I'm sure you've all encountered that incident in which you spend $2+ for some tea at a restaurant, and all you get is a teacup of boiling water and a Lipton tea bag. It's a complete rip-off and doesn't make you "fit in with the group" because everyone else is also getting shoddy tea. Let me tell you about a place that gives you at least 20 teacups of blueberry tea for one dollar (hot water not provided).
The Spice Corner, a little bit off of South St., at 9th Ave. A large, what appears to be handmade sign directs all visitors to the small front door. On one side sits a restaurant that has a human-esque cut-out that boasts "Never trust a skinny Italian chef", and on the other side is a street alley. Today, a group of men were performing with guitar music. Cosy little nook.
The firs thing I noticed was the baskets filled with zip-top bags that were filled with a variety of herbs. The baskets were sitting outside the store; evidently, the store-owner, a woman who looked sort of Asian, trusts people won't steal her herbs. As I approached the baskets, another woman opened one of the bags for her husband to smell. They seemed pleased with the smell - and who wouldn't be pleased, given all the choices? Hazelnut, chai, raspberry, chocolate, spearmint, and names I had never heard of - these little packets of herbs (for tea) were only $1 a bag.
Why did I run to 9th, all the way from 41st? Well, I've decided that I can run errands while running, because it not only gives me a distance goal, but also allows me to explore Philadelphia, since I didn't have time during the year. Next semester, I've decided that my grocery shopping will be throughout a whole list of places so that I get to literally run errands, instead of feeling bored in a gym. After all, each food place specialises in only a few aspects. E.g.
Chinatown: eggplant, 白菜 (bak choi), fruits and vegetables
Farmer's Market @ Clark Park: fruits and vegetables
Fresh Grocer: carrots. I need to find a place that sells cheaper bread.
The Spice Corner: Wish I could buy the store!
Reading Terminal Market, Wholefoods, Trader Joe's: I'll see.
What was the errand? Well, my mum wants juniper berries and lemon balm. As a believer in alternative medicine, she thinks that they will help her heal because she's been feeling kind of frail for the past few months (I lean towards the scientific method, but after taking Comparative Medicine (great class!), I've realised that I shouldn't question other people's beliefs, because I'd feel terrible if everyone I knew kept telling me I was wrong).
To my surprise (not really), juniper berries aren't sold at the spice rack of Shoprite. Lemon balm was found as an ingredient in a tea at Shoprite, so I got that for her a week ago. After Googling for places to buy juniper berries in Philadelphia (after unsuccessfully wandering around Chinatown in a half-hearted attempt to find some), I ended up with Wholefoods and The Spice Corner.
So, I ran to Wholefoods, tried a sample of kiwi kefir and tea, and found organic juniper berries in a glass container at the spice rack for $3.66/ounce. They didn't have pure lemon balm, so I decided to run to The Spice Corner. I'm so glad I did, because it's so much better than the spice rack at Wholefoods, Shoprite, or anywhere, really (except perhaps that herb store in NYC, at which I only glanced).
"Can I help you?"
"Do you have lemon balm?"
"Do you have juniper?"
"Here. 1.39 for one ounce."
OH YEAH. Sure, it's not organic, but it's cheaper, more "local" (not a company like Wholefoods), and in a small zip-top bag so I can run back with it in my hand, sans problem.
I also bought a small packet of spiced chai for $1, and tried a piece of espresso biscotti that the woman had on the table next to the cash register. It was stale from sitting outside all day and made me really thirsty. Oh well. Then I ran to Fresh Grocer to buy some bread. Sigh. I have to get used to living in the city. A loaf of packaged whole wheat bread for 4.49 isn't that cool. Maybe the Farmer's Market will be cooler when I go next Saturday (as opposed to going on Thursday).
I used about a teaspoon of the dried herbs/spices and about 400 mL (i.e. more a teacup) of boiling water and added a packet of sugar. It's pretty refreshing and smells nice. There's no milk in it, so it tastes a bit watery, but flavourful.