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Tea brewing demystified

Jan and Tamara Miller of Turtleheads Tea and Coffee Company have begun hosting tea-tasting seminars in their store at 11130 Kingston Pike.

The classes are designed to introduce customers to the techniques and traditions of brewing loose-leaf teas, including green, white, oolong, black and herbals.

“We have classes in the evenings, very small classes, limited to about seven people,” Jan Miller said.

One class is Basics of Tea Tasting, in which “people would learn about the teas … and we focus a little bit on the history and folklore behind each tea, and then we give everybody a chance to sample the different teas and show them the proper way to brew them,” she added.

Another class, Unique Tea Types 101, allows customers to learn about and taste three teas from different cultures, including South American mate, South African rooibos, and one other unique or seasonal tea.

Other classes offered are Green and White Tea 101 and specially requested classes.

“We’re also going to have, starting in April, a new iced tea class to let you know how to brew many different types of iced tea, from Southern sweet tea to rich and creamy iced chai tea latte and many different iced teas in between,” Miller said.

“Many of our teas, green teas, black teas, oolongs, they all stand up very well to a cold beverage,” she added.

The tea-tasting seminars started last year. “It was slow to start, because we started around the holidays and I think that’s not a very good time to start. But recently all of our classes have been sold out. It’s been so much fun. It’s very informal; there’s lots of time to ask questions and we try to make it fun and interesting. It seems like everybody is having a really good time,” Miller said.

“It’s amazing: strangers just sharing their ideas and everything,” she added.

Turtleheads offers more than 100 varieties of loose-leaf teas, many of which are hand-processed and organic. Their coffees are all organic and fairly traded. They also offer tea ware, coffee ware and other fairly traded artisan crafts, such as bowls, bags and baskets.

“The number one most important value is that our teas are fresh. They are quality teas that are hand-picked and hand-processed … and that makes a big difference from what you find on a grocery store shelf,” Miller said.

“We want tea to be an affordable, fun luxury for everyone. Our store is very practical. We sort of demystify the tea experience here,” she added.

Dates and times of each set seminar are posted in the store or on the Web site. Classes are open to anyone, but pre-registration and pre-pay are required. Most classes cost $10; the iced tea class costs $25. For more information, call Turtle-heads at 865-675-5505 or visit


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