WORDS & IMAGE: KATE WEINER
Tea Bar, a Portland-based tea shop, is an exercise in the power of simplicity. The sparsely decorated store and small menu make for a no-fuss experience. I first fell for Tea Bar after sipping on their lavender Boba tea. I'd had Boba tea before and the chalky taste you find from most vendors reminded me of toothpaste. Discovering Tea Bar's unprocessed version was a sweet treat meant for savoring with an open book and free morning.
I found sanctuary from a muggy summer afternoon last week to sit down with Erica, Tea Bar's owner, to talk about creating community spaces and cultivating tea. When Erica was sixteen, she moved to China and found herself steeped in tea culture. She came to value tea, as much for its complexity of flavors as for its role in catalyzing community. After spending several years working with her father to revitalize dilapidated buildings, Erica decided to build Tea Bar on the bottom floor of one of those projects. Since opening in December of last year, Tea Bar has quickly grown into a local favorite. This is in part testament to Tea Bar's commitment to high-quality ingredients: the company nourishes long-standing relationships with sustainable family farms in Japan, China, and the U.S. to provide its customers with delicate infusions and hormone-free milks (for making that Boba tea extra good!) It's also a nod, however, to Erica's interest in using Tea Bar to foster community events. Tea Bar has hosted a number of networking opportunities for female entrepreneurs looking to build community, and she's currently working to connect with local elementary schools in the area.
As Tea Bar illustrates, building spaces where we can connect can stem from a very simple equation: a spirit of inclusivity partnered with a nourishing cuppa. Relishing my mug of matcha recently, I reflected on ways we can incorporate rituals into our lives in order to make way for mindful interactions. Tea is one kind of ritual that asks us to soak up our environment and take in a breath: a surefire step toward living more sustainably.