Style: What are you having right now?
Roundtree: This is a rooibos. It's South African and not technically a tea, but a red bush that is naturally caffeine-free and believed to have almost 50 times the antioxidants that green tea has. This one has a silky lemon finish to it, a really mellow year-round tea that tastes good iced, too.
How did teas begin to interest you?
I went to school for massage therapy, and in doing that we studied Chinese medicine and the holistic realm, and everything pointed to tea. I took classes, traveled and fell into this job at the tea salon. I practically live here now.
What's happening on the international tea scene?
Everybody in Venezuela and Brazil is drinking yerba mate. It comes from a tree in the rain forest. They cultivate it and brew it and drink it for its clarifying properties.
It keeps me awake and alert but not annoyed. I have a lot of marathon runners and students who come in and buy it to drink while they are studying or training. It's not like getting jacked up and crashing back down.
Which teas are said to have medicinal properties?
Herbal teas, ginger, peppermint, spearmint teas are good for tension and headaches. A full chrysanthemum blossom is good for fighting cold and flu and lowering your internal temperature, and a lot of CEOs come in for it to lower their blood pressure. Pu-erh Chinese medicinal teas are detoxifying and sweat the toxins out. I like to drink them with dim sum.
Do you suggest other food pairings with teas?
A lot of people drink jasmine teas with Asian food. Cured teas like Lapsang souchong are really smoky. I would compare them to a single-malt Scotch, and they are awesome paired with the old-school meat-and-potatoes meal or, as one of my clients says, with a cigar.
How does Richmond stack up as a tea town?
I actually think that Richmond is a lot farther ahead than a lot of cities are with tea. I came from the D.C. area a Starbucks society and a lot more go-go-go.
Down here, people are more interested in what they're putting in their bodies and learning about tea.
A lot have never bought tea before besides Lipton or Earl Grey, and they're the most daring and willing to experiment. Some are very set in their ways and come in every week for their half a pound and refuse to try something different.
A lot of women like the more perfumey teas with blended dried fruit. English clients stick to their straight black breakfast teas they can blend with milk and lemon.
Paris is one of our most popular teas, a classic black tea with bergamot blended with vanilla. Whenever guys come in to buy tea for their girlfriends, I tell them to give her this and she'll love ya. S