For the serious tea drinker, once introduced to fine teas, there is no turning back! As a child growing up, Bill Todd often drank iced tea with his English grandmother. She liked her tea strong. It wasn't a proper iced tea until the spoon would stand up straight in the glass. For young Bill sugar was the answer. Spoonfuls of sugar made the tea go down. As the years passed iced tea became his drink of choice served with many spoonfuls of sugar in each glass.
In the late 80’s, Bill tasted choice rare teas for the first time. He couldn't believe the difference. These fine teas needed no sugar to make them enjoyable. The teas were full-bodied. Their aromas were superb and their astringency was pleasant and refreshing, not harsh and bitter as were the teas of his youth. Thus began one person’s adventure exploring the wonderful world of tea. After several years of seriously studying tea, Bill launched Todd & Holland Tea Merchants in 1994 with a web site and a mail list. In 1996 Todd & Holland moved into a charming white brick building in River Forest. The store had a quaint kitchen for cupping and preparing teas, floor to ceiling tea shelves and room for many functional tea accessories.
Since then Bill has made many tea pilgrimages to China, Taiwan, Tibet, and Japan. Janet and Marianne have enjoyed attending shows in several countries looking for new and different teaware.
In 2005 we packed up the wall of tea, all the teas, teapots, and teacups and led our employees and customers to bustling Madison Street in Forest Park to a newly renovated store with four times the amount of space. We have room for strollers (several at a time), customers, and all the teas and teapots. Big windows on three sides make evening window shopping after hours a treat. Some of the coziness of the old store didn’t make the move, but the new store is still a destination where you will be greeted warmly, you can talk tea, and gather some news.
Madison Street in Forest Park is a happening place. There are street festivals and fun events planned throughout the year. Some of the biggest crowds come for the Holiday Walk, held November 30th this year. It is usually a cold and snowy night, but the live windows created by each merchant will warm you up. Geishas in full costume having a tea party in our window won first prize last year. The competition is fierce and planning begins as soon as the night is over.
To many people the sheer number and variety of teas is at first overwhelming. One of our tasks as tea merchants is to demystify loose leaf tea so that our customers will find themselves well on their way to a good understanding of tea in all its varieties. We are enthusiastic and passionate about our fine teas and try to take every opportunity to infect our customers with our contagious love and enthusiasm for choice, rare teas. It is, however, the tea that does the talking. For it is in the tasting of fine tea that one begins to understand why we are so excited about tea.
Sniffing jars, daily teas to sample, and the courteous knowledgeable staff will welcome you to our world of tea. Please visit the store if you are in Chicago. We are close to the Green and Blue El lines and the west line commuter train.