LARSON: Aristeacrats makes tea a total delight

Next to water, tea is the second-most widely consumed beverage in the world. The average Brit drinks seven cups a day. Americans may have a ways to go to catch up to that statistic, but with a tea shop like Aristeacrats in Lawrenceville, it shouldn't be long before we start closing that gap.

Owners Duane and Jessica Burns, both graduates of Berkmar High School, opened their shop in March. They not only sell tea and tea accessories, but like to educate people about the classic beverage.

"It's inspiring seeing people wanting to change their lifestyle to include tea and getting into the preparation of it and the tradition of ceremony," Jessica said.

These self-educated "tea"chers experienced tea for the first time in Ireland.

"I really wanted to open a tea shop," Jessica said. "Then I lost my job. When Duane and I saw the boom in Lawrenceville and how everyone was coming together and caring about their city, we decided this would be perfect place."

Their 60-plus varieties of tea -- I loved the pumpkin -- include one called Historic Lawrenceville. I had to ask Jessica how an eight-month-old business already had a historic signature product.

"We were trying out different blends and had a bunch of regulars here at the same time. These people who all live and work here all agreed they liked this blend, so we let them name it. We try to make everything as personal as possible."

Part of that personal touch is an array of samples in front of the counter, little jars of teas that customers can open up to see, smell and even pour out and feel.

"We also personalize our music," Jessica said. "People of all ages bring in tapes, classical, jazz, Grateful Dead, whatever they like and we'll play it for them."

Board games galore are piled on a shelf for people to play while sipping tea.

"Battleship is a great date game," Jessica said. "Since it's the old-fashioned version, couples have to make their own sound effects."

As another dating draw, Aristeacrats is open late on weekend nights for Aurora Theatre patrons who prefer to end their evening with a non-alcoholic drink and a dessert from Sweets on the Square.

Other personal touches include a de-stress coloring book with exquisite designs by local artist Jacqueline B. Dickens. Customers can relax as they color a masterpiece, sign it and then display it in an album.

Tea-related gifts adorn the display cases. I loved the necklaces with tea cups painted on the backs of Scrabble tiles, created at Sparkle, a gift shop down the street.

To encourage more tea drinkers into their community, Aristeacrats offers a Guy's Discount Day on Wednesday and periodic tea tastings, which Jessica likens to beer samplings, only healthier. The next tasting will be Friday, and Duane and Jessica have all the details down to a tea.

Susan Larson is a freelance writer who lives in Lilburn. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.