La Via del Tè, Florence, Italy

La Via del Tè, Florence, Italy

Drinking In: Firenze, Italia

I don’t think I ever drank tea when I lived in Florence. Not once. I don’t think I’ve ever had tea anywhere in Italy. Why would you drink tea when you’ve got some of the best coffee in the world at your disposal? I can’t pass up a perfect shot of espresso with just the right amount of milk and foam and, in the south, sprinkled with a little cocoa powder. How does every tiny corner bar in Italy manage to make a better cappuccino than even some of the best cafes in the U.S.?

But I digress.

I’ve never gone to Italy looking for tea and that, oh, that, was a mistake. Just across the street from our hotel on Via della Condotta, there’s a little shop called La Via del Tè, which sells loose leaf teas and all the accessories you need to brew loose leaf at home. I fell in love with loose leaf several years ago at TeBella Tea Company in Tampa. So, every day when we returned to our hotel I looked longingly in the windows of La Via del Tè. Often, it was closed when we went by, and I kept turning the place over in my brain thinking “It must be new. I wouldn’t have missed such a great place so close to my apartment when I lived here.” But the sign said “Dal 1961” (since 1961).

On our last day, I delayed my “riposino pomeridiano” (afternoon nap, which we usually took later than the Italians from 5:30-7) just a few minutes longer than my travel companions to stop inside.

La Via del Te as seen from my hotel window. (bottom right corner).

The teas are displayed in large glass jars on lazy Susans. The young woman inside invited me to smell the teas and browse while she assisted another customer. When he left, she told me a bit about the shop, asked me about my tastes in teas and helped me choose a few of their in-house blends.

The history of La Via del Tè stretches back to 1961 when Alfredo Carrai began to import high-quality loose leaf teas to Italy when tea drinking was nearly unheard of in Italy. In 1997, La Via del Tè boutique opened in Piazza Ghiberti (an area of Firenze I rarely visited). The second boutique, on Via della Condotta, opened in 2013.

I chose two teas to bring home: Santa Maria del Fiore and Love Story. Love Story is a green tea, one of La Via del Tè’s special blends, a favorite of the lovely shopkeeper, and a tea I’m excited to try soon.

 

This morning, one of the very chilly days of late fall, I’m enjoying a (dog hair-free) mug of Santa Maria del Fiore, named for the Duomo in Florence. The tea smells like spring flowers when brewed, but tastes rich and earthy with a cherry finish.

Your lesson for today: Drink many cappuccini in Italy, but if you see loose tea, have a cuppa, especially if you’re in Florence where you can get a cup of tea brewed on the spot at La Via del Tè.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *