Breaking the bean: Savrika brings a tea culture to Kirkland
By PETE TREPERINAS
Kirkland Reporter UW News Lab
February 5, 2013 · Updated 1:50 PM
It’s hard to go more than a block or two without seeing a coffee shop in the downtown Kirkland area.
Aside from chains such as Tully’s and Starbucks, quirky local spots to get coffee have been popping up en masse. Savrika Tea has no desire to fit into that mix.
“My goal is to really be the alternative of a coffee shop,” said owner Rupa Dalal Gadre, whose business opened just four months ago. “I think people are tired of going to the same cookie-cutter coffee places. There’s only one Savrika.”
Gadre’s passion for tea began to develop when she would take her two infants to Gymboree at Alderwood Mall. A trip to Bellevue Square Mall almost always meant a stop at Teavana, a tea shop inside the mall.
Some coffee shops have tea on their menus, but Savrika boasts a menu with roughly 190 varieties of loose-leaf teas, with plans for more than 200.
Since deciding to open Savrika, Gadre has made a point to educate both herself and her staff on their products — she recently passed certification courses for Oolong and Pu-erh teas in San Francisco, Calif. Those certificates are proudly hanging on the wall inside the shop.
Additionally, Gadre makes her employees pass a quiz and read some tea literature before they can start working.
“I didn’t know about the different ways that teas can be treated and rolled,” Savrika manager Dina Phelps said. “So it’s been quite the learning experience.”
The Savrika experience is centered on serenity and taking time to relax. That starts with a concept that Gadre believes is absent from many coffee shops — patience.
“It takes three to five minutes for most teas to (steep) and you just wait,” she said. “Tea takes some time, and so when you get that mentality, the customer learns to take a few minutes for themselves. It’s about taking the time to enjoy the tea.”
Paired with the tea are a few small pieces of chocolate. Savrika employee Marianna Hanefeld compared having tea with chocolate to wine and cheese.
“It’s just a taste-bud thing,” she said.
Located at 115 Kirkland Ave., Savrika has grabbed the city’s attention. On its four-month anniversary, the shop was honored by Mayor Joan McBride with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
To Gadre, that was symbolic of the positive feedback she’s received from the Kirkland community as a whole.
“My (real-estate agent) showed me this street and it just felt perfect,” she said. “It’s a very friendly area and people have gone out of their way to support me.”
That support has been there since the beginning, according to Phelps.
“We’ve had regulars who come in every day and order the same tea,” she said after greeting Sung Rhee, who is one of those regulars.
Rhee tends to favor an iced green mango or a Moroccan mint tea. Some days he likes to try new varieties, but when he’s not feeling creative, the staff easily knows what his order will be.
Both the selection and the atmosphere keep Rhee coming back to Savrika.
“They have an incredible amount of choices from which to try from,” he said. “I also like the ambience.”
Rhee is a self-proclaimed tea drinker who stays away from coffee, but there has also been an insurgence of coffee drinkers whom Savrika has swayed toward tea.
“We’re not campaigning outside Tully’s or Starbucks, but people are obviously trying to be healthier and more enlightened about tea and we’re here to serve,” Gadre said.
After just over four months in business, Gadre said her business has unfolded just how she envisioned it. It embodies the eclectic setting she sought out to capture.
“I think it’s a great meeting spot,” she said. “But it’s also at the same time a good place to sit and reflect on tea.”
Pete Treperinas is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.