Tea company offers taste of teas from all over the world - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Tea company offers taste of teas from all over the world

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Missy Sheehan / For The State Journal: Judy Larkin, the “Tea Lady,” and husband, Bill Larkin, enjoy a cup of Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka. Missy Sheehan / For The State Journal: Judy Larkin, the “Tea Lady,” and husband, Bill Larkin, enjoy a cup of Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka.
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By MISSY SHEEHAN

For The State Journal

Judy Larkin, also known as the “Tea Lady,” has traveled extensively over the years on her quest to learn as much as she can about tea.

“She’s been all over the world — India, China, Nepal,” said her husband, Bill Larkin.

Together the two own The Larkin Tea Co., based in Martinsburg.

“There’s just so much to learn about tea,” Judy said. “There are so many different kinds — oolongs, blacks, greens, whites, pu’erhs — it really is impossible to be an expert.”

Both certified tea specialists through the Specialty Tea Institute, part of the Tea Association of the USA, the Larkins consider themselves to be “students of tea.”

“You could spend a lifetime studying tea and still hardly scratch the surface,” Bill said.

Judy, originally from Manchester, England, and Bill, from upstate New York, have been tea drinkers for most of their lives.

“I’m English, so it’s just always been part of my culture,” Judy Larkin said.

Before moving to Martinsburg eight years ago, the couple lived in Northern Virginia for more than 25 years. There Judy Larkin developed her reputation as the “Tea Lady” by sharing her knowledge of the beverage with others. One of the things she stresses most is the importance of taking some time to enjoy it.

“You need to treat yourself,” she said. “Enjoy the beautiful tea — the aroma, the color, the taste — and savor it.”

Larkin said she does a lot of educational and historical programs about tea.

“Like in the 1920s — what people were doing at the time, what they were wearing, what the tea etiquette was at the time, what the food was,” she explained.

Her “Tea with the Parlor Maid” program is particularly popular. Dressed as a parlor maid, complete with cap and starched apron, Larkin shows “what life was like below stairs, showing people what the hierarchy was, how they drank tea, the duties of the parlor maids serving the tea, that sort of thing,” she said.

Larkin also offers programs on the “taking of tea” in other cultures and a lighthearted children’s tea party complete with dolls.

A natural progression for the “Tea Lady” and her husband, Judy and Bill founded The Larkin Tea Co. in 2001. Based in their home, the couple sells loose teas imported from all over the world.

“I go through importers, and they’re all people I know personally, so I know the quality of their teas,” Judy said.

They sell varieties of oolong, black, green, white, and pu’erh teas, as well as flavored blends like chai, chocolate cherry cordial and chocolate orange.

The pair’s most popular teas include well-known classics like Earl Grey and Darjeeling, but some of their more rare offerings also draw in customers.

“We sell quite a bit of Lapsang Souchong, a smoked tea from China,” Judy said. “We’ve also got a Nepalese pu’erh. We’re one of the few people importing it.”

They also sell flowering teas that “bloom” as they’re steeped and caffeine-free fruit blends, called tisanes, which are made from dried fruit.

“They don’t contain any tea at all,” Larkin said. “Technically the only thing that’s really a tea is something that comes from the camellia sinensis plant.”

In addition to their vast and unique selection of teas, the Larkins offer a variety of tea-related items, including accessories like tea strainers and tea cozies and tea-infused soaps and bath teas, which are big bags of tea meant for baths or foot soaks.

“Tea is good for the skin,” Judy Larkin explained. “The tannins in the tea naturally soften it.”

Looking to the future, Larkin said she and her husband have plans in the works with Cardinal Chocolates in Alexandria, Va., to create a line of tea-infused chocolates.

“We’ll be doing truffles, chocolate bars, things like that,” she said.

The couple also has spring appearances at home and garden events and trade shows lined up throughout the region. On June 21, they’ll be at the Taste of the Valley Food & Wine Festival at Leitersburg Cinemas in Hagerstown, Md.

“I’ll be talking about how to make tea, maybe how to do ice tea,” Judy said.

Larkin Tea Company products can be purchased through the company’s website and at events throughout the region. A selection of teas is also available at Kitchen’s Orchard & Farm Market in Falling Waters and at The Fine Arts Co. in Hagerstown, Md.

Visit larkinteacompany.com and follow the company on Facebook to learn more.