Townshend’s Tea Company

Jack Zampolin

The first Townshend’s Tea Company location began as a college project at the University of Oregon in 2002, Townshend’s now has five locations including Bozeman, as the first in the state of Montana.

Named after the author of the act that precipitated the Boston Tea Party Charles Townshend, Chancellor of the Exchequer in the British Parliament prior to the Revolutionary War. Townshend constructed the Townshend Acts of 1767, imposing a tax on colonial tea imports, and other items. Ultimately the Townshend Acts and the tax on tea led to the Sons of Liberty, led by Samuel Adams, poorly disguising themselves as Native Americans, but successfully dumping 342 chests of perfectly delicious tea (worth £18,000 in 1767) into Boston Bay. The Boston Tea Party that we know to do led to an overwhelming anti-tea sentiment and sowed the seeds for our American coffee culture.     

Visiting Bozeman’s new teahouse will bring instant calm to anyone walking in. No one is in a hurry in Townshend’s Tea and the relaxing vibe is pervasive. The open and inviting room smells earthy and herbal and there is an assortment of vintage chairs seating hip-looking Bozemanites sipping various brews. This shop is the Bozeman offspring of a popular Portland tea shop. Connection with the Oregon locations give Townshend’s access to more teas, better prices, and a house line of kombuchas. Scott and Melissa Herron, the husband and wife team who own and operate the shop, provide a local flavor that makes the teahouse feel right at home in downtown Bozeman.

Walking up to the counter and scanning the wall filled with many different varieties of bulk teas can be intimidating. So can the 20-page menu filled with numerous categories: black, green, white, oolong, rooibos, chai, máte, herbal & apothecary, kombucha, and bubble teas. Luckily the warm, helpful staff is there to help you make an informed decision. If you are, say, looking for something simple, like an Earl Grey or English Breakfast, they have it. If you are looking for something a bit more complex, possibly a specific chai blend or an exotic Chinese varietal, the Townshend’s staff is more than happy to help you find what you are looking for.  Scott and Melissa have put in solid work helping their staff understand the lengthy, and possibly daunting, menu. They are also both at the shop during business hours if you have a particularly esoteric question.  

Another way Townshend’s ensures you know what you are ordering is the wall of smell-able samples. Each of the drinks on the menu has a number. The number corresponds to a small glass jar with the tea components in it. I can easily imagine myself coming here in the winter to check out their apothecary teas in an effort to find relief from the inevitable cold.

Scott, Melissa and the staff are more than happy to give you an in-depth understand of what you order. After asking about brewing techniques I was given a detailed description of the specific times and temperatures that the different teas require.  Any time an establishment pays that much attention to the little details, you can be assured that the product you are drinking is top notch.

On my first visit I tried two of the Brew Dr. Kombucha flavors; Lemon Ginger Cayenne and Superberry. The Lemon Ginger Cayenne had excellent bright lemon rind and ginger spice with a hint of red pepper from the cayenne, and none of the searing heat normally associated with the spice. The Superberry tasted strongly of sweet, fresh, dark fruits with a pleasant offsetting acid. Both of the kombucha varieties I tried had an excellent balance of sweet and acid that is commonly lacking in most store bought kombucha. On my second visit I tried two of the chai varieties on offer; Masala and Yerba Máte. Both were head and shoulders over comparable chai offerings from other coffee and tea shops I’ve visited over the years. There are numerous dairy and non dairy milk options for the milk component of the chai, from whole milk to coconut to almond.

The laid-back vibe of the shop makes it a great place for quick business meetings, informal dates, writing the great American novel or, alternately, a convenient spot to break up with your significant other, (“Don’t make a scene!  We’re in a tea shop!”). It offers a nice alternative to the many coffee shops that populate the area. With the knowledgeable and dedicated owners and staff, excellent selections, and high quality products, Townshend’s Tea is an excellent addition to the growing downtown strip.     

Oregonian founders of Townshend’s liked the idea of using the name of the man responsible for tea’s underdog status, and thus Townshend’s Tea Company was born.

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