[caption id="attachment_175276" align="alignright" width="300"] Hunter Strickland, an Appalachian State University alum, first got interested in tea while living in San Francisco.[/caption] Hunter Strickland pours hot water onto loose tea leaves
Hunter Strickland pours hot water onto loose tea leaves in a gaiwan, or Chinese teapot. He then transfers the tea into a server and dumps it onto a small figurine of a rabbit. This ritual of discarding the first rinse of tea activates the essential oils in the leaves before brewing. “You can think of the first infusion that dried tea leaves yield as sort of like the first pancake: It’s never the best,” says Strickland, owner of High Climate Tea Company in Asheville.
The rabbit, known as a tea pet, will develop a patina over time, the details of its features becoming more pronounced with each rinse. “That rinse will be thrown away onto the tea pet to cultivate its coat,” Strickland says, “and that’s supposed to bring fortune back to you.”
Strickland, an Appalachian State University alum, first got interested in tea while living in San Francisco, where he discovered an oolong tea coated with ginseng that gave him more energy than coffee. He then apprenticed at a tea shop in Chinatown while teaching English as a Second Language there. He eventually began taking trips to China with his mentor to source tea from trusted growers. He learned that tea is like wine: How and where it’s grown is important — the terroir, the elevation. When his mentor encouraged him to open his own shop, Strickland felt that Asheville was the right place, in part because of the local community surrounding Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine.
At his tea shop and lounge downtown, he sells and serves teas and tisanes — non-tea herbs like ginseng and chamomile. He also educates customers on tea, including the health benefits of each variety — oolong for focus and concentration, black tea for digestion. And, of course, he teaches the importance of the ritual — for good fortune, for good health. For great tea.print it