Before I could open the door into
in South Anchorage, the smell of curry and cinnamon filled my nostrils.
Inside, shelves are neatly lined with tin containers and glass jars, each labeled with the names of loose leaf teas, blends that range from lemon-chamomile to a hand-picked green tea called Ancient Snow Sprout from Yunnan, China.
Summit, located on Huffman Road, offers a wide selection of loose leaf teas, hot cocoa, spices, chocolates, jams and other specialty items for the kitchen.
Audrey Paule, owner of Summit, offered me a mug of tea. I chose one of the house blends, the Nirvana Chai, which is made of cloves, cinnamon, cardamom pods, orange peel and ginger.
The chai was neither too sweet nor spicy as I sipped from the mug. Instead, I was treated with a balanced blend of goodness, which Paule would later attribute to regular taste tests.
Truthfully, I'm not someone who is well acquainted with fine blends of loose leaf tea. Instead, I often grab a box of black tea on the store shelf and microwave a mug of water at home.
With more than 150 teas that can be purchased in bulk or in tins, Paule said the tea selection at Summit can be overwhelming for some customers.
However, Paule is confident that Summit offers products for everyone.
"There are so many teas, and they are so diverse you don't get bored of it," she said.
Paule said she and her employees have tasted every tea they offer, which is helpful when customers ask for recommendations based on flavor preference or want to familiarize themselves with the company's tea selection.
The company's seasonal blends, such as the Coconut Chai, are often best sellers. Made with a blend of black tea, coconut and spices, Paule said the chai will be available toward the end of November. Customers are limited to a 1 pound maximum due to demand.
Originally, the store opened in 1998 under different ownership. Located in a smaller storefront nearby, Paule has experienced an increase in products and sales since joining Summit in 2005.
"Originally, Summit opened as a spice shop," Paule said. "The teas were an afterthought."
With business increasing each year, in addition to positive feedback from the community, Paule said that she is actively searching for a second location in the Midtown area. Unlike the current shop, the Midtown location would have a tea room.
I took a few more sips of my chai blend before leaving Summit. The taste of cardamom and cinnamon lingered on my tongue, which is enough to convince me to try local loose leaf tea more often.
1120 E. Huffman Rd. #1
Anchorage, AK 99515
Kelly McLain can be reached at kelly(at)alaskadispatch.com.
Alaska Dispatch Publishing