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Tea for One: Tasting Herbal Teas in Chiang Mai

Spana in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Spana Health Station in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Beneath a bright orange guesthouse, sits a small, unassuming tea shop in Chiang Mai’s Old Town. Guided by three pairs of shoes separated from their owners, I left my thongs at the door. I crossed the threshold, and found myself in a tea shop slash spa and body products shop. An interesting combination. The lights were dimmed slightly.  I found myself whispering, “Sah wah dee kaaaaa,” to the woman behind the counter. She returned the pleasantry in full voice.

I had wandered into the shop for two reasons. One: I had tasted the sweet complexity of baelfruit tea during a Thai massage, and wanted to broaden my tea-drinking horizons even further. And two: My aim was to enjoy some ‘me’ time – a must when you’re travelling as a couple.

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Lek was the woman who ran the tea/spa supply shop, called the Spana Health Station. I asked her about her teas, and she sprung into action like a lithe cat. She was passionate about her teas — it was so wonderful to connect with her. She was most gracious with her time, spending a good twenty minutes explaining the taste, preparation methods and benefits of her assortment of herbal and green teas.

Did I have any ailments?
What was I seeking to alleviate?
What tastes did I enjoy? Sour? Sweet? Bitter?
These were just some of the questions Lek asked me before she suggested a blue tea, called Butterfly Pea. Thais believe the Butterfly Pea quenches thirst, and improves both urination and eyesight. It sounded interesting, so I took a chance. Lek told me Butterfly Pea was actually a flower that she grows in her garden and assured me no actual butterflies were harmed in the making of this tea. I laughed.

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Lek served the Butterfly Pea to me in a cute teacup with matching saucer, accompanied by a stick of cinnamon to be “used as a spoon, to stir,” she said. My taste buds encouraged me to add a little sweetness to the mellow brew. She offered me the choice of traditional sugar or stevia leaf, and I opted for the latter, adding two small leaves and stirring gently with the cinnamon stick.

It was perfect. The turquoise brew was refreshing, calming and different. I sat back in the little chairs on the shop’s front deck, soaked in the afternoon sun and watched the traffic wiz by.

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I wrote in their Guest Book at Lek’s insistence. There were messages of encouragement from all over the world: Russia, Japan, Australia, Cyprus, Scotland, Argentina, England, the United States. It was interesting to see where the folks who love a good cuppa hail from. I asked Lek if I could take her photo, and she asked if she could take mine. We each snapped a few shots of each other, and a few moments later, my mug was smiling back at me from her Facebook page, immortalized forever at Spana CM. DSC_0338a

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“Make tea time a special moment, making yourself comfortable. Lift a cup of herbal tea, inhale the pure scent…and feel the bliss and goodness of life.”

The literature Lek gave me about the teas and their properties encouraged me to “make tea time a special moment”. Yes, and yes! This meditation over steeping leaves speaks to me. A moment each day, of silence and solitude and reflection with a good cuppa. What could be more engaging than that?

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Further info:  Spana Health Station, 38/2 Rajvithee Road, T.Sribhum, A.Muang Chiangmai, Thailand 50200.

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