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Orientspiration; Wine Authorities; Open Eye Café

All the news that's fit to drink

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Now presenting: an entirely liquid version of Now Serving ... all the news that's fit to drink.

We begin with the teacup, vessel of the oft-overlooked hot beverage. Orientspiration (10940 Raven Ridge Road, Suite 122, Raleigh, 846-0910, www.orientspiration.com), a store and tearoom, will host a Chinese Tea Tasting Party from 1-4 p.m. Saturday. Co-owner Evans Lau, who grew up in Hong Kong, will demonstrate an authentic Chinese tea ceremony, including tastings of four teas, each hour on the hour. She will also speak about the culture behind the ceremony, which is her family's own, she said.

The event is free, and snacks will be served with the teas: oolong, peppermint, apple blossom and "green dragon well," which Lau says is a green tea that holds a high amount of antioxidants. "It's a good head-clearing tea," she says. "A good morning tea." Reservations are not required, but if you're bringing more than four people, please call ahead.

Moving on to the goblet, Durham now has Wine Authorities (2501 University Drive, Durham, 489-2884, wineauthorities.com). That's the shop just opened by two wine guys, Craig Heffley and Seth Gross. "You'll remember Craig from [the gone but not forgotten] Fowler's Gourmet in Durham through 2001 and Seth from Wellspring/Whole Foods in Chapel Hill through 2003," says their Web site. They left their respective retail establishments to "broaden their understanding of the wholesale and distribution sides of the business." They've been selling to restaurants and specialty shops, and now they're open for business.

They may be authorities, but they're no elitists. They plan to offer about 500 wines (ranging from $5 to $50 a bottle), classes, daily tastings and "an environment free of snobbery."

And finally, news from the world of coffee. Congratulations to Scott Conary, co-owner of the Open Eye Café (101 S. Greensboro St., Carrboro, 968-9410, www.openeyecafe.com) and the Carrboro Coffee Co. Conary served as the head judge of the World Barista Competition in Tokyo recently. The competition is run by the Specialty Coffee Association of America, which is the world's largest coffee trade association, and its corollary in Europe.

Champion baristas from more than 45 countries competed in "the art and skill of espresso preparation and service," which meant preparing and serving "12 coffee beverages, including four espressos, four cappuccinos and four original drinks of their own creation within a 15-minute time frame." Competitors were judged on station cleanliness, taste, beverage presentation, technical skills and something called "total impression." I, for one, am totally impressed. To serve as a judge, Conary had to pass all sorts of certifications. During last year's competition in Berne, Switzerland, he served as the sensory and technical judge. He's also a certified instructor in espresso technique, coffee cupping and sensory evaluation.

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