Louisville is a city of great tastes. There are lovely places to eat, drink and be merry wrapped into a small but lively package. Typically, the watering holes in a city are where people consider grabbing a drink containing alcohol, but there are other places where refined palates can take in good sips and relax. There are the usual coffee shops and more recently, the loose-leaf teashop has sprouted in several places around the metro.
Teas come in varieties from black to herbal, grassy to spicy. The diversity in tea makes a trip into local teashops an adventure and a lesson in world geography. Historically teas have been used to heal sick bodies and soothe tired souls. It is both ceremonial and social; and like wine, it has a notoriously cultivated appeal.
The popularity of tea is on the rise in Louisville and the surrounding area. Louisville Distilled found the best five tea places that are must stops for any tea fan and perhaps even more so for the tea curious. These places offer exciting blends and tea education to match.
Wild Dog Rose
1570 Bardstown Rd.
Only open a couple of months and nestled in a small space at 1570 Bardstown Rd near Cumberland Brews, Wild Dog Rose is the contribution of Emily Gibson and Margaret Hamilton to Louisville’s tea scene. The store is quaint, full of unique items both tea-related and not. The aroma is peachy and warm.
When asked, “why open a tea shop,” the answer is simple, “We are very into education, community, and being kind to yourself and the earth. We chose tea [and all of these other items] because we believe in them,” Hamilton shares.
“I think we would both agree that we still consider ourselves tea novices,” she continues. “There is just so much to learn, we haven’t even scratched the surface. But we love it so much, and we want to share it with as many people as possible.”
While tea is the main attraction, the boutique, whose name is an allusion to the medicinal use of rose hips, offers more. Wild Dog Rose, has a massive wall of tea, sells crystals, essential oils, tinctures, tarot cards and books.
“We both have a genuine love for everything in our store that we can share with each other and each person who comes in! Tea caters to everything we love–it requires education to truly know tea, it brings people together, and it is very kind to your body and your earth,” says Hamilton.
In the future, Wild Dog Rose intends to host classes about tea, oils and chakras as well as hosting a special celebration for Samhain, a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter.
113 East Main Street
In the heart of LaGrange, Kentucky (113 East Main Street), Masterpiece Tea offers a multi-option tea experience. The main room of Masterpiece doubles as an art gallery and performance space, while a separate quiet room offers tea drinkers a step back in time to the Victorian age.
Founded by husband and wife team, Rebecca Bischoff and Bill Chambers, Masterpiece is a quirky spot perfect for the tea-drinking artist. An artist herself, Bischoff wanted to have a space that not only offered fine teas but that fed the creative soul, especially that of women.
The menu of the teahouse includes special blends all named for famous female artists. “The whole concept of masterpiece tea is to basically celebrate feminine energy. The majority of the artists in the gallery are women. Female artists do not get the recognition that some of the men do,” says Bischoff.
In addition to being an artist, Bischoff has degrees in music and art history from Bellarmine University. She wanted to translate her educational background and the love of tea that she inherited from her grandmother into a space that offered some of both.
“My grandmother has Romanian ancestry,” she says. “She was my babysitter, my first teacher; she was my first playmate. She taught me that art is not always something that you hang on the wall. It’s anything that’s creative. You can create every day; little tiny mundane things that people take for granted like blending a cup of tea.”
Bischoff blends all of the teas at Masterpiece in-house. In addition to creating through the tea blends, she wants patrons to understand the medicinal properties of teas. Being unable to use traditional antibiotics, Bischoff has used teas to heal for many years.
For the uninitiated, Bischoff recommends starting with a light tea. “I always tell people to ease your way in,” she says. “Find out what you like. I always start them off with Frida Kahlo.”
Bischoff blends teas that often are naturally sweet and discourages the overuse of sugar. “We are inundated with sugar in everything, and my teas are naturally sweet.”
Masterpiece Tea hosts classes, workshops and support groups in addition to the tea and art in the main gallery. Special events are planned including more musical and theatrical performances nearer to the holiday season.
106 W. Main St.
Hillbilly Tea was the dream of Karter Louis until the downtown Louisville bridge construction caused his customers to seek their tea elsewhere. In the time Hillbilly Tea was closed, Louis spent time recording a new album—he’s a popular singer in Asia—and took some well-deserved self-care time.
However, after a brief absence that included the closings of Louis’ multiple Hillbilly Tea locations, including one in Shanghai, he has returned. The revived Hillbilly Tea Tavern will have a static menu yet still offers some crowd favorites and expand the biscuit offerings.
Hillbilly Tea has a variety of custom organic tea blends and even a grown-up drink menu where tea becomes part of the cocktail offerings.
The new location is in close proximity to the old, just around the corner at 106 W. Main St. With a more reliable format, Hillbilly Tea returns to a fan base saddened by the shuttering of the old place. The new Hillbilly Tea should satisfy those fans.
Louisville Tea Company
9305 New LaGrange Rd.
Located at 9305 New LaGrange Road in Louisville’s east end, the Louisville Tea Company is hidden in a small strip of stores between a laundromat and the Corner Café. Inside is a treasure for any serious tea drinker. Owners Nick and Nicolette Spears wanted to make buying high quality loose-leaf tea easier.
“My first job while I was in high school was at a loose-leaf tea shop in Phoenix. When I moved here in 2010, I couldn’t believe that there wasn’t more tea. So, we decided to bring these high-end teas to Louisville to share this whole world of flavor,” says Nicolette.
The world of tea can be confusing to navigate, she admits, suggesting that new tea drinkers should talk to a local teashop owner, “someone that will not just try to sell you something, but someone who can answer all of your questions.”
She suggests that familiar flavors for the tea novice might be the perfect entryway into the world of tea.
“For the best taste and highest quality, always choose a loose-leaf tea vs. a teabag. As far as what teas to begin with, just start with flavors you know. If you know you like cinnamon, maybe start with a chai. Or if you like fruity flavors, maybe start with a mango or berry tea.”
With an extensive tea menu, the shop is dense with teas including rare and expensive items. The shop also includes all the apparatus needed to prepare tea and plenty of tea-related gift items.
To help educate their clientele, Nicolette and her sister Sophia post vlogs on YouTube sharing topics related to tea. “Since there is so much to know about tea and there are many questions out there, we have created a video blog to help. My sister Sophia and I post a new video every Tuesday with The Tea Sisters,” she says.
This presents new tea drinkers and more experienced tea aficionados a way to deepen their enjoyment of tea.
“Once you are comfortable with using loose-leaf, the flavor profile opens up even more as you get into traditional teas that have no additional flavorings,” Nicolette continues. “These are more like tasting wines. You can get everything from a bold and smoky Golden Monkey to light sweet and floral Ti Kuan Yin.”
Sisters Tea Parlor & Boutique
4765 Fox Run Road
If you think tea parties are limited to little girls, Sisters Tea Parlor & Boutique(4765 Fox Run Road) will prove you wrong. Situated in Oldham County, Sisters offers traditional tea service seven days a week, and hosts many special events ranging from “Mary Poppins High Tea” to “Doctor Who High Tea” throughout the year. (Look for “Jane Austen High Tea” and “Girls and Dolls Tea Party” coming this August.) They also host bridal teas and showers, etiquette classes and Alice in Wonderland tea and princess parties in their private dining room.
Sisters began as Sisters Gift Shop in 2002. Owner, Connie Young wanted to open a gift shop specifically for women. After opening her shop, she felt something was missing. Memories of afternoon teas with her grandmother inspired her to open a tea room with her daughter, Lori Crowe. The mother-daughter team expanded the gift shop to include two dining rooms and a private party room, as well as an updated boutique. Diners can now browse through the shop, which sells everything from teapots to baby gifts to jewelry and loose leaf teas.
What makes Sisters so special is its attention to detail—from the festive, decorative dining rooms, to the dainty china, and delicate food. It’s not just about drinking tea, but about experiencing tea and all its grandeur. Despite the elaborate place settings and formal décor, Sisters maintains a fun, whimsical environment. Guests are invited to dress-up at a vanity area filled with hats, gloves and costume jewelry.
Further, they are encouraged to linger, lounge and laugh while enjoying bottomless pots of tea with names like “Paris in a Teacup” and “Buckingham Palace Garden Party.” Menus change seasonally and guests may order tiered trays filled with traditional tea fare such as scones, lemon curd, tea sandwiches and sweets.
Reservations are highly recommended.