The Cultured Cup opened in 1995. Kyle Stewart, a Certified Tea Specialist (the first in Texas), had shifted from studying music and teaching cross-disciplinary arts to diving into beverages with his partner, coffee guru, Phil Krampetz.
The shop they opened together continues to be a little-known gem, though they consult with restaurants. (Stewart was a resource for the modern American-Chinese Fine China, newly opened in the Statler; Bullion and other top restaurants use Cultured Cup teas.) Ever interested in the ritual aspects, Stewart has presented a TEDxSMU talk about Japanese tea bowls.
I remember when I first stumbled upon their stockroom and studio; a tiny shoebox of a space nestled unglamorously in a nondescript office park on Gamma Road in Addison.
A number of years ago, they started hosting a speakeasy-style tasting room on the weekends. Here, you could find the same canisters of tea you’d see on the shelves of the famed tea purveyor Mariage Frères in Paris. Estate-grown Ceylon teas, hand-plucked sencha, and black teas enhanced with rose buds and petals were the order of the day. Conversation flowed, as did tasting notes.
Last weekend, The Cultured Cup held an opening for its new location, at 13731 Omega Road, just blocks from the former spot. Near, but far bigger in its footprint. Light spills in from ample windows, flooding the horseshoe-shaped tasting counter with luminosity. All the better to study the gorgeous jade hue of the grassy, curled dragon silver tip or a beautiful black-currant-infused rooibos named Métis.
Photographs of gong fu cha, the Chinese tea ceremony, and misty mountainsides lush with rows of tea shrubs greet you as you enter.
Stewart has been instrumental in promoting a tea producer in Mississippi—one of the rare American tea producers—and has helped name some of their teas. A chorus of comments followed the sipping of the delicate, full-bodied brew named Black Magnolia.
Some may miss the speakeasy intimacy, but I feel the new space does justice to what has been a well-kept secret for those in the know. If you haven’t ventured up here on a weekend to sip, learn, and spend far more than you meant to, I suggest you do.