Olive oil is Crystal Otto’s cup of tea, but that didn’t stop her from expanding her specialty store to offer up an actual cuppa.
Her store, Olive Fusion, with locations in Breckenridge and the Outlets at Silverthorne, specializes in infused olive oils, balsamic vinegars and spices, salts and sugars. The store opened a modern tearoom Tuesday, Dec. 3 upstairs in the Breckenridge shop.
The two stores began selling loose-leaf tea earlier this year, but owner Otto said the completion of the tearoom finally brings her vision to life.
“When I first thought of doing an olive oil tasting room, my ultimate dream was to have a modern tearoom too, where people could sample different varieties of tea and get educated,” she said.
The tea is priced from $4 to $7 for 2 ounces, and comes from around the world. Otto said she wanted to teach people how to properly steep tea, the right amount to use and what the water temperature should be.
“The biggest enemy to tea is us,” she said. “We usually use too much, or steep for too long.”
Otto said green teas get a bad reputation of being bitter, because they are often over-steeped at a high temperature. She recommends water no higher than 175 degrees Fahrenheit, and less than three minutes of steeping. Every purchase in the Olive Fusion tearoom comes with specific instructions for the individual tea.
While the tearoom doesn’t sell cups of tea, the room can be booked for private parties, and there will also be offerings of daily tea samples for people to enjoy. Otto said the private bookings can also request catering for baked goods to add to their parties.
“Our tea has such wonderful flavor, it doesn’t need any cream or sugar,” she said. “Loose-leaf tea is very fresh and flavorful.”
Currently, one of Otto’s favorite teas comes from a distributor in China, a calming blend of green and black tea with jasmine blossom called Mountain Flower.
While most of the teas are loose in their chrome containers — to protect the tea from sunlight — some come pressed into shapes, such as a dark rose tea in a heart, or a Blue Beauty Oolong which unrolls from a ball-shape as it steeps.
Otto said tea, much like wine and beer, has certain pairings for different flavors. It’s her hope the new tearoom will help educate tea-lovers and first-timers alike.
Many teas also have medicinal qualities, such as black cherry hibiscus, which is excellent for high blood pressure, along with detoxifying herbal blends, teas for immunity and even a healthy dandelion tea.
“Any event is perfect with tea,” Otto said. “Birthdays, bachelorette parties, we just want people to come have fun.”
The Silverthorne store has a tea area as well, and can also be reserved for parties. Olive Fusion is opening a third store in Vail next week, though that location will not offer tea, Otto said.
“Every tea has a story,” she said. “I want people to give tea another chance, learn how to do it properly. Tea is so good for you.”