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Time For Tea

Groveland cottage serves up English tradition, with foothills flare

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Time For Tea

Dori Jones of Dori’s Tea Cottage in Groveland pours a cup of Mango Green tea for Katherine Roudebush

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POSTED March 31, 2012 12:49 a.m.

GROVELAND - It was summertime and the peak of the tourist season for the Sierra foothills town of Groveland. Two men dressed in shorts and hiking boots, and carrying serious backpacks, entered Dori’s Tea Cottage causing co-owner Greg Jones to be a little apprehensive.

It turned out that the two men had just hiked part of the Pacific Crest Trail — and were looking for some refreshment. Despite their rugged looks, they were tea enthusiasts and Dori’s Tea Cottage was the perfect place for them to unwind and reenter civilization.

The two hikers enjoyed their visit so much they left a message in the shop’s guest book: “After hiking 200 miles from Lake Tahoe to Tuolumne Meadows through the mountains, we feel like we are in heaven. This was the place to stop.” It was signed Alan and Gunnar, August 2011.

This is just one of the many stories Dori and Greg Jones have collected since opening Dori’s Tea Cottage in 2008. The tea room is a regular destination for Groveland’s permanent residents — from a long-time rancher and his son who often show up covered in dust to sip iced tea and enjoy an egg salad sandwich, to the ladies of the local Red Hat Society. Being only 26 miles from Yosemite National Park, however, Dori’s Tea Cottage also caters to the national and international tourist crowd.

“It’s amazing the stories we have and the people we meet,” Greg said.

Life-long love of tea

Dori’s Tea Cottage got its start in May 2008. The venture was a way for Dori and Greg to further postpone the retirement they thought they wanted.

“We bought a home at Pine Mountain Lake, but decided we were not ready to retire,” Dori said.

While strolling the streets of Groveland during the town’s annual 49er Festival in 2007, Dori and Greg came upon the former residence of Minnie Ferretti, one of Groveland’s first U.S. Postmasters, and knew the site had potential.

The 1935 house features a brick courtyard surrounded by roses and grapevines. Inside, the original hardwood floors and old stone fireplace made for the perfect setting for serving up tea — something that has been part of Dori’s life since she was a child.

Dori was first introduced to tea by her English grandmother, Elsie. Having tea was a tradition between the two — and to honor that special relationship Dori displays her grandmother’s favorite teacup and the teacup Dori used at her grandmother’s home in the shop.

As another tribute to her English tea heritage, Dori named all the menu selections after women in her family. Also on display in the tea cottage is a family photo of Elsie, which Greg and Dori often show to customers.

Tea time

Dori loves everything about tea — the way it smells when brewing, the variety of flavors available and the tea cups used to drink a proper cup of tea.

“I consider teacups individual works of art,” Dori said.

Visitors to Dori’s Tea Cottage have four pages of tea and herbals to choose from — a daunting task for a novice tea drinker. Thankfully, Dori and Greg are very knowledgeable on the topic of tea and can make suggestions based on particular tastes. From their European visitors, who usually prefer the traditional English Breakfast black tea, to those who want a lighter taste — Mango Green is the cottage’s newest green tea concoction — Dori’s Tea Cottage has something for everyone.

When die-hard coffee drinkers darken their door, Dori and Greg offer up a cup of Lapsang Souchong. The leaves of this ancient black tea from China are dried over pine fires, giving it a hearty, smoky flavor.

Flavored black teas are the most popular selections — with Paris being the most ordered pot of tea. Paris is a fruity black tea with a hint of lemony bergamot and vanilla. Dori’s also has a large herbal and rooibos selection. Rooibos is a tree bark from South Africa that is a flavorful, caffeine-free alternative to tea.

Dori and Greg will often spend hours talking with customers about each of the different tea selections.

“In England, tea time is a very conversational time, a very relaxing point in the day,” Dori said.

The perfect cup of tea

Many times, customers ask Dori why the tea they brew at home doesn’t taste like it did at the cottage. Dori said that tea has to be made a certain way for its full flavor to be realized.

“Time and temperature are the critical parts in making a cup of tea,” Dori said. “Steep it too long and it will be bitter, too short and there’s not enough flavor.”

On each package of tea sold at Dori’s Tea Cottage, there is a time and measurement.

“The time stays consistent; to change the strength of the tea, change the amount of tea used, never change the time,” she said.

Another tea tip: never use tea bags. Dori said most tea bags are filled with “fannings,” or the crumbs in the tea making process. Full leaf tea is needed for the best flavor.

Tea can be stored for up to a year in a cool, dry place — but never the refrigerator, said Dori. Never microwave the water for a cup of tea and always drink out of bone china cups, never ceramic mugs.

“Try it at home — teacup versus mug — you’ll taste the difference,” said Dori.

Expansion in the works

Dori and Greg are in the midst of branching out — although, not too far. They bought the old post office located next door to the tea cottage and are in the process of making it into a deli. The new shop will offer travelers the opportunity to build their own picnic, and also offer coffee and wine.

The expansion will not only create about five new jobs for the town of 2,500 permanent residents, but also allow for more seating in the tea cottage. Dori and Greg plan to move the retail section of the tea cottage to the new location, leaving enough space to double the number of tables for tea.

“Tea is a growing industry,” Dori said.

For Valley residents looking to take a day trip, spring is the perfect time to visit Groveland, said Dori. The shops are gearing up for the busy season, but the out-of-state tourists won’t really hit town until around May.

To get to Groveland, take Highway 108/120 east out of Oakdale; turn onto Highway 120 east and take that all the way to downtown Groveland. Dori’s Tea Cottage is located at 18744 Main St. (Hwy. 120). The tea cottage is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Monday, and closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. For more information, visit doristeacottage.com.

KRISTINA HACKER

209 staff reporter

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