Cup of Tea and a Blog

Welcome to my spot for musing about all things tea. Here you'll read reviews of quality teas, click through comments on tea rooms and shops I've visited, and see photos of leaves and cups. You’ll also find things I might talk about over a cup of tea, like philosophy, literature, current events, or fun ways to pass the time.

Location: Pacific Northwest, United States

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03 September 2005

Chile & Tea in Las Cruces, NM, USA

Earlier this week, I returned from a quick trip to southern New Mexico. I'd spent a few days visiting a good friend in Alamogordo, then drove to the other side of the Organ Mountains for a day in my old home town of Las Cruces.

The city of Las Cruces spreads from the mesas to the low-lying fields of Mesilla Valley, about 40 miles north of the Mexican border. The mesas are cactus-filled, sandy desert; creosote bush, mesquite, and huge yucca dot the landscape. In the lower valley, which lines either side of the Rio Grande, the fertile soil supports miles of chile and cotton fields, as well as the second largest expanse of pecan orchards in the world.

The food of New Mexico is amazing – hot, spicy, flavorful, and hearty. Southern New Mexico is especially known for chile rellenos (chile peppers stuffed with cheese, dipped in a light batter, and fried). One of my major goals was to buy fresh green chiles and pecans to take home, but I also wanted to visit the place where I first learned how to brew loose leaf tea.

That place was Spirit Winds, a coffee and tea café. In addition to good food and drink, there’s also an attached gift shop full of funny cards and southwestern-themed gifts. Spirit Winds is just a couple of blocks from New Mexico State University, so it has a funky college student vibe. I spent many evenings there, studying and sipping tea while listening to someone strum a guitar or read poetry out on the patio.

The tea served is all Republic of Tea, so much of it is flavored, herbal, or a blend. Back when they first opened (mid-90s), they served the tea in small bodum pots. After a year, they decided to go to plastic brewing pots instead (too much breakage). It was an easy introduction to loose-leaf tea, and I quickly moved on to find online discussion groups and tea vendors.

This week, a decade later (and 5 years since I’ve been in Cruces), I was happy to see that Spirit Winds still exists. It looks much as it used to, with a bright purple exterior and a funky décor. There are small café seats inside, and larger tables outside. When it gets too hot, they turn on the outdoor misters for cooling.

It had been a long night, and I was in dire need of a stout cup of tea. After checking out from my hotel, I drove uphill to Spirit Winds. A few minutes later, for $3 plus some change, I carried a pot of Assam and a piece of streudel out to the patio.

Much refreshed, I headed back downhill toward the chile fields and the town of Old Mesilla, where I picked up a 30-pound sack of Hatch Green Chiles and some fabulous Stahmann pecans. The chiles arrived a day after me, and they are now roasted (to blister the skin), tucked in bags, and stacked in my freezer. I’m set all year for chile rellenos, green chile stew, and breakfast burritos. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. :)

If you’re in Las Cruces, there are still only a few places to find a decent cup of tea. Spirit Winds is my favorite because of its character, and I’d recommend a stop there (the food is always great, and vegetarian options available). Make sure you drive downhill into Old Mesilla as well – one of the oldest towns in the U.S., and you’ll get a great fix of wonderful old adobe dwellings as well as incredible food.


Blogger Steph said...

Wonderful story and photos! Just like being back there! Thank you for sharing.

12:57 PM  
Blogger Steph said...

PS - I once found a mix for Green Chile Brownies. They were pretty good, tho they could catch the unprepared off guard. I enjoyed them with a 'soft' tea - my favorite was Darjeeling.

12:59 PM  

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