Above: The Old Barrel Tea and Spice Company. Photograph by Inga Hendrickson.
A glass teapot offers a window into the process of properly steeping tea: As the leaves begin to infuse the hot water, the color gently transforms. It requires a certain measure of deliberation—wait, observe, smell, and eventually sip—that Old Barrel Tea and Spice Company, in Mesilla, strongly advocates. Loose-leaf teas, its proprietors maintain, are typically stronger and have fewer additives than the variety packed into tea bags. OBTC has 80 varieties on hand, each one unique to the shop. Try, for instance, the Chinese Milk Oolong, a blend in which the leaves are steamed in milk before being dried. When brewed, it has the kind of subtle sweetness you might find in a rich, milk-stout-style beer.
A women-owned-and-operated business, OBTC opened in 2017, selling loose-leaf teas and all the accoutrements necessary for the ritual of drinking them: glass teapots, infusers large and small, and empty tea bags, for those who still like the dip-and-dunk method. They also sell a number of apothecary blends—teas with curative properties for ailments like inflammation, insomnia, and indigestion. Spices are available, too. The all-purpose seasoning (a mix of red and green chile with garlic) is the biggest seller. Stop into OBTC for advice on one of their loose-leaf blends or their array of spices, and pick up a glass teapot while you’re there.
Learn the alchemy of tea (and spice) with expert advice from the pros at Old Barrel Tea and Spice Company.