A day spent eating through Orange Mound yielded some surprising discoveries, such as Orange Mound Punch -- which is actually red.
The herby, sugary smell and the inviting atmosphere and women at My Cup of Tea was a welcome refresher to what had been a long morning by 11 a.m.
My Cup of Tea is an 11-year-old tea packaging and distribution business located in Orange Mound. Women that work there have the opportunity to take job readiness classes, GED courses, and learn how to cook, sew, do woodworking and other marketable job skills at The House Women's Resource Center in Orange Mound, located at the corner of Carnes Street and Semmes Street.
The teacup chandelier at My Cup Of Tea distribution center at 823 Semmes Avenue.
I had planned to grab a cup of coffee in between High Ground News interviews, but the ladies at My Cup of Tea provided another option. As we prepped and practiced to go live on Facebook for an interview, Cheryl Henderson, a native to Orange Mound and My Cup of Tea employee, offered me three samples of tea to try—two hot and one iced—at the My Cup of Tea distribution center at 823 Semmes Avenue, which is offsite from The House resource center at 3028 Carnes Avenue.
The chocolate mint flavored tea was an instant boost. Henderson also let me sample sweeteners sold by the company. The lemon rock sugar tastes like Lemonhead candy and the toffee caramel hail sugar melted in my mouth as Cheryl told me about the iconic teacup chandeliers.
Inside the packaging of each box of tea, there is a drawing of various teacups that are similar to the ones from the teacup chandelier. On nearly every teacup drawing are the names of the employees of My Cup of Tea.
“Some of those cups are chipped and some of those cups are broken,” Henderson said. “Our lives sometimes are chipped and broken, but they’re beautiful like the porcelain teacups … It’s something we cherish here, at the tea house.”
The inside of the boxes of tea tells a story about the employees of My Cup Of Tea.
When I finished the interview, I purchased three teapots, two of which were large and included hand-made cozies from the women at My Cup of Tea, and one tea diffuser. I also bought six boxes of tea, a tea sample gift jar, three flavored sweeteners, two packs of lemon honey sticks, and one pack of amaretto honey sticks for $151.
My purchase helps women in Orange Mound who need jobs and job training. My Cup of Tea products can be ordered online at shopmycupoftea.com.
After an interview in South Memphis I came back to Orange Mound sometime before 3:30 p.m. and stopped in Pop’s Hot Tamales.
It only took a couple of steps after opening the door to get to the counter at Pop’s. The air in the closet-sized room was salted with the smell of tamale beef smell, and I was ravenous.
The spicy savory tamales at Pop's Hot Tamales in Orange Mound.
The man behind the counter was the owner, Lee Crumb. He has a silver-flecked mustache, and stared at me through a white security gate.
The 79-year-old has been at his Park Avenue restaurant for five years and has made tamales since he was 15 years old. Crumb said he learned from a local tamale man that sold them out of a cart on the street in the 1950s. In 2001, Crumb decided to branch out on his own.
In 2013, Crumb started going by the nickname Pops.
“When I was on the corner selling them, the kids would say, ‘Hey Pops!’ When I went to get my business license, the lady asked me what I was going to name it and I said I don’t know. She said, well you have to have a name and I said well everyone calls me Pops,” Crumb said.
Crum said he puts a lot of love and time into his tamales, usually beginning the cooking process at 10 a.m. every morning. Crumb said he never tells anyone how many tamales he sells in a day.
“Only the tax people get that,” he joked.
On the righthand side of the gate was not a menu, but a hand-written price sheet on yellow paper. Pop’s only has beef tamales in mild or hot and they start at $1.35 each. For $6.00, I ordered two of each and an orange soda. He labeled two paper-brown lunch bags “hot” and “mild” and placed two foil-wrapped tamales in each bag. He put the food and soda in a drawer that pulled out from the counter and I walked to my car. It is good, quick food. I wasn't even in the restaurant five minutes.
A customer gets his tamales to go at Pop's Tamales.
But, I only had a few minutes before I had to be in Soulsville for another interview. I put the food in the back seat and decided to wait and try them without rushing.
The tamales were worth the wait. It was the perfect ratio of ingredients, and the food was still hot. They were spicy but not unbearable, and even though they were small, they were filling.
Pop’s Tamales is located at 2467 Park Avenue and is open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 10 p.m.
Orange Mound Grill looks like a tiny gray castle and has a sign on the front that says, “Soul Food Since 1947”. On the sidewalk leading up the steps, someone has etched “Orange Mound Grill,” into the concrete.
Each plate comes with a choice of a meat, two sides and a piece of hot-water cornbread. The menu has everything from BBQ rib tips and pork chops to ox tails and turkey necks.
I took my mom with me and we decided to order for my sisters, niece and nephew as well and bought two meatloaf plates, a baked chicken plate and a chicken and dressing plate with two orders of macaroni and cheese, pinto beans two orders of spaghetti, green beans, potato salad and yams. All together it was about $50.
I also ordered a white Styrofoam cup of "Orange Mound Punch," which is red, by the way.
Orange Mound Grill on Airways Boulevard in Orange Mound
The food at Orange Mound Grill tastes like experience. It was like having Thanksgiving in September or a traditional post-church Sunday evening dinner on a Thursday. Nothing on the menu can be cooked quickly. My favorite was the extra thick but creamy macaroni and cheese and the pinto beans. I usually put sugar, salt and pepper on pinto beans, but when I tasted them, the cooks at Orange Mound Grill had already done it.
There wasn’t a dirty plate in the house when we finished eating.
Orange Mound Grill is located at 1288 Airways Boulevard and is open Tuesday through Friday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Both Pop’s Hot Tamales and Orange Mound Grill are cash only businesses.