Tea has always felt so fancy to me, like it was for the Queen and her crumpets, but lately, I have been on a tea kick. I started with that Sleepytime bear tea from the grocery, but I have since graduated to loose leaf tea. As I live out my tea phase, I keep returning to Walnut Street Tea Company for tea.
In February 2021, Matt interviewed the owner of Walnut Street Tea, and earlier this year, the Champaign tea shop opened its second location — with a convenient drive-through option — at Village Green Place near San Maru and 83 Vietnamese. I adore this new location. Inside the tea shop, there are shelves of tea and tea accessories, a couch, some chairs, and counter service with tea and coffee made to order.
This past weekend, I tried something from the cafe at Walnut Street Tea’s new location. The menu offers hot tea, hot coffee, iced tea, iced coffee, and assorted treats by RegCakes, the gluten-free bakery in Urbana. This menu is available in the store and in the drive through.
I ordered a 12 ounce cup of Princess of Walnut Street ($3), which had black tea leaves blended with bergamot oil, lavender, and rose petals. The tea had an earthy lavender taste, and I happen to love the taste of lavender, so I really enjoyed this tea. It was served very hot, so I had to wait to sip it, but it was quite cold out, so it was nice to just hold the warm cup.
Tucked around the corner to the left, Walnut Street Tea Company has an entire wall dedicated to browsing the shop’s different loose leaf tea blends.
There were a lot of teas: white, green, black, oolong, decaf, and herbal.
After choosing the teas I wanted, I went to the counter to pay. Behind the counter, there was a wall of huge jars, and the staff scooped the selected tea into bags to take home. Most tea at the store is about $2 for a small bag.
I tried five different loose leaf teas, in the one ounce option. My purchase also included a tea cheat sheet that listed the recommended steep times and temperatures for each type of tea, which I found so helpful.
White tea is new to me, but the staff told me that white tea has the least caffeine content and highest antioxidants of the teas. I tried an ounce of Sunset White ($4.50), which was white tea leaves blended with cornflower petals, rose petals, marigold petals, and orange pieces. The paper recommended that white tea steep for less than two minutes, so I steeped this for 90 seconds. The tea’s taste was quite nice: floral but with a great orange essence. I thought Sunset White was pretty much a perfect tea and a definite must-try blend.
Green tea is more caffeinated and contains less antioxidants than white tea. I tried a green tea called Pick Me Up ($2.50), which had gunpowder green tea leaves blended with apple pieces, cinnamon, rosehips, crème brûlée flavor, marigold petals, and rose petals. The brûlée with the bold gunpowder green tea gave a delicious roasted flavor. The apple and cinnamon were super subtle, which I liked, letting the flowery flavors of the rose and marigold have a moment, too. The tea was steeped only two minutes, but the tea’s intense flavor was revitalizing — just as the name suggested.
Stepping up the caffeine to black tea, I tried a tea called Lemon Cake ($2), which had Ceylon black tea leaves blended with lemon, currants, lemongrass, tangerine, moringa leaves, and blackberry leaves. The tea cheat sheet said to steep black tea for three to five minutes, so I did. The black tea leaves dominated the taste, and there was a little citrus undertone from the lemon and tangerine. This Lemon Cake blend was a fine black tea.
My favorite tea was the Goodnight Kiss ($2.75), which was a caffeine-free herbal tisane blend of chamomile, catnip, hops, raspberry leaf, and spearmint. The chamomile led the tea as the main flavor, but I really liked the funky minty-herby taste that balanced the mellow chamomile. I don’t know if it’s the catnip, but something fun was going on in this smoothing tea. This Goodnight Kiss blend was a wonderful sleepytime tea.
One tea I didn’t like — but I know it’s super popular — was Blue Eyes ($2). The tea had caffeine-free herbal tisane blended with apple pieces, hibiscus, rosehips, orange peel, and cornflower petals, and it tasted way too fruity to me. There weren’t any blueberries in it, but the hibiscus and rosehips in this were too tart and fruity for me. I’m not saying Blue Eyes is a bad tea; all I’m saying is that tea is personal, and personally, I don’t enjoy blueberry tea or peach tea or blackberry tea or any of the fruity teas.
And that’s okay! You don’t have to like the same tea as I do. With an entire wall of tea, I’m sure that there is a tea for everyone — and since they’re about $2, trying one doesn’t breaking the bank.
While most teas are pretty affordable, some are quite fancy at $12 an ounce. The shop also sells pre-packaged tea, tea accessories, and little gifts inside the store.
The first time I went, I was at the beginning of my tea journey, just a wee tea novice, and I had no idea what tea to try. Thankfully, the staff really know about tea and seem to enjoy helping people find the right tea. I needed the staff’s help picking teas when I first visited, but now, I walk in the store and go straight for the browsing wall like a tea professional. Getting into tea can seem intimidating, but Walnut Street Tea Company makes tea time so approachable.
Walnut Street Tea Company
2510 Village Green Place
M-F 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sa 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.