Chicago is far enough north that hot tea sells well six months of the year and in sweltering summers ice tea surges making it one of the best locations for tea retail in the U.S.
DAVIDsTEA plans to open several new stores in the area with its new-found IPO financing while Teavana, Adagio and Argo Tea all operate multiple locations.
It may seem a crowded market but Jordan Scherer and Taylor Cowan launched Spirit Tea precisely because premium tea is in demand. The wholesale operation and online retail venture specializes in traditional (orthodox) loose leaf without the fruits and florals and flavoring made popular by the firms named above.
Cowan is former director of training at Adagio Tea and Scherer was employed in a Taiwanese tea garden. They were recently featured in Chicagoist where they described their inspiration for the company and their commitment to hand-made tea.
Cowan told the Chicagoist “initially we’ll do wholesale and have the opportunity to educate our accounts. There has been plenty of good tea around, only there hasn’t been a great educator. That dynamic leads to better tea.” “We’re hoping Chicago really desires true traditional tea,” says Scherer.
On their website they feature beautiful photography, introduce buyers to growers and note that “when we steep tea, we do not drink leaves but the volatile oils extracted from them by water—we drink their essence, their spirit—the leaves remain. What imbues each tea with an intriguing myriad of tastes is a matter of hand craftsmanship, process, season and the land from which they sprouted. These conditions, while similar from year-to-year, cannot be replicated, writes Scherer.
There is no reason to add anything to these teas, they have enough flavors on their own. In a way it’s a testament to the evolution of life itself— that every plant is related and therefore the tea plant can share the same flavor compounds as roses, he explains.
Spirit celebrates the inner life of tea, the absolutely unique character of each leaf. Originating from the Latin word spirare, meaning “to breathe,” spirit signifies the invisible miracle behind what can be touched.
Teas on offer on the website include black, green, oolong and white tea such as Drum Mountain retail for $17 for 30g. The varietal has been cultivated for centuries by a Buddhist monastery high atop its namesake: the perpetually cloud-ensconced Drum Mountain, according to the website. A bing cha of Bai Hao Yin Zhen Pu-erh sells for $45. A 50 gram pouch of Mang Shi purple cultivar from Yunnan sells for $51.
The Chicagoist article mentions several restaurant clients including Café Integral and several area coffee shops.