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Doe Polanz, owner of the Downtown Rabbit Hole, hosts a tea tasting in her shop on Court Square in downtown Harrisonburg on Wednesday.
Photos By Daniel Lin / DN-R
If the White Rabbit were to rush into her new tea room, Doe Polanz would hop to pour him a steaming cup of his favorite tea.
But for Polanz, there is no need to rush — it’s always time for tea.
The Downtown Rabbit Hole is a pop-up tea room offering artisan French teas, tea tasting parties and more, based in a cozy café at 2 N. Main St. in the space that was once Court Square Coffee. The Rabbit Hole celebrated its soft opening Sept. 28 and will be open through the end of January, according to the owner.
A world traveler, Polanz said she became fascinated with how tea is crafted and enjoyed all around the world and how different places have different traditions centered around tea.
Polanz, who is French and German, having grown up on the border between the two countries, said French tea culture is all about the sense of smell and starting with a quality product that doesn’t need any additions like milk or lemon.
A selection of teapots and teas sit on a table at the Downtown Rabbit Hole.
“I absolutely love Chinese tea, Japanese tea as well,” Polanz said. “The French, of course, we don’t grow our tea so we have a base: black tea, white tea, green tea. And they add. They love perfume, they love smell.”
While visiting a Christmas market in Nice, France, Polanz came upon a vendor of flavorful, loose-leaf teas called Maison Bourgeon.
She exclusively offers Maison Bourgeon tea in her shop and online store. Coming in a variety of fragrant blends from energizing to relaxing, flavors include the tart and adventurous blend Polanz calls Wild Flower, the zesty and vibrant Lemon Me Up!, and Magical Popcorn, a sweet and roasty drink that’s popular with children.
Polanz — who is studying to become a certified tea sommelier, or tea tasting expert — said drinking tea can be an experience akin to wine tasting, appreciating the subtleness of the flavors and smells in the drink.
Doe Polanz, owner of the Downtown Rabbit Hole, prepares to-go teas in her shop Wednesday.
With a background in higher education, Polanz said she loves educating her customers on different kinds of teas.
Additionally, she said she likes to help people find a tea they like to drink, but this is where a bit of madness comes in.
“When people say, ‘What’s your best tea?’ It’s like, it depends on how you are feeling,” Polanz said. “I’m pretty much the Mad Hatter of this place, because there’s not a straight answer.”
A lover of fantasy and with a professional theater background, Polanz dressed up like the Mad Hatter with sparkly violet lipstick, a top-hat fascinator and a whimsical necktie with a swirling pattern on Wednesday to pour a few of her Maison Bourgeon teas.
Polanz offers tasting experiences, hosting or setting up at special events from birthdays to bachelorette parties. She invites her customers to first look at the loose-leaf tea, then smell it and list the different things they imagine.
She also sells the loose leaf teas, which engage the sense of sight with ingredients like popped popcorn, raspberries, violet flowers or bits of papaya.
Polanz said she likes to take her time with each customer to make sure they get exactly what they want.
“How do you feel today? Do you want something that will energize you? Do you want something that will relax you?” Polanz said she asks customers. “For me, it’s all about the one-on-one customer care.”
Harrisonburg artisan tea shop looks to bring ‘French flair’ to Main Street
Published: Oct. 19, 2022 at 10:05 AM EDT|
HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Dorothée ‘Doe’ Polanz was born and raised on the border of France and Germany and has always had a curiosity and passion for tea-making.
Now she’s sharing that love through a pop-up shop in downtown Harrisonburg.
“When you come here you also have a kind of an education part because I teach people what is tea, how the French people drink it which is very different from you know other culture,” Polanz said.
Polanz is an Associate Professor of French at James Madison University and is using that background in her pop-up tea shop, the Downtown Rabbit Hole.
At the shop, you can find decorations inspired by Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, along with tastings and sales of a variety of French-style teas. She says the shop is about connecting and experiencing these specific types of tea whether in a group or by yourself.
“We add fruit, we add flavor, all of this is natural there is no artificial flavor, but you know pieces of fruit, pieces of flowers rosebuds, pineapple. Because the French love their flavors and perfumes, so it’s very very flavorful,” Polanz explained.
Along with the on-site tastings and teas for sale, Polanz also offers at-home services for events like birthday parties and bridal showers.
The Downtown Rabbit Hole will be located at 2 N. Main Street in Harrisonburg until Jan. 31.
You can find more information by clicking here.
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