In an area that knows what it means to “mug up” — a phrase describing the coffee break of hardworking fishermen and cannery workers — Coletta Walker of Ivory Goose Antiques and Tea Emporium is introducing the fine art of enjoying tea.
The combination of antiques and teas seem a perfect match inside Walker’s Ivory Goose Antiques and Tea Emporium on Pioneer Avenue. Buffets and cabinets from England and other parts of Europe hold a wide selection of everything needed for enjoying tea to the fullest. There are cups, saucers and an assortment of teapots, pyramid shaped teabags, shaped and colored sugars, timers, lemon-squeezers, napkins and spoons. There are books explaining the art of brewing, serving and enjoying tea.
And there is tea. Lots and lots of tea. More than 150 flavors.
“I go to the World Tea Expo each year and buy from the tea entrepreneurs of the world, the tea garden people themselves,” said Walker of her global selection.
There are teas from Taiwan and China. There’s a tea from the Kisil district of Kenya packaged in boxes made by the villagers of the district and winner of the “Best Black Tea” award at the 2011 World Tea Expo. There’s Tea Forte, a favorite of Oprah Winfrey. There’s MarketSpice Tea from Seattle. There are jars of bulk tea, each uniquely named by Walker.
Her expansion from antiques to tea was a decision made to keep her business going year-round to survive a downward swing in the economy. Looking around the area, Walker found a piece that was missing.
“We need an alternative to coffee and I grew up with tea,” she said.
Walker soon discovered a whole new world. She began developing expert resources, such as the owner of the Queen Mary Tea Room in Seattle.
“She said, ‘Coletta, this is what you need,’ and she just laid it out,” said Walker, who credits the Queen Mary Tea Room for having “exquisite” teas.
Walker’s search also led to the Tea Spot Teas in Boulder, Colo., a company founded by a cancer survivor who drew on the health benefits of tea during her recovery. That company’s line of teas includes organic and Fair-Trade Certified teas, with 10 percent of every sale donated in-kind to cancer wellness and community programs.
Classes with “the tea leaders of the world” keep Walker adding to her tea knowledge, “learning more about it, how to properly steep it, what teas are good, what to pair with what. It’s just opened up a whole world,” she said.
For instance, there’s the camellia plant, which offers six varieties of tea and those varieties offer hundreds more. And there’s pu-erh tea, a Chinese specialty originating from the world’s oldest tea garden and recently praised by television health expert Dr. Oz.
“The legend goes that a dignitary was having his water, which was in a big barrel on his balcony, caught from rain and one day the leaf of this tree fell into it. After the water was boiled to cleanse it, it had a flavor in it. They saw the leaves in there and that was the first, as the story goes, of having tea,” said Walker.
Flash forward to recent times, and tea can be found in nightclubs where creative mixologists combine it with liqueurs, rum, brandy, tequila and even whiskey.
In addition to tea and tea tools Walker’s customers can purchase and take home, they also can sit down at one of her beautifully set antique tables and experience firsthand Walker’s tea expertise.
“It’s always been a sociable drink,” said Walker. “Short of water, I was taught that tea is the most favorable, most desired drink in the world.”
At the Ivory Goose, Walker serves tea in beautiful porcelain or china cups that make it possible to “experience the difference in the flavor and how you feel with peace of mind in having that tea,” said Walker.
Add a hot scone with fresh lemon curd and whipped cream or a pumpkin nut roll hot from Walker’s kitchen and it’s the perfect time-out to enjoy alone at Walker’s table-for-one or to share with others.
“It’s the ‘ahh’ moment of relaxation and tranquility that comes over you, removed from the hectecness of life.”
Walker opened Ivory Goose Antiques in 2008 at a Lake Street location and moved to Pioneer Avenue in 2009.