I guessed tea tasted alright, though I didn't have much exposure outside of my mom's boiled eucalyptus leaves with honey. She made it when I was sick, and I didn't hate it. During the cold winter months in college I often snuck generic teabags out of the dining hall. I wanted something to keep me warm, and was never much of a coffee drinker. But the dull flavors of my free tea left much to be desired. Just before my semester of study abroad in Spain, I was passing by a tea shop in the mall when I had an epiphany. Maybe if I paid real money for tea it would actually taste like something. To test my theory, I took a sample from the store's softly lit storefront and my eyes widened. Rather than cardboard, a strong taste of cinnamon lingered on my tongue. Curious, I made my way into the store and was overwhelmed by all of the gadgets around me. A nice girl wearing a green apron asked me about my experience with loose tea. I had none. After introducing me to a few different ways to steep tea and wafting the scents of endless oversized tea tins in my direction, I walked out with a metal cup infuser and a couple ounces each of jasmine pearls and a raspberry herbal blend. I was in awe of the rich flavors I was able to enjoy by switching to loose tea. I was no longer drinking it because I had to, but rather because I wanted to. Two months later I was walking along a cobblestone street in Spain when I discovered Spicy Choc. Reminiscent of a place you might find in Diagon Alley, I slowly made my way around the room, taking in the shiny tea tins, coffee-bean-filled glass jars, neat piles of hand-dipped chocolates and vials of spice blends. On my first visit I purchased 25 grams of a lemon-flavored green tea. Nearly every day afterwards, I dropped in to try their tea samples. Little by little my tea collection grew. My host mother, a caring, coffee-loving dress designer, told me it wasn't good for me to be drinking so much tea. (She saw something on the news about it.) Just before coming back to the States, I bought enough tea to last me a year. Back home, I tried enticing both of my parents with my new "fancy" tea. My mom turned me down, but it was surprisingly easy to start converting my dad. He loved the fruity teas. He'd never make it on his own, but if I offered him a cup while making one for myself, he usually said yes. He now has his own fairly extensive tea collection in Florida and enjoys sharing it with my sister-in-law every day. He even makes his own tea now! When my Spicy Choc stash ran out, I had to seek loose tea elsewhere. It became my mission to find quality loose tea everywhere I went. Google became my new best friend. Adagio was the first tea shop I discovered when I moved to Chicago a few years ago, but there are really too many great places here to count! For me, sharing good tea has always been just as important as finding it. I started with my dad, but I also used tea as a way to connect with the middle school students and teachers I worked with in Boston. When I was trying to make friends in Chicago, I invited a few of my coworkers over for tea and it became a weekly ritual for an entire year. During the reporting quarter of my graduate journalism program at Medill, I kept a small collection at my desk and encouraged my classmates to take advantage of it. (I also found a hundred ways to write business stories about tea!) Tea is just much more enjoyable with friends.