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Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Tea Shop that felt like Church

Several weeks ago, I was in Louisville, Kentucky for a meeting at the National Offices of the Presbyeterian Church (USA).  I had an extra part of a day before traveling on to Kansas to visit my mom, so I thought I would explore downtown Louisville on my own.  In the midst of forced introvert time (emphasis on the word forced), I discovered "Christian" hospitality in the most unlikely of places - a tea shop called hillbillytea.com.
I entered on a whim as this shop is located on what I would call a side street and I wasn't looking for tea or even planning to make a stop.  But there was something intriguing and inviting about the locale.  So, I entered and found myself looking around at the unique displays and the menu.  Very quickly, a young woman asked to help me and I always feel obliged to buy a "little something" when I have entered a small store such as this, and so I ordered a glass of iced tea.  I proceeded to sit down at a table.  Before I knew it, the young women started to engage me in conversation.  Then I asked her about her life and she shared with me that she was a recent Master's Degree graduate in Southern Studies (lawd, chile, I had no idea such a major even existed!) and her passion is to learn about and preserve the traditional ways of making things Southern style (this is an inelegant and inexact description of her major), particularly food and she is even doing a consulting project on the oldest ways of distilling bourbon.  Did you know that only two men are still alive with that knowledge and one of them is in his late 90's and the other is 100 years of age or more!?  I found it remarkable that this young, at least very young to me, woman, was interested in such matters.  I also mused to myself that in some years to our future, there might be some MDiv graduate in a library or bookstore or "church"  or museum with the same sort of dilemma.  Who will preserve the knowledge former faith communities?  Who will care? 

Then, we started to talk about the teas.  Where the tea leaves are grown, the different varieties and a bit about the owner of the shop, Karter Louis.  Once again, to my surprise, in a little while, the store clerk brings over a man and introduces him to me.  It's Karter.  We talk about all the places he has lived, what to do when one has a few hours to kill in Louisville, and even an anecdote about his college friend, Jamie Foxx!  Now, it is not lost on me that there is an economic and retail reason for the kindnesses and schmoozing that was being laid at my feet, and I also know all the blah blah blah about Southern hospitality, but this was over the top.  There was a genuineness and a sort of welcome that I often find missing at denominational gatherings.  As I get to the end of this post, I'm not even sure of what I'm trying to say, but I do know this:   If and when I go back to Louisville, Kentucky, I'll definitely go back to Hillbilly Tea.   Other destination points:  TBD