Tiny pea-sized jasmine pearls release a sweet smelling aroma and produce a translucent green tea when infused with 175 degrees of hot water. The unfurled snake-like tea leaves fill the vessel as well as the nostrils of passersby. It isn’t a magic potion or the latest legal drug. It’s simply tea. And these other-worldly leaves are among the seemingly endless variety of to-be beverages at Mandala Tea, a shop within Mandala Center for Wellness in downtown Winona.
Co-owners Garret Sorensen and Sarah Crawford—both also massage therapists—believe that drinking tea is an experience of sight, smell and taste, as well as an overall total body experience, which they try to create during each interaction with a customer and each class they host in the Winona community.
“People come in from the hustle and bustle, and I give them a cup of tea and watch their shoulders drop as they begin to relax,” Sorensen said.
The shop door has a sign reminding its customers to breathe as they close the door to the outside. Sorensen wants people to experience the life in front of them and not the worries ahead.
“It’s what it is all about;” Sorensen said, “getting people to the here and now.”
The couple has been working an increased number of hours recently since opening in 2008, due to a recent rise in sales through tea education classes as well as selling their product in more downtown Winona stores and restaurants.
To aid in community outreach, the tea and wellness shop expanded a year in a half ago into the abandoned bank building next store, turning corporate business rooms and board tables into Chinese tea education classrooms and store rooms for the online portion of the business.
In classes, the couple includes information on the makeup of the tea leaf itself—Camellia Sinensis—and how all tea, including black, green and white, come from the same leaf. Sorensen said it is simply the growing region, as well as its harvesting and processing that make the teas different.
Sorensen said varieties in taste are expected and steeping temperatures can vary, but, overall, the tea experience is simple.
Besides providing a soothing experience, tea can aid a person’s skin, digestion, breath and triglycerides, Crawford said.
“Tea cannot only taste good,” Crawford said, “but it can be good for you.”
Sorensen, who said he finds teaching people about tea to be the best part of his day, starts out every tea class with a quote from the father of Japanese tea Sen Rikyu: “Tea is nought but this: First you heat the water, then you make the tea. Then you drink it properly. That is all you need to know.”