To Franklin Tea owner Jan Erickson, tea is more than cured loose leaves in a pot of steaming water. It’s a glimpse into other countries, and even a look back in time.
“Tea can be a cultural study and a study of history,” Jan says. “It’s a link to other parts of the world.”
Jan’s store supports this idea, with shelves lined with tea from across the globe. She’s fascinated that there are thousands of flavors, and that each type of tea is based on the climate and the soil.
Down the street from Starbucks and across from the Franklin Theatre, Jan’s window-lit shop is nestled in the middle of a busy block. When she opened in 2003, she says only one other store sold loose leaf tea in the Nashville area. Now Franklin Tea gets customers from all over, and Jan points out that it’s not just the older crowd. She brings over a bag of Chocolate Mint tea and opens it up to smell.
“A little girl just came in for a tea party and chose this,” Jan says. “It’s like drinking a peppermint patty without the guilt for calories.”
She pauses and then laughs. “I’ve been saying that for years. I probably need to get a new line.”
Jan’s conversation is littered with this kind of wry humor. She’s been a small business owner for 15 years, and says since opening Franklin Tea has seen the interest in tea skyrocket. High school and college students often come in the shop, and others who want to substitute coffee for an alternative energy boost with more anti-oxidants.
And as she’s saying this–as if on cue– a long-haired, teenage boy walks into Jan’s store, backpack and skateboard in tow. Jan walks him around the shop, showing him types of tea that he might enjoy.
Because of her Scottish and English background, the strong, black kind is Jan’s cup of tea, but she says most customers enjoy the wide variety of flavors she offers. Her best-selling loose leaf tea is Hot Cinnamon Spice, and when she opens the bag it spells like Hot Tamale candy within a five-foot radius. The hundreds of types Jan offers in her store come from trips to the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas, where she finds blends to satisfy any palette.
For those who don’t know much about tea, Jan’s a level-three graduate of the Specialty Tea Institute’s certification program – which, in layman’s terms, means she’s able to offer her expert advice to anyone who’s interested.
Franklin Tea offers beautiful tea accessories and pots, from unique ceramic sets to infuser mugs for instant brews. For the beginner who wants to delve into the world of tea, or the experienced drinker, Franklin Tea serves a new social experience – tea tastings every six weeks at 10 dollars a pop.
And as of late, customers can sit in Jan’s window, with a cup of daily tea and a front row seat to the hustle and bustle on Main Street.