Since 2006, CaryTown Teas has provided a delicate alternative to lattes and macchiatos from coffee shops that seem to spring up overnight like mushrooms. Owner Patricia Guillouard Adams hand-blends each fragrant batch, coming up with intriguing new teas such as lavender Earl Grey and Madagascar vanilla rooibos, that can be purchased at Kroger and Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market, in addition to the shop at 24 S. Nansemond St. Her latest project is a line of teas inspired by the colonial era.
When you were growing up in Paris, what sort of memories do you have associated with tea?
When I was a child growing up in Paris, after school, I would meet my grandmother at the Louvre where she was working, we would have a cup of tea when she was on break, and we would talk about my day at school. At that time, tea became associated with the close connection I had with her. On special occasions, we would go to the tearooms in Paris, such as Mariage Frères. Then tea became associated with wonderful memories of the décor and flavors of the tearoom, in addition to the special memories [with my grandmother].
Where do you get your teas?
We source the shop’s teas from organic farms and estates from across the globe and blend them locally, in house.
You’re coming out with a new line of colonial-themed teas — what drew you to that era?
It started with me watching an HBO special about John Adams and that spun off into a fascination with the Founding Fathers, who I regard as heroes. Can you imagine the courage it would take to spark a revolution like that? Then I realized that one of the sparks leading to their revolution was the Boston Tea Party — as a result of the Tea Act — which was imposed by England and was a major catalyst in that movement.
How did the different places and people inspire the different blends? I’m thinking of the Patrick Henry and Abigail Adams blends — why those particular flavors for those particular historical figures?
When the process began, we wanted to draw inspiration from the famous figures and teas of the time, such as the Boston Tea Party blend, which is a revival of one of the more popular blends at the time.
As a woman, I find Abigail Adams to be a strong, feminine figure in our nation’s history. If you look at her letters to her husband, John Adams, you will see that she was not afraid to speak her mind and her opinion mattered greatly to him. Her blend of black tea and rose, much like herself, is feminine and strong.
With regard to Patrick Henry, since he is a visionary Richmond local, we wanted aspects of his blend to be familiar to Virginians, so we added the sassafras. As for the hibiscus and blood orange, we wanted the color and taste to mimic Henry’s own fiery passion.
How do you suggest preparing these teas? Milk? Sugar? Or leave them alone?
I prefer the Abigail Adams blend with a splash of almond milk and the Patrick Henry with a drizzle of honey, but they can be taken any way you please.
Where can tea drinkers find them?
Boutique shops and museums have expressed interest in the blends, so this collection should be available at historical societies up and down the East Coast before the holiday season rolls around.