Taking a walk down tea lane…

Like all great discoveries, these were made while looking for something else.

Last week, I had two lunch outings with friends, and a whole slew of potential eateries – from what I can gather so far, the Twin Cities have a remarkable dining scene.

To celebrate my first day as a St. Paul foodie, I figured a trip to Rustica Bakery was in order, as it was recently featured as one of “The Top 10 Best Bread Bakeries in America” by Bon Appétit. The title meant it might be worth a splurge, so I ordered a sandwich with almond pesto, quince and cheese. You cannot hear the hesitation in my utterance of the following phrase, but it is there: the sandwich was too sweet. This statement is a rarity for someone who embraces sweets as much as I do, but the quince was simply too overpowering.

ImageThough the sandwich came as a bit of a disappointment, the trip was not in vain. The multigrain rolls, at 50 cent each, were a cheap investment that paid off in dividends later on (this is where I started to understood the award from Bon Appétit), and a previous venture to Rustica led to the discovery of TeaSource’s Roasted Chestnut tea.

Made of China black tea, roasted mate, oolong tea, flavor and sliced almonds, it bodes well on these unseasonably chilly summer days that seem to keep popping up on our radar. The rich flavor makes it a perfect candidate for a dollop of milk, though no honey is necessary. Home tea-brewers can purchase in bulk at one of three local stores or online (the tea’s code is 3001). Four ounces (enough for 50 cups) runs $5.99, while two ounces is $3.40 and is enough for about 20-25 cups.

The second lunch led me to Chez Arnaud, a chic French cafe and bakery just a hop, skip and bridge away from Macalester’s campus. The sandwiches were simple, yet tasty, though more worthy of a shout out is the patisserie’s tea, imported from Palais des thés in France. Though imported, the price is merely $1.85 for a small (12 ounces), $2.25 for a medium (16 ounces) and $2.65 for a large (20 ounces).

IMG_0408The tea bred an insatiable nostalgia for my month-long excursion in Aix-en-Provence, France. While the French are usually associated with baguettes and wine, it turns out their tea palates are just as aficionado. As an English acquaintance explained: in England, tea’s popularity makes it a staple household item; cheap tea suffices. In France, it is more of a delicacy.

After a month of admiring Palais des thés thrice a day on the walk home, I settled on two looseleaf blends to bring home as gifts: smoky earl grey and fleur. Neither are available at Chez Arnaud, but even their basic earl grey has my olfactory bulb alert and mouth watering.

Bon appétit!

Rustica Bakery, 3220 W Lake Street, Minneapolis, 612.822.1119, www.rusticabakery.com

Chez Arnaud: La påtisserie français des Twin Cities, 1085 Grand Avenue, St. Paul, 651.330.4453, www.myfrenchbakery.net

*Note: Chez Arnaud has two other locations in White Bear Lake and Maple Grove.

TeaSource, 752 Cleveland Avenue South, St. Paul, 651.690.9822, www.teasource.com

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