I’m standing in front of a beautiful wooden tea sniffing bar built by owner Doria Roberts at the brand-new Tipple + Rose Tea Parlor and Apothecary in Virginia-Highland. She pulls out silver box No. 17 labeled “Black Forest” from the rack, gently lifts its lid and instructs me to inhale. Immediately, the sharp tang of cranberries, the earthiness of black tea and the milky sweetness of white chocolate intermingle in my nasal passages. The selection is just one of 84 varieties currently on the shop’s detailed tea menu.
“It’s not super aromatic,” Roberts explains, “but you’ll be able to detect certain ingredients. “We really recommend that you sniff the teas. Inhaling it first tells you, for example, if your selection has too much mint in it for your personal preference.”
Tipple + Rose Tea Parlor and Apothecary is the latest venture from singer-songwriter Roberts and her chef wife Calavino Donati of Urban Cannibals fame. It’s an exposed brick, wooden floored, community-sipping space located next to Surin of Thailand on North Highland Avenue. In the restaurant game, timing is everything and if the May 2015 Bon Appetit magazine story, “Tea Bars Are The New Coffee Shops” is accurate,
Roberts and Donati are positioned to ride the new wave of teashops set to sweep the country.
Roberts, who is currently studying to become a tea sommelier, pulls a small silver tray out from under the counter, lines it with a fresh sheet of brown paper and places a white teapot, matching ceramic teacup and a dainty silver spoon on it. There is Tea Master certification at multiple levels, she explains. “I’m doing it for a deep knowledge of tea so I can serve it and also procure it correctly. Tasting it raw, tasting it in its element, all of that.”
Roberts pulls out a large glass canister filled with my selected loose tea and fills a small paper tea bag filter with the leaves. “All the teas are brewed at different temperatures,” she explains. “Black tea is usually brewed at 200 to 212 degrees. Our water-brewing machine can be adjusted to whatever temperature required to accommodate the tea you’ve selected. If you don’t use the correct temperature water, you can end up scorching the buds and the flowers.”
“Removing the tea at the right time is important,” Roberts explains. “Especially for black teas and white teas. If you don’t remove the bag from the water, the tannins start to back up on themselves and the tea can become too bitter and astringent to be enjoyed.”
Blessedly, in blast furnace days of August, the shop can also transform any tea into an iced drink.
Taking a break after visiting with customers at an adjacent table, Roberts appears incredibly serene, probably much the way she looked when her wife ascended the store’s stairs on the eve of the shop’s opening. Donati discovered Roberts, standing in the middle of the shop, in tears. When she inquired what was the matter, Roberts smiled and said, “I’m just so happy.”
Roberts wants to bring that same level of serenity and calm to Tipple + Rose each day. That’s why the shop’s electrical outlets are covered and customers are encouraged to arrive with books instead of laptops.
“We want people to come here and have a moment for themselves,” Roberts says. “It’s about turning routine into ritual. A ritual is something that you do just for yourself. Something relaxing. It’s your time. We’re offering a refuge from your laptop.”
Tipple + Rose Tea Parlor and Apothecary, 806 North Highland Avenue, 30306
Hours: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Sundays.