The Tea Smith owner Tim Smith searches out loose-leaf teas from all over the world—and he says he has to consciously limit himself as he fills the shops' stock of about 150 teas. But it wasn't long ago that Tim didn't even like tea. "I thought tea was brown water and a bag," he confesses.
It took a gift for his wife to change that. "I was traveling for business, it was around Valentine's day, and I was married long enough to know that you don't come home empty-handed," he says. So he bought her some loose-leaf tea and the right accessories to brew it. "She made me try it, and it was surprising," he says. "It was not that stuff in a bag. It had some character and some taste to it."
He began researching, and realized that tea—already the world’s most widely consumed beverage after water—was experiencing a resurgence in the United States. While many tea spots have British or Japanese themes, Tim decided to open a tea shops with a "comfortable contemporary" vibe, where people could enjoy hot, iced, and bubble teas with friends. For at-home brewing, visitors can shop for classic teas such as Earl Grey, sample more unusual flavors such as the “Iron Goddess of Mercy” (an oolong), or browse seasonal blends such as pumpkin spice, cranberry cream, and fireside chat. The shops also stocks travel tea mugs, teapots equipped with infuser baskets, and unglazed Chinese YiXing clay pots that enhance the tea’s flavor.
Tim knows that many people who walk into the shop are unfamiliar with loose-leaf tea and may not be sure what they'll like—which is why he only hires tea enthusiasts. "Part of their training is to come in and drink each of the teas, and make notes on the flavor profiles," he says. That way, the staff can recommend blends suited to each customer's palate, rather than having to analyze a Rorschach tea-blot test. In addition to events including an annual blending contest, they also run periodic Tea 101 sessions that introduce attendees to the "history, the myths, the legends, and the lore of tea," says Tim.
The confectionery conquistadors at Maggie Moo's Ice Cream and Treatery whip up fresh premium ice cream daily for their herds of loyal followers. Guests can choose one flavor from the shop's 15-variety repertoire of ice-cream cupcakes. Simply enjoy or practice shooting hoops with Basketball cupcakes, a sporty version of chocolate cupcake filled with Better Batter ice cream, or order Pink Flower cupcakes to express love to a mime.
Nothing Bundt Cakes began in 1997 after friends and foodies Dena Tripp and Debra Shwetz spent six months in their home kitchens hammering out their signature bundt-cake recipe. And though the recipe remains as mysterious as a fingerprint on Sherlock Holmes’s monocle, there’s confirmation that each cake is made with fresh eggs, real butter, and topped with the shop's signature petal-shaped stripes of cream-cheese frosting. Monthly flavors rotate frequently, and cakes can be baked in nine varieties, ranging from marble to cinnamon swirl to pecan praline. Nothing Bundt Cakes' confectionists also top treats with silk flowers and warm greetings for special occasions such as birthdays, baby showers, and ritualistic cake sacrifices.
Bruegger's bagels are created using fresh, wholesome ingredients and then kettle-boiled in the New York tradition, resulting in chewy centers with crisp outer crusts. Awaken your taste buds with a savory combination such as the rosemary olive oil bagel smothered with onion and chive cream cheese ($2.39). Or, prove yourself to be a sweetie by adopting a family of 13 bagels and washing them up and behind the ears in the two tubs of garden-veggie cream cheese in the Big Bagel Bundle ($13.99). Bruegger's deli menu is flanked by an array of breakfast sandwiches and lunch fare. Bury thoughts of the snarky snooze button with the breakfast bagel bearing an egg, melted cheese, and a choice of bacon, sausage, or ham ($3.99), or wrap your mitts around the Leonardo da Veggie lunchtime sandwich and bite into tomatoes, roasted red peppers, red onions, and muenster cheese on an asiago Softwich ($5.49).
A dozen cookies will let you sample most of The Cookie Company’s sugary smorgasbord of 15 regular and seasonal (non-specialty) flavors, including lemon oatmeal, oatmeal scotchie, toffee nut, iced ginger, snicker doodle, macadamia nut, and the chocoholism-enabling OD (chocolate dough, chocolate chips, chocolate frosting). Because they are made from scratch—the most mysterious and delicious element on the periodic table—and baked in small batches without preservatives, The Cookie Company's cookies are best enjoyed fresh within 3 to 4 days, though they can be frozen for up to a month.