First Look

First Look: Eat the Tea in Victoria Park

With all the gluttony and stress associated with the holidays, you're probably in need of some sort of healthful remedy. 

Whether you need help with digestion, fighting off a cold, or just need to freaking chill out, Maureen Ruggeri, owner of Eat the Tea wants to help.

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Ruggeri started studying teas their effects on health in the early '70's after a bout of stomach issues. Her western doctors prescribed medications to mask the problem. "I  thought there had to be a better way," she says, "I started to learn about alternative healing and its been my passion ever since."

She uses a combination of Ayurvedic and Chinese medicinal theories to blend tonics and elixirs intended to improve overall health. According to Ruggeri, "People come in with a stomach issue. I may blend something at that moment. I'm not a doctor, but I may be able to help them with some kind of herbal blend." While she says she has no issue with western doctors, Ruggeri keeps the information of several Chinese and holistic doctors and practitioners on hand for customers looking to treat issues without the use of traditional medications.

The shop, which opened about three months ago, sells white, green, black, herbal, and fruit teas either by the cup or the ounce. Her herbal tonics can be served hot or cold. They range from $3.50 to $4.50 a cup. Dried tea runs between $3 to $6 per ounce.

In addition, Ruggeri serves vegetarian and vegan super foods to either eat in house or take away. She has chefs prepare the dishes, which he serves herself. Lentil soup ($4.75 a cup or $6 a bowl); the kale sandwich with sunflower butter, sliced banana, and jam ($7.50); the not-so tuna salad made of garbanzo beans, dill, celery, and mayo ($7.50); and the kale salad with sprouts, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, homemade tahini dressing, and calendula flowers ($8.99) are frequently found on the menu. Even so, these dishes oftentimes have slight variations. "Sometimes I'll add things like different kinds of nuts, but it's a lot of what I feel like. At this point, I don't want to get bogged down to a specific menu. It's going to change a bit as I go along," she says. Ruggeri always makes sure to keep gluten-free options on hand, but unless it is requested, she serves her sandwiches on Gran Forno bread. 

As time goes on, Ruggeri hopes to start offering classes on tea and tea blending once or twice a month. She has recently started talking to the Spice Quarter about doing some cross-networking. "Tea and spice go very well together," she says, "It's a good marriage. We're planning on doing some tea and spice talks."

Since opening, Ruggeri has received a positive response from customers. Her overall goal is to create a space where people can come in, relax, and feel a sense of community. According to her, " I want to be the neighborhood tea shop, where locals can come and get something good to eat, phenomenal tea, and help with remedies."

The shop is located at 900 NE 20th Avenue in Victoria Park.

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Sara Ventiera