The latest tea-drinking destination is a quaint little spot with large windows and the inviting faces of locals. LiberTea Shoppe, opposite Washington Headquarters in Newburgh, opened in August, and has already become a community fixture, as it bridges a gap on an otherwise questionable city block. I visited on a Saturday, and was delighted to take part in LiberTea’s weekly street-side tasting, in which a trio of teas — such as black, green, and herbal or spice — are available to sample. Inside, the shop has a welcoming feel, and an accommodating owner, Barbara Hembree, who is as passionate about tea as any Irish-blooded American should be. A Cornwall resident and physical therapist by trade, Hembree’s desire to open a tea shop was inspired by Dewleys, a tiny tea house in Dublin (where she went to college). “I liked the casual atmosphere, where you just sat down with a couple of friends and talked,” she says. “No pressure. You could read a book or the paper.” Where to situate this dream business was never set until the Newburgh spot became available. “I kept walking by, and it kept calling to me,” she says of the site. Newly painted and renovated, the shop is now finished with local (almost) everything, from the tables and counter to the art on the walls.
Hembree makes her own tea blends by combining different loose teas, creating flavorful tastes that highlight the sought-after characteristics of individual teas. LiberTea’s house blend — a combination of black tea and lemongrass with citrus notes — is smooth, needs no sweetening, and is fetching with a splash of milk. The shop carries about a dozen loose teas, which are served in a tea basket and also sold in two-, four-, and eight-ounce tins; two types — Earl Grey and English Breakfast — are organic. For an exotic experience, Hembree recommends trying Rooibos Africana tea with a locally made, tea-infused cupcake with the same flavor — both of which are popular with her customers.
So who’s drinking tea these days? “Many of my customers are actually men,” Hembree notes. A number of them have become LiberTea regulars, even bringing in kin. “I tell them to bring their mothers, too. It is wonderful to see how excited their moms are.”
Though sweets, like local cupcakes and scones, make tea happy, LiberTea offers some neighborhood favorites, such as the bacon, egg, and cheese croissant. Panini — one standout is the goat cheese and cucumber on a baguette — are made by Hembree’s two sons, both tea drinkers and active participants in the shop. And Sundays, of course, are for tea sandwiches.
89 Liberty St., Newburgh. 845-926-6474.