in China. We have even tasted the rare teas exclusively served to the highest state figures such as Hu Jintao and Chairman Mao. We have tasted the same teas for the royal family and Queen of England and even President Nixon while he was visiting China,” explains McCarthy on the store’s site..

With her family’s tea expertise and natural love for tea, the Hudson Valley has been graced with the finest teas.

The business provides over 150 loose teas and over 60 bubble tea flavors. It is the only shop that offers such a wide range of flavors and mixtures in the local area. Especially within the shopping area, Tea Talk along with Dragon’s Den, a gaming store, attracts the attention of many people. “Right after someone leaves Dragon’s Den, they usually come over here for tea,” said Christopher Havens, manager.

Havens has been the manager at Tea Talk for a year now. He has always liked tea and when he found out they were hiring he walked into the store and was hired on the same day.

Employees at Tea Talk are tasked with not only providing the highest level of hospitality to their customers but also with the responsibility of being knowledgeable in the history and origins of the teas supplied.

“We encourage them to learn about the health benefits or the variations between whites, blacks and herbals,” said Havens.

He referred to himself as a tea master acknowledging that it was an official title used within the store. When talking about Jasmine Tea, Havens expressed the uniqueness of this particular type of tea. “All tea is made from one tea plant. But the oxidization and infusion process is what makes teas different. The tea is picked and oxidized lightly then perfumed with Jasmine.” Oxidation of tea is generally a key step that helps to change the appearance, flavor and chemical composition of the tea leaf.

Amanda Panzer, one of the baristas as well as social media navigator for Tea Talk, shared her favorite tea and the interesting knowledge she gained in learning about another type of tea. Panzer enjoyed Cherry Blossom green and advised that it was especially good with lemon juice and a sweetener, “it’s very refreshing and floral.” She also added that before she came to Tea Talk she wasn’t aware that Rooibos tea was very good for someone with diabetes. “It helps regulate blood sugar levels,” explained Panzer. “My dad has diabetes and its helpful that I can get some for him.”

Though their teas are loved, the store’s most popular drink among customers are their bubble teas also called milk teas. Bubble tea is a Taiwanese tea based drink made with milk and gets it dimension and texture from the addition of tapioca, pops or fruit jellies.

There is often a high influx among the youth that visit Tea Talk. Including various high school students from Spackenkill High School, Poughkeepsie High School and college students from Marist College, Dutchess and the Culinary Arts Institute. I myself had an opportunity to sample their Lycee tea mixed with peach bubble tea and absolutely fell in love.

In addition to their popularity among young people, the store’s bubble teas also attract many adults. “I like bubble tea because its creamy and delicious,” said Aysel Vandeventer, 29. Vandeventer after being told in conversation about Tea Talk looked it up online and then decided to check it out. Though she is only able to visit the shop about once a month, due to being a mom, when she does visit she usually orders mango, strawberry with passion fruit bubble tea.

Tea Talk has a range of menus all of which can be themed from Sailor Moon, Pokemon, Mario, Disney Princesses. Their menus usually reflect current trends.

LewAnn Taylor, 25, expressed that she loved the store’s selection of Disney Princess themed bubble tea drinks. Her favorite is Princess Aurora, which is a blend of strawberry, lavender, vanilla milk plus yogurt pops. Taylor often substitutes the yogurt for mango pops instead, “where I’m from in the Caribbean we love mango.”

Taylor, who was referred to the store by her friend Aysel, visits as often as she can. “Sometimes we sit down, other times we grab and go,” said Taylor.

Some customers also recognized and appreciated the soothing and calming atmosphere the store provides for the enjoyment of their teas.

In comparison to other tea/bubble tea places that Vandeventer has visited, she felt that the store created a “more homey atmosphere.” She mentioned that there were people who do school work here or hang out with their friends and also said that the quality of the store’s ingredients is high. In fact, there are high quality teas that are imported from places like China, Japan and even Korea.

Views of the furniture.

Aside from Tea Talk’s great varieties of teas, its customer service also attributes to its success.

“People here are great, the tea here is great, they keep me coming back here,” explained Taylor.

Among the employees, they also appreciate the working relationships they form with each other as well as those relationships formed with their customers.

“My coworkers are really great and sweet….When clients are regulars and come back, we develop fun work friends,” said Mikhalia Ackerbauer, barista.

Ackerbauer went on to talk about how appreciative she is for the creative and explorative work environment McCarthy maintains. Ackerbauer reminisced on when she first started working at Tea Talk and how she and Havens were testing out a cereal menu for bubble tea flavors. They were testing the left over milk of the cereal Lucky Charms to see if it would make for good drinks.

Tea Talk advertises themselves through school media platforms as well as participating in events throughout the Hudson Valley Area as well as at their location. They have tea demonstrations, attend health fairs and festivals, host costume conventions and more.

The store is really making it’s mark on the Hudson Valley area. “On Yelp we’ve been referred to as the ‘Starbucks of tea,’” shared an excited Panzer.

For more information about the store and upcoming events visit: http://www.teatalkteas.com

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