3/05/2013 12:41:00 PM

Artisans in Austin: Zhi Tea

Caffeine may not calm the nerves, but walking into Zhi Tea’s store and tearoom certainly will. Owner Jeffrey Lorien focuses on organic, fair-trade, high-quality tea from countries like China and Sri Lanka. The idea for the company, though, started back in the U.S. in the 2000’s, while Lorien was working for Amazon in Seattle. When he “discovered loose-leaf tea in a bin in a co-op somewhere,” his passion for good tea made properly was born.

In 2007 Lorien and previous co-owner Candace Oneida applied their dedication to tea to the rising specialty tea movement to create the hideout in East Austin that they host today. But it’s not all zen at the tearoom. With the F1 event, thousands of international fans flooded the city, and many of them wanted a good cup of tea. “Global tea culture is massive,” said Jessica Evans, the store manager, and as Austin grows as a food destination, the tearoom will only get rowdier.

These days you’ll find their best-selling blends like Sweet Desert Delight, Turkish Spice Mint, and White Blueberry at grocery stores like Whole Foods and local restaurants like Beets, as well as stores and restaurants in California, New York, and Florida (they have even shipped tea to Newfoundland).

To complement the tea at the storefront, Zhi offers local food like pastries from Amity Bakery, chocolate from the Chocolate Makers Studio, and a “Taste of Texas” platter with Pure Luck goat cheese, Texas pecans, citrus from Greenling, and gluten-free crackers. “We’re not trying to be a restaurant as much as a tearoom with great, hyperlocal food options,” says Lorien. However, an expanded menu with more food options is coming soon.

 4607 Bolm Rd.; 888-944-4832

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