Archive for Thursday, August 16, 2007

Tea totality

Eudora High School graduate brings art of tea to Kansas

August 16, 2007

The Shiau family is a tea drinking family.

Almost daily, the Shiaus gather around steeping leaves and discuss the happenings of their day.

It is from them Fanny Shiau and her husband Gary Peterson took inspiration to bring the way of tea to Kansas from Taiwan.

Before then, Fanny came to Eudora High School during her senior year as an exchange student from Taipei.

"It's a small town. People were friendly," she said of Eudora.

After graduating in 1992, she attended Kansas University and met Peterson. She received a degree in microbiology and, later, a masters degree in business administration.

Her husband, her degrees and her passion for tea mesh together in their business, The House of Chá, 21 W. Ninth St. in Lawrence.

The business has been open for more than four years now, sprouting from an Internet tea wholesaler to a full-fledged teashop.

Fanny has reached the point where she can run most of the store herself. She multitasks. At any given time she might be talking to customers, boiling water and steeping the various varieties of leaves.

Being involved in the business boils down to one thing.

"It's very exciting because I get to teach people about tea," Fanny said.

The House of Chá imports high-end teas from Taipei and Japan. The shop stocks many varieties of green, oolong and black teas. Customers can also buy their own tea sets complete with teapot and cups.

A glance at the menu yields the opportunity to try oolong tea varieties such as Emerald Jade or Snowy Moon.

"Oolong is by far the most precious, the most complex tea," Shiau said.

When new customers drift in, she usually starts them out with something basic if they are unfamiliar with tea.

"I always introduce a lower-grade tea for customers who are trying it for the first time," Shiau said.

Eventually, their customers get used to the subtleties between the leaves, Peterson said.

"It's really like fine a wine," Peterson said.

Peterson also has noticed the need continue local education about tea.

Sometimes it goes as far as getting customers to understand how a teashop differs from a fast-food restaurant.

"One of the biggest things is getting people to sit down and enjoy their drinks," Peterson said.

The shop's decor is open. Wide windows let light pour in. The couple's inventory of teas line the walls.

"The whole concept of drinking tea is drinking and being social," Peterson said.

The House of Chá's menu doesn't end with steaming cups.

Like teashops in Asia, the shop also offers small foods like rice cookies and cakes.

The shop also makes varieties of bubble tea, or drinks infused with tapioca pearls.

The restaurant's basic bubble tea includes tea iced with milk and the gummi-like balls.

"Bubble tea is the most labor intensive," Fanny said.

For more information about the House of Chá, call 785-830-8888.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.