North Mankato’s tea house offers vegan and gluten free goods and many loose-leaf teas
There are over 150 different kinds of loose-leaf teas to choose from at Curiosi-Tea House, but since the business relocated to North Mankato in January 2019, with a full kitchen, owner Heidi Wyn expanded the menu offerings to include a wide variety of vegan dishes, from soups and sandwiches to bowls and salads.
Wyn, who is vegetarian, wanted the menu to be not only healthy and animal free, but also to introduce customers to unique ingredients they may have never tried before.
“We have over three dozen different soups we rotate through and some are more seasonal than others, but they’re all vegan and gluten free,” Wyn said.
“One of our customer favorites is our creamy jackfruit ‘chikin’ and wild rice soup. It’s Minnesota harvested wild rice, jackfruit that we season like chicken, mushrooms and then we use a vegan sour cream with it.”
Wyn became acquainted with jackfruit while shopping for tea at some of the large Asian markets in the Twin Cities. When ripe, the orange, fleshy fruit tastes like a cross between a mango and a banana; but the green, unripened fruit also doubles as a meat substitute. Like tofu, green jackfruit is flavor neutral, soaking up whatever marinade or seasonings are used with it.
“I realized I could just buy jackfruit at the Asian market and we could use that to make our own shredded chicken or pulled pork dishes,” Wyn said. “We use it in our soups, bowls and sandwiches.”
Wyn said she and her staff are always experimenting with new recipes and trying new ingredients – she prints out a new menu every day. Soups range from seasonal pumpkin chili made from locally grown pumpkins to Moroccan and Turkish inspired lentil soups; even soups made from tea itself, something Wyn began playing around with as an ingredient early on.
“One of our first soups we did was an Irish breakfast vegetable,” Wyn said. “We use our Irish breakfast tea as the base in the soup that kind of mimics a beef broth. It’s minerally and dark, with all these spices we put in with it, you would think you were having a vegetable beef soup, but it’s tea.”
She also uses Green Matcha, a Japanese green powdered tea, as an ingredient in their house-made hummus, and mixing the finely ground tea into a chia and tofu layered pudding.
“It’s got 10 times the antioxidants of regular green tea,” she said. “You’re not only getting something with a different flavor and color, but it’s like a superfood.”
Along with Jackfruit, chickpeas and lentils are key ingredients in Curiosi-Teas sandwiches and as a protein in over a dozen different salad bowls. One of the most popular had a made from scratch turmeric dressing, but Wyn said her personal favorite is the curiosity bowl, made from roasted cauliflower, chickpeas, kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes and spinach seasoned with an almond butter dressing.
All of that is rounded out with pasta salads and a variety of baked goods and breads made by local bakers, small batch Minnesota-made Kombucha on tap, and of course, the tea itself, which Wyn sources through over a half-dozen vendors who buy the tea directly from the growers, primarily in China.
“I love the idea that it’s so close to the grower,” she said.
She compares Oolong tea to fine wine; two of her favorites are the green jasmine and white tea, which is harvested when the leaf is just beginning to mature. While black teas are strong and full-bodied, white teas are more subtle and mild. They also have the least amount of caffeine and the most antioxidants.
While the teas may come from afar, Wyn said nearly everything served is made from raw ingredients and whole foods sourced locally and regionally as much as possible.
“We make pretty much everything from scratch,” Wyn said. “If we can get local ingredients, we’ll use them.”