It's All About the FoodChristmas Baking with SusieJ

Premium Steap

111 S 18th Street Philadelphia, Penna.

With a Starbucks on every corner and a house blend in every grocery store, a coffee lover need never go without an acceptable cuppa. Tea drinkers, however, are most often confined to the Bigelow/Twinnings/Tazo bag ghetto. Sure, gourmet groceries and even the average mega-mart carry loose tea, but there your choices are still limited to Twinnings and the Republic of Tea.

In Philly, a few stores carry quality loose tea: Fante's and the Spice Terminal are where I usually get my brew. For green and oolong, we go to Ten Ren in NYC, although MotoYamaMoto brand bags from any Oriental grocer are a good everyday choice.

In the past couple of years, the city seems to have become a tea-drinker's Mecca, with a number of new tea shops, including Ray's Cafe and Tea House, Remedy Tea Bar and Premium Steap. (I'm not forgetting The Bubble House, but bubble tea is very much an acquired taste.)

Returning from Suzanne Goin at Le Bec Fin, I walked past Premium Steap and had to give it a try. They have a larger collection of flavored teas than I expected -- flavored teas seem unsophisticated to me. I skipped the greens and oolongs because we have at least two, four-ounce bags of tea from Ten Ren. Old stand-bys seemed the best choices to assess the teas. I asked for English and Irish breakfast and received English breakfast, the house blend, and a sample of keemun.

As much as my tastes have refined over the years, I still like an English breakfast that can put hair on your chest. Alas, the Premium Steap English breakfast leaves one's chest no more hairy than before (much to my husband's relief). All three teas were more delicate than the supermarket standbys. The house blend tasted similar to the English breakfast blend, but the keemun was lovely.

Will I go back? Next time I'm in Center City I'll be experimenting with assam, darjeeling and keemun.

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