ABQ Journal
Americans don't have quite the love for tea that the British do. But David Edwards said it is his mission in life to change America, or at least his little part of it, from coffee drinkers to tea drinkers.

Edwards and his mother, Diane Edwards, own and operate New Mexico Tea Co. on Mountain Road near 12th Street. "Tea is so much better for you than coffee," Edwards said. "My goal is to educate people about tea and to make it an everyday kind of beverage."

Edwards admits that convincing Americans to drink more tea is an uphill battle that goes back more than 200 years. He explained the American aversion to tea most likely stems from the Boston Tea Party in which a group of American colonists protested a tax the British had imposed on tea by dumping a shipload of tea into the Boston Harbor. "It's not that they didn't like tea, but they didn't like the tax," he said.

Tea became a British symbol and to differentiate themselves from the British, Americans took to drinking coffee. Now is the time to come back to tea, Edwards said, not only because its different varieties taste better than coffee, but because it is a healthier beverage. Tea is loaded with antioxidants, which help prevent damage to cells.

Edwards said all teas are derived from the same plant. However, consumers need to be aware that some products are not tea at all, such as chamomile and other herbal "teas." "They are very good products, but they aren't tea," he said. The different types of tea come from the different processing of the tea leaves, he said.

One type of tea that Edwards warns against is anything mass produced and packaged in the familiar paper tea bags. The tea in the bag usually comes from different locations, is ground up and put in the bags, which dull the flavor. "Companies do that to have a consistent flavor," Edwards said. "I call it consistently bad."

The New Mexico Tea Co. has more than 50 varieties of tea as well as accessories, such as teapots and strainers. The store also sells a large variety of Japanese and wild crafted incense, a nod to Diane Edwards. "I originally wanted to open an incense store but we decided that probably wouldn't have been too successful," Diane Edwards said.

The tea available at the store is sold in bags, loose or in tins. David Edwards said he sells it in small amounts so customers are able to take a sample home with them. The store opened Nov. 1. Edwards said he has been surprised at the support the store has been given. "There are a lot of tea drinkers and there are more in this neighborhood than we thought there would be," he said.

Edwards said he is working with providing tea to local restaurants— including offering the expertise in preparation. Right now, the store has its loyal customers and Edwards says the number is increasing as word of mouth spreads.

"It's great," he said. "It's not work if I can talk about tea all day."