Unexplained incidents are known to happen on the full moon. Dogs are more likely to attack, people find it harder to fall asleep, and Eat the Tea will celebrate its one-year anniversary this Thursday. The colorful tea shop also opened on the full moon last September, and owner Maureen Ruggeri raises her eyebrows at the coincidence. She holds to tea's mystical healing properties.
She serves her tea in a cup and saucer and with a spoon. The spoon can be used traditionally to stir, of course, but it's also intended to scoop the leftover leaves and fruit chunks sitting on the bottom, and, as the name suggests, to literally eat the tea -- rose petals, orange peels, and all.
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With her dark hair falling across her face, Ruggeri leans over the counter with a giant tin marked House Blend. She tells a customer to sniff and lifts the container close to his nostrils. Inside are bits of dried mangoes, orange peels, and calendula. It's herbal and smells fruity.
"I can tell by your face that you liked it," Ruggeri smirks. "I can always tell when someone likes the tea just by looking at their reaction when they smell it. Sometimes it takes a couple of different whiffs, but I'll find you something you'll like."
Ruggeri began conjuring tea recipes 20 years ago in upstate New York. Her passion started when her daughters were younger and she would throw tea parties because she preferred to not cook for their birthday parties. Her detailed Victorian tea parties spread by word of mouth, and after enough encouragement and coaxing, she opened her first tea shop.
The new tea entrepreneur would then delve through books about tea as an alternative to Western medicine. Ruggeri studied about tea and their differences across cultures and how they are prepared using specific methods and ingredients to treat a certain ailment. While she can recommend a tea blend to either liven you up, calm you down, or promote clarity. Her elixirs seek to tap into tea's curative side. She currently has infusions labeled "brain," "skin," and "stomach."
"All teas you can eat," Ruggeri points out. "But when I create my blends, I'm also thinking about how it will taste at the end. By eating the tea, more of the polyphenols, chlorophyll, and antioxidants are ingested."
Ruggeri orders her teas from as far away as Japan or as remote as the Taiwanese mountaintops. And yet, she doesn't know of other places that consider the taste of the leftover leaves at the end to create a blend that doesn't need to be filtered, especially not in Fort Lauderdale.
The shop also serves sandwiches, soups, and pastries. Ruggeri incorporates tea into her recipes to create high-energy superfoods. Everything is vegan except for some of the pastries (but she offers gluten-free desserts too).
Eat the Tea is located 900 NE 20th Ave. in Fort Lauderdale. Stop by at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 19, for the anniversary party. There will be snacks, wine, and, of course, plenty of tea. Call 754-200-8355.
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