Omnivore - 5,000 tea junkies headed to Atlanta

Woo hoo! It doesn't get much more exciting than this. Atlanta will host the 2007 World Tea Expo, June 9-11 at the World Congress Center. The event will feature 300 exhibitors and at least 5,000 buyers, who will be investigating everything from tea itself to important equipment such as the automatic teabag-packing machine from China shown here. (You know you want one.)

There will be demonstrations of cooking with tea by Hugh Acheson of Athens' Five and Ten and Joel Atunes of Restaurant Joel, along with Virginia Willis, author of Bon Appetit, Y'all: Three Generations of Southern Cooking.

I'm sorry to tell you the event is only open to members of the trade and press. And nobody under 16 is allowed, period. You know how teenagers get when they get a whiff of Rooibos. Rumors are that Britney Spears guzzled a cup of the stuff just before she shaved her head and started banging automobiles with her purse.

I've never forgiven the owners of Tea Space in Little Five Points for closing their Five and Ten-inspired restaurant. But, actually, there's kind of a renaissance of interest in tea in our city, with three tea houses having opened recently. They include:

Zennubian (163 Peters St., 404-521-9961) in Castleberry: This is maybe the quirkiest place to arrive in our city in quite a while. Pull up a cushion on the floor or plop yourself on a bench. Then chow down on vegetarian cuisine while sipping exotic tea (including iced blends) and watching Japanese movies. The decor is as strange as the theme that echoes Japanese and ancient Nubian culture.

MindSpace (312 N. Highland Ave., 404-522-2892): You'll find more floor cushions here, as well as conventional seating, along with an amazing collection of teas and strange stuff you can add to make you a more vibrant human being. Tea is brewed with water from special dispensers that maintain different temperatures appropriate to different teas. There's a tiny menu of sandwiches.

11:11 Teahouse (753 Edgewood Ave., 404-521-1911): There's nothing much to eat here, but this is probably the most "medicinal" of the new tea houses, with an herb garden, books and educational events.

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