Sheila Duda’s cute storefront, steps from the Park Ridge Metra station, is a real find for area leaf lovers. Its cubbyholed wall contains about 130 tea varieties, from estate-grown Chinese Keemuns and Taiwanese oolongs, to flavored blends such as Pomegranate Cranberry and vanilla-kissed Madagascar Fine Bourbon, to warming chais—what Duda calls “hibernation teas.” To assure quality, Duda tests constantly and limits her buying to a handful of trusted importers, who understand her goal: “to get as close to the garden as we can.” But what sets the shop apart is its tasting bar, where customers can sample any tea until they find their heart’s true brew. “We don’t want anyone to feel intimidated by tea,” says Duda. And it works—the cheery space is both family-friendly and connoisseur-congenial.
11 South Fairview, Park Ridge
Best of Chicago 2010