Rare Tea Cellar Launches Online Retailer

Rare Tea Cellar brings its culinary secrets to the masses

Rodrick Markus has been making your favorite restaurants taste better for years.

Now he's doing the same for your pantry with his just-launched retail website.

The Chicago-based culinary importer, distributor and tea guru behind Rare Tea Cellar deals in the stuff from which gastronomic dreams are made. Bourbon-barrel-smoked peppercorns, lychee black tea and grated Japanese yuzu peel are merely the beginning.

We spent an afternoon exploring Markus' Ravenswood warehouse, a playground for food lovers. We were smitten with the purity of Jean-Marc Montegottero's small-batch fruit vinegars. Try the mango ($39 for 16.9 ounces) and lemon ($32 for 16.9 ounces) drizzled on crudo or grilled shellfish. Float strawberry, passion fruit or rose flavor pearls ($17.50) in your next Champagne cocktail.

The tea selection is staggering, with dozens of black, herbal, pu-erh, green, white and oolong options. Some of our favorites, until now only available on tea lists around town, include magnolia-blossom oolong ($20) and Sicilian blood orange pu-erh ($30).

Stimulus Hot ($20; find it online and at Publican Quality Meats) is one of the quirkiest of the unusual offerings. Oolong is blended with Gyusa, an Amazonian herb with twice the antioxidants and caffeine of tea.

In other words, it's your new go-to for sleepy fall mornings.