ANN ARBOR – Lisa McDonald knows her tea.
As the owner of TeaHaus in Kerrytown, her love affair with tea began in Germany, where she ran a consulting business for several years.
Through a twist of fate, a client inspired her to pursue a tea sommelier course in Germany -- the country with the strictest quality control standards of tea in the world.
McDonald is one of seven EU- certified tea sommeliers in the United States and brings her knowledge of tea varieties, origins, histories and flavor profiles to her double storefront shop at 204-206 N. 4th Ave.
There, you can find 180 varieties of the highest quality tea on the market and delicious, homemade baked goods -- most of which contain tea and are made at her nearby bakery, Eat More Tea.
Education is important to McDonald's mission to break down myths and introduce her customers to teas from around the world. She holds regular tea-tasting classes, one of which we recently attended. She was preparing for Kindlefest (which she founded and runs every year) and was wearing a snowman sweater one of her customers bought her.
During the class, she explained her background and gave tastings of about eight teas and samplings of delicious snacks that pair beautifully with tea, including dried fruit, caramels and a delicious nut and spice mix originating from North Africa called dukkah, eaten with slices of baguette dipped in olive oil.
She has partnered with Mindo Chocolate Makers, The Raven's Club and Ann Arbor Distilling Company on specialty pairing classes, which generally accommodate 50 people and sell out fast, according to McDonald.
When asked about her customers, McDonald said she is constantly surprised by them.
"I think Ann Arbor is very unique," she said. "When people come in and my biggest competition is when people say, ‘Oh, last week when I was in China,' or 'The week before when I was in India,' you know you’re in a unique market."
She is proud to have a shop in Kerrytown, which she said has a distinctly European feel.
"I would not have wanted to be anywhere but in Kerrytown because it has the most European feel after living in Europe for so long," she said. "I could never have imagined moving into a strip mall or something like that. So it was important for me to be here."
While she joked that her business is more like a nonprofit, she is proud of the community space she has created.
"We do concerts, I have a transgender meetup that comes in once a week, I have a tango group that comes in once a week," she said. "I (also) hire kids when they’re 15 and they’re still here. I have kids here who are 25 and they’ve worked for me for 10 years."
Like what you're reading? Sign up for our email newsletter here!
All About Ann Arbor is powered by ClickOnDetroit/WDIV.