What does Louisville, Kentucky have in common with Shanghai, China? They’ve both got the hooch! Or, as it is formally known, the Hillbilly Tea. This Appalachian-style duo of cafes specializes in all things tea. They concoct their own blends, which range from Big Earl’s, their amped-up version of Earl Grey, to Horny Goat, a variety created with the weed of the same name.  Want to reap the benefits of their organic tea blends, while also enjoying a healthy dose of alcohol? Flag down your server, who is almost certainly an uber-hipster, and ask about their selection of tea-infused moonshine. Order it straight, or in one of their hooch cocktails, like the Oh, Sweet Daddy made with twig tea-infused hooch and local honey.  Whatever your poison, rest assured it will be served in an adorably sized mason jar.

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photo via amanda bates

The food at Hillbilly Tea reflects the same hick-chic theme. For brunch you might indulge in the Hillbilly Scramble with a side of corn pone, or the decadent bourbon bread pudding. Order something off the griddle, like the cornbread French toast with green tea whipped cream.  Dinner offerings include moonshine tofu and river clams with cornmeal noodles.

The original Hillbilly Tea opened in downtown Louisville in the summer of 2010 to rave reviews. It seemed like the next logical move would be to expand to Ohio, or further into Appalachia. So why Shanghai? Owner and tea master Karter Louis, having spent a year in China‘s largest metropolis earlier in his career, had no notions of taking his operation abroad. That is, until a return visit to Shanghai in September 2012. Over dinner, two friends and fellow Louisville natives encouraged Louis to open a Shanghai location to curb their comfort-food cravings. Brunch was a novel idea for most restaurants, and American cuisine existed primarily in the form of fast food. Louis ran with this sentiment and opened up the second location on March 30, 2013. The “Bumpkin Tea Tavern,” which is the Chinese translation of the name, has become one of the city’s most popular brunch spots – for Americans and Chinese alike. The location also offers “Free Flow Fridays” in which patrons can enjoy “all the hooch they can drink” for 100 yuan (about $16). We here in the Land of the Free have to settle for happy hour.

Do you got the hooch?

feature photo via hillbilly tea


Amanda Bates is completing her Masters degree in Journalism from Ohio University. A midwestern girl at heart, she does travel great distances for food (and drink). She writes about the world from a foodie’s perspective on mandibleblog.com, and is also working on building her collection of vintage barware. She would love to write for Saveur or Lonely Planet someday, but will probably have a pretty good time regardless of where the journey takes her.


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