TeaGschwendner in Chicago

If you’re in Chicago and find yourself in need of a break after shopping on Michigan Avenue, take a brisk walk north and you’ll find TeaGschwendner, an artisan tea company based out of Germany. Here in the US, we’re lucky enough to have 2 TeaGschwendner shops both located in the Chicago area, but in Germany there are over 130 TeaGschwendner stores, and even few more scattered throughout Europe and the Middle East.

If you think you might get lost on the way over to the store, check out this clip by TeaGschwendner where you can figure out how to pronounce TeaGschwendner, just in case you need to ask for directions. Not only will you get a glimpse of Thomas Holz, the Master Tea Taster at TeaGschwendner, but the clip should also give you a new appreciation for tea selection, steeping, and of course, slurping!

Entering TeaGschwender is like entering a bank vault packed with fragrant tea-filled aluminum safe deposit boxes. Instead of finding money, gold watches, or a string of pearls inside each box, you’ll find some of the world’s most exclusive teas…drinkable treasures waiting to be discovered and revealed.

Despite TeaGschwendner’s exceptional reputation among seasoned tea drinkers, the staff are incredibly friendly, knowledgeable, not the least bit pretentious. On the day I visited, Ryan, the store manager, provided outstanding insight into the company’s teas and lead me to just the right blends to please both my palette and my pocketbook.

If you are a seasoned connoisseur of Indian and Chinese teas, the shop has a very impressive stock of teas from Darjeeling, Assam, Ceylon, and beyond. For aspiring connoisseurs like myself, there are some more modest blends to choose from, including Almond Milk (one of their new honeybush blends), Bamboo Pomelo (an award-winning herbal blend at the North American Tea Expo in 2013), and Asian Pear (a mild green tea with a soft pear essence…my favorite!).

If you need some more help choosing a blend, don’t hesitate to ask for a taste! Below is my “slice” of the Carrot Cake blenda tangy, spicy brew with large chunks of carrots, oranges, and raisins studded throughout.

The Black Oothu and Green Manjolai are teas grown in South India, in tea gardens located in the middle of a Bengal Tiger Reserve. These teas are the result of the company’s partnership with the Nature Conservation League of Germany, and part of the proceeds that come from these teas go towards helping endangered Royal Bengal Tigers in South India.

The shop on State Street isn’t that large, but it does hold a wide selection of tea wares from all around the world. I especially love TeaGschwendner’s signature teacups, which are very wide and shallow. It’s the type of teacup that takes an extra bit of finesse to drink out of, reminding you to slow down, savor, and take a break.

TeaGschwendner carries a few brands of rare gourmet chocolates, including these handsome bars from Mast Brothers, based out of New York. The only thing better than drinking tea is drinking tea with a complex piece of chocolate, and what a feast for the eyes these bars are!

Here’s a look at some of the colorful Moroccan teacups I found next to Japanese cast iron teapot displays at the store. Stay tuned…you’ll be seeing the blue cups reappear in one of my upcoming posts soon!

Part of the charm of this shop is that it allows you to travel the world through a cup of tea. If you are lucky enough to visit one of their shops here in the US or elsewhere abroad, TeaGschwendner’s excellent customer service and attention to detail are sure to leave you with a renewed appreciation for world-class teas.

TeaGschwendner 

1160 North State Street

Chicago, Illinois 60610

312.932.0639

Banana Matcha Protein Shake

There’s no better drink to get you though a busy Monday than my Banana Matcha Protein Shake.  I used to think of protein shakes as strange concoctions that only body builders tolerated for the sake of vanity.  Trying to stay open-minded while looking for a fast and filling way to get though my mornings, I gave protein shakes another chance.  I soon discovered that I was wrong–protein shakes can actually be both nutritious and tasty.  And the vanity bit?  Well, I suppose a bit of vanity can sometimes be a good thing.

The best thing about protein shakes?  They help to keep you full for hours.  For a foodie obsessed with bites and treats like I am, protein shakes are the perfect way to keep my diet balanced without having to think too much.

Vanilla protein powder is my favorite because it’s plain and takes well to a variety of ingredients.  My secret ingredient in this shake are freeze-dried bananas, which pack some natural, not-too-sweet, concentrated banana flavor into the mix.  An added bonus is that freeze-dried bananas are convenient to use in the AM when time is of the essence.

Banana and matcha aren’t used together as much as they should be.  There’s something about the slight bitterness of matcha and the tropical sweetness of banana that makes them naturally delicious partners.  The only thing that I don’t prefer about blending the two together is how the brilliant color of matcha gets muddled.  The solution?  Adding few leaves of dark green kale or spinach in!  Added nutrition and good looks–what’s not to like?

Whirl up one of these shakes for breakfast, right before hitting the gym, or anytime you need an energy boost.  Let’s be honest…protein shakes are practical–they serve a very specific purpose.  My Banana Matcha Protein Shake is where practicality and purpose collide with wholesome yumminess.  Hey, if I’m going to eat healthy it might as well be with a treat like this! Happy Matcha Monday!!

Banana Matcha Protein Shake

Makes 1 shake.

Ingredients:

1 cup vanilla almond milk (I used the 30 calorie per cup kind)

1 cup crushed ice

1/2 cup freeze-dried bananas

1 tsp matcha powder

1 Tbsp almond butter

1 scoop vanilla protein powder

few leaves of fresh baby kale or spinach

extra matcha, for garnish

Equipment:

blender

Directions:

1.)  Blend all the ingredients together in a blender, pour into a tall glass, and sprinkle some matcha powder on top to finish!