Home base for the better part of four decades to Ken and Rosalie Hasbrouck’s Allied Locksmiths, the tiny storefront at 9 North Chestnut Street has brand-new tenants who are bringing a needed service to New Paltz. This town of many coffeeshops has long lacked a place downtown where tea aficionados can buy their favorite loose teas in bulk. To fill the gap, the Ridge Tea and Spice Shop opened its doors on Saturday, March 27, and word is already getting around.
The friendly young couple operating the shop recently bought a house in Napanoch to escape a locked-down New York City. “I call us ‘pandemic pigeons,’” jokes Corinn Crawford, “but we’re very clean.” A native of Saratoga Springs, Crawford had been running a secondhand clothing business called Seasons of Vintage, with a regular presence at Brooklyn Flea.
Her partner, Cristhian Galeano, was born in Bogotá, Colombia, moved with his family to Florida at the age of 10, became a commercial photographer and ended up in the Big Apple, where he and Crawford met in 2012. One of the things they found they had in common was an enthusiasm for rock climbing, and their frequent visits to the Gunks inspired a dream to relocate to the New Paltz area. “We looked around and thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be awesome to live up here?’” Crawford recalls.
The idea of becoming teamongers came a little later. According to Crawford, Galeano has a talent for spotting the perfect commercial application for any building he happens to pass by. The brainwave for 9 North Chestnut came instantly when they saw that it was up for lease: “New Paltz needs a bulk tea and spice shop!” he declared.
And so they made it happen. “I used all my savings and maxed out my credit card. We’re just betting on it,” says Crawford.
It’s certainly an appropriate use for this small, sunny space. Tiers of shelves line the north and south walls, bearing glass jars filled with practically every variety of tea imaginable – herbal and medicinal as well as the classic Camellia sinensis – plus all sorts of culinary herbs and spices. On the caffeinated side, they’ve got black teas and green teas galore, singly and blended; two white teas, yerba mate, two kinds of fermented pu-erh, sencha, kombucha and genmaicha. Three kinds of rooibos join a glorious variety of herbal teas, for those seeking less of a buzz.
On the spice side, you can also find five different flavors of sea salt; three kinds of chili powder ranging from 1.8K to 10K on the Scoville heat scale; two curry blends, plus garam masala; seasoning blends including barbecue, steak, poultry, Greek, Thai, tandoori, Chinese Five Spice and even “Organic Everything Bagel.” Healthy additions to your breakfast smoothie include several different types of dried seaweed, ashwagandha powder (“the ginseng of India,” according to Galeano) and maca root powder (“the ginseng of Peru”).
There’s only one table, and a small cooler filled with cans of upscale iced teas. In the back is a counter where you can buy hot or cold teas and coffees, chais and lattes to order, sweetened with beet sugar (or regular sugar if you insist). Milk options are soy, Oatly, coconut, macadamia and pistachio (no dairy, due to cold storage limitations). Decadent pastries from the Newburgh Flour Shop are also available for sale.
Galeano, who loves to experiment with teas, will even mix you up a custom brew, and his special house blends are also for sale in bulk. For active types, there’s Feelin’ Gunky, which Galeano describes as “energetic without caffeine.” Need to chill down? There’s a “relaxant” mix called Sueña Conmigo (“dream with me” in Spanish). Fragrant Flores del Monte (“flowers of the mountain”) combines rose petals, licorice, mint and cinnamon, and looks more like a sachet than a beverage.
Holy Chamoly – featuring holy basil, chamomile and moringa mint – is among the blends that Galeano likes to sell in sparkling form at the tea bar, “to give people an option to replace their soda craving.” So far, the most popular fizzed-to-order iced concoction, says Crawford, is Purple Dreams, mixed from butterfly pea flowers, lavender and sage. Its gorgeous pale lilac color and light, refreshing taste will drive all thoughts of garish grape soda out of your head.
The Ridge Tea and Spice Shop is luring in all sorts of tea-drinkers, young and old, from curious neophytes to the health-conscious to hardcore connoisseurs, from locals to weekenders. “All walks of life come in here,” Crawford says. “We want to build a community,” Galeano chimes in. “People can come in and experiment and have confidence in a relationship with us.” Long-term, he dreams of establishing a direct supply chain from his homeland. “We hope to be the only Colombian tea in the Hudson Valley. A lot of coffee farms are changing over to tea because of climate change. Right now, there are only about four or five tea farms in the US.” Meanwhile, they’re being picky about their sourcing, and plenty of the offerings are labeled “organic.” Another goal for the future: some outdoor seating on the north side of the building, where Galeano has already scoped out the ideal patio area that just needs a little landscaping.
The Ridge Tea and Spice Shop is currently open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, with later hours planned as the days grow longer. To learn more, including what’s the special tea blend of the day, visit www.facebook.com/theridgeteaandspice.