Stepping into Music City Tea is like walking down Canal Street in New York. Or the tea shops in Hawaii. Owner Jenny Zhong grew up in China with a mother and grandmother who drank tea for enjoyment and health.
The small shop is located on the square in downtown Murfreesboro. The shop is filled with Chinese tea sets and includes a huge workroom in the back where Zhong gets you hooked on her tea blends by showing customers how to drink it according to traditional Chinese customs. It all begins with a small ceramic pot and boiling water.
Tasting tea is called “ping” because you use your eyes, nose, and mouth. Zhong had me smell the Oolong tea, which was the first that I tasted. She explained that is was also known as dragon tea because of its rich black color.
I grew up drinking hot tea in tea shops like hers, and it took me back in time. She placed a small porcelain tray in front of me and two small cups, one short and one taller, about half the size of a shot glass. She poured boiling water over the cups and cleaned out the pot inside and outside before she brewed the tea.
“Good Oolong tea is all black,” said Zhong, “no twigs, and no yellow leaves. Twigs and yellow leaves are what teabag tea is made from. It is bitter. And all tea should be made from boiling hot water. Nothing luke warm. Only let the tea steep for three seconds.”
My first cup serving was poured into the taller of my two small cups, then I was told to put the small cup over the top of the large one and flip the cup upside down. I then slurped out of the smaller cup with my pinky extended. It was a tiny taste, but I have to say that it was perfect. None of the bitterness that one gets with tea bags.
“Tea drinking in small cups makes it fun,” added Zhong. “It also makes it relaxing. Tea was not meant to be drunk in large mugs.”
Every time she made me tea, she used a different system, ending with what she called the lazy person’s teapot that gets rid of all of the ritual, but pumps out a nice cup of tea in a shot. Of course, drinking tea is all about slowing down and being present in the moment.
My second flavor to try was called Kalahan, an African Rooibus herbal tea. It has a rosey, earthy smell and a unique flavor from the blend of other herbs and spices. I also tried a delicious lemon ginger tea that is wonderful for upset stomachs, and White Farmer Tea, which helps with allergies and some aches and pains. She also carries a tea called “Poopie Tea” that does a deep detox when drunk every day.
“In my country, tea has been drunk for 3,600 years,” said Zhoung. ”It was initially medicinal. Then 1,200 years ago, we began drinking it for pleasure. I was brought up with the tea culture, which I hated as a child. Now I study all kinds of teas and their beneficial qualities. Hot tea cleans all of the unhealthy oils and fats out of your system.”
When making tea, Zhoung says not to drink the first cup. She pours it into a slatted tray where it collects. Then she washes her face in the unused tea at the end of the day. It is good for the skin, keeping it young-looking. Tea juice will also heal mosquito bites, and take the sting away.
Music City Tea is a wonderful place to learn many things, about other cultures, about medicinal herbs, and most of all – how to make the perfect cup of warm and soothing hot tea.
Music City Tea
105 North Maple Street,
Hours: 11:00 am until 8:00 pm, Monday through Friday
8:00 am until 8:00 pm Saturday