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Tempting Tastes of Tea in the Willamette Valley

By Annelise Kelly

The sweeping plains of the Willamette Valley burst with a cornucopia of products for the tables and gardens of Oregon and the nation-grass seed and flower bulbs, wine grapes and hops, berries and vegetables. Thanks to a half-acre plot just southwest of Salem at Minto Island Growers, tea takes a spot on that list.

Day-trippers and overnight travelers with a taste for tea can indulge their passion in every corner of the Willamette Valley. Put together a tea-centric itinerary from our suggestions below, or stop for a pick-me-up as you explore towns, farmlands, wineries, and forests in the sweet reaches of Oregon's agricultural heartland.

Water pouring into a white mug with tea leaves in it

Minto Island Tea Company, Salem

Two-and-a-half centuries ago, the first camellia sinensis bushes were planted on U.S. soil near Savannah, Georgia. Today, a few dozen micro tea enterprises dot the country, including Minto Island Tea Company. In 1988, a pair of visionaries planted a half-acre with a variety of tea plants, sourced from around the world. Today, Minto produces certified organic tea in green, oolong and black varieties. Minto harvests by hand several times during the growing season, from April to September. Tea geeks can explore the subtle distinctions of the sequence of flushes (tender new growth) in a given season, as Minto Island Tea Company processes and labels each harvest separately in true artisanal fashion.

Packaged loose leaf tea is available in July and August at the Minto Island Growers farm stand, along with limited quantities of tea bushes to take home for your garden. Each summer, Minto hosts a free annual open house. Groups may schedule a visit, including a private tour of the tea plot, tea tastings, and an optional lunch from the onsite farm food cart.

Velvet Monkey, McMinnville

Retreat down a flight of steps into McMinnville's own tea sanctuary, the Velvet Monkey tea bar. This cozy spot in the lower level of the historic 1893 Wright Building is lined with shelves crowded with over 150 varieties of bulk tea, herbs, herbal tea, and medicinal tea blends. Settle in for a hot-brewed cup of any tea Velvet Monkey stocks, and a tasty chocolate from the tea bar's selection. Bubble tea and lemonade are also on the menu.

Oregon Coffee & Tea, Corvallis

Catering to the true tea aficionado, Oregon Coffee & Tea stocks an encyclopedic catalog of tea from far and wide. Black? Green? White? Oolong? Pu-erh? Pure or blended, rare or recurring, Oregon Coffee & Tea's selection of over 300 varieties dazzles. Each bulk jar is accompanied by a small sample tin to explore the aroma and labeled with informative text. Also on offer: Herbal blends; single-herb teas; yerba mate and blends; rooibos and blends; kava kava; and decaf green and black tea.

The family-run business also sells coffee, chocolate, tea ware, local honey, and other goodies. On Saturdays, homemade Danish pastries attract an eager following. Savor a cup of tea with your pastry at one of the tea bar's tables: They'll brew any variety to order.

Inside a team room, glass tables with white chairs and teal cushions are set for guests

Ivy Garden Tea Room, Albany

Albany's Ivy Garden Tea Room joyfully embraces a frilly Victorian aesthetic, with floral painted china, lace, tablecloths, and mismatched chairs. The vintage chic dining room-whimsically appointed with bud vases, antiques, and cut-glass cake stands-welcomes guests costumed for the festivities or just enjoying a casual outing.

Just a block from the Historic Carousel and Museum, it's popular for baby and bridal showers and children's parties. Several tea options are available: Queen's Tea, Royal Tea, Princess Tea, and Mad Hatter Tea for children 10 and under. Ivy Garden's food menu includes petite sandwiches (including grilled cheese and PB&J for the kids), scones, desserts, soup, and salad. It's also a gift shop, with tea ware, bulk tea, cards, jewelry, art, and more, some of which is handcrafted by the owner and her family. Reservations recommended.

J-Tea & Oolong Bar, Eugene

The sleek, modern design at J-Tea lets the tea take center stage. Enter the store, a floating box of wood and glass, and be transported to a serene, bright space serving and selling over a hundred of the finest teas Taiwan has to offer. An intimate, eight-seat bar invites guests to chat with the passionate staff and learn about the rich brews-try a flight. Linger at a few indoor and outdoor tables for a second and third steeping of your tea leaves, noting the subtle differences in subsequent brews.

Traveling with kids? Try J-Tea's sister store, Oolong Bar, where there's seating indoors and out, and the fine selection of Taiwanese tea is complemented by milk tea, bubble tea, chai, kombucha, matcha, Thai iced tea-and even coffee! House-made tapioca pearls and plant-based milk elevate the drinks. Pair your beverage with a locally made pastry or bagel.

Your adventure begins with the official Willamette Valley Travel Guide. Request your complimentary printed guide or download a digital guide today.

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