How to Spend It: A well-sourced brew

At Minneapolis-based Verdant Tea, every cup tells a story

By Ali Lacey

While studying abroad in China, David Duckler escaped the frenetic streets one day when invited into a teahouse by its owner. Inside, the Minnesotan found the tranquility and hospitality that are often considered old Chinese ideals. "That's where I saw what I loved about the literature and philosophy of China," he says.

After returning to America, Duckler got a research grant to re-enter China and collect folk stories from tea farmers. By approaching these well-respected local figures, Duckler met the suppliers that he and his wife Lily still work with today through their Minneapolis-based company Verdant Tea.

Beginning with an online store in March 2011, the company added a physical space in July 2013. Located in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis, the Verdant Tea Bar and Tasting Room is designed to encourage relationships between customers and tea, with the farmers highlighted through in-depth tasting menus and large hanging photos. "We had to tell their stories," Lily says.

The company's most popular tea, Laoshan Black, is dark with hints of chocolate and sells for $7.25 an ounce. Its most expensive variety, Master Han's Wild Picked Yunnan Black, has floral notes and goes for about twice that amount, or roughly $100 for an 8-ounce bag.

The tranquil tasting room also features treats from other local entrepreneurs, including the Birchwood Café, Real Deal Chocolate, and Sweet Science Ice Cream. "It's a local web of partnerships," Duckler says.

If you're in Minneapolis, visit the space for a tasting event, the occasional live music set, or just the relaxing vibe (with, of course, a perfect cup). If not, order a bag of leaves at or join the Tea of the Month Club, which entitles you to three varieties sent to your door every month.