High Climate Tea

Hunter Strickland



Photo by Lynne Harty

What is your favorite part of being a restaurant owner in Asheville?

My favorite part of being a restaurant owner in Asheville is the rich, creative community we have here. There are so many people doing top-quality work that it sets the bar very high, and that encourages me to always push myself and take what I have to offer to the next level.

What is the background of your restaurant’s name?

Tea is a lot like wine. You can pretty much grow grapes anywhere, but if you want to create an amazing wine they need to be grown in the right climate with the right terroir. One of the most important factors in quality tea production is the elevation at which it’s grown. Good tea needs to be grown up in the mountains at high elevations, and that’s what we look for when we travel to China to do our sourcing – high climate tea.

What ingredient could you not live without?

As a tea shop and lounge, the ingredient I could never live without is tea, of course! Aside from being brewed in a traditional fashion, tea is also a remarkable ingredient to use when making medicinal or alcoholic tinctures. It’s also phenomenal to use as a spice and/or vegetable while cooking, and we integrate our tea into many of the dishes that we serve in the lounge. We have a white chocolate mousse that’s infused with our Jasmine Silver Needle white tea, a Burmese tea leaf salad that we prepare with our own Tieguanyin oolong, and Chinese tea eggs that get brined in a mixture of different teas, among several other dishes that integrate tea as an ingredient in one way or another.

What is your favorite dish on your menu?

I can’t pick one! I’m a big fan of simplicity. No frills, no fuss, do something straight forward and do it really well. Our whole menu started out with just mochi, which we hand roll every morning. Everything that’s been added to it since is on there because I think it’s phenomenal, otherwise I wouldn’t bother with it!

What is your favorite dish from a fellow AIR restaurant’s menu?

I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a bad meal in this town. Pretty much everything I’ve eaten has been wonderful in one way or another. I’d like to give a shout out to John Fleer and the Rhu though, because they have been amazing neighbors to us and I pretty much live off of their laminated baguettes.

Why did you choose Asheville to open your restaurant?

I chose Asheville to open High Climate Tea because I love the mountains here, I love the creative and artistic energy that community here has, and the passionate interest people here have for natural medicine, which is what tea is all about. A big focus of what I do at the tea bar is educating people about different ways they can improve their health naturally by drinking tea. It’s much more than just a pleasure drink. I’d like to acknowledge the wonderful people at Daoist Traditions and the Alternative Clinic, who have done so much to foster a love and interest for traditional Chinese medicine in the community. I might not be here without them.

What is your favorite chef’s tool and why?

My favorite chef’s tool is a gai wan. It’s just a simple lid and bowl, but with it, you can put so much personal expression into brewing a simple pot of tea.