Take tea in PT: Tea room a modern interpretation of traditional beverage

By: Charlie Bermant - Aug 23, 2012
Source: Peninsula Daily News
This isn't your grandmother's tea room.

Pippa Mills, who arrived in Port Townsend in 2010 to open a modern tea shop that would ride the next beverage wave, has opened the doors of Pippa's Real Tea at 636 Water St.

It took longer than she expected.

The initial deal on a building fell through, and there were several obstacles and fine-tuning that needed to be done.

This week, it's finally out of the bag, as Pippa's Real Tea opens in the hopes of teaching the old traditional beverage some new tricks.

“Port Townsend is a Victorian town, but this is not a Victorian tea room,” Mills said after opening her doors Tuesday.

“We don't have the fancy cups or the frilly doilies,” she said. “Instead, we have the Buck Rogers cups and a wide-open space.”

The tea room is excessively modern, with a front area that allows customers to select one of 88 teas, a bar and a large back area where people can sit and sip.

A courtyard is out back, a space Mills hopes will be used for concerts next summer.

Customers can belly up to the tea bar and have their tea prepared in a French press and set in front of them in a durable glass along with an egg timer.

When it empties after five minutes, the tea is ready, and the customer can depress the plunger and enjoy.

While customers choose one blend, the enthusiastic Mills will rave about other possibilities, brewing up another tea and giving out samples in shotglasses.

Stay long enough, and Mills will bring out one of her “backroom teas,” the more exotic, expensive blends that are imported from all over the world.

The gathered tea is packaged under Mills' own label, with 2- to 4-ounce pouches selling for about $7.95.

As served, the tea yields eight to 10 cups per ounce, Mills said.

Still to come is a make-your-own-tea service, where customers can combine different blends to suit their own tastes before putting it in a sealed bag and adding a label.

“This all goes into the computer, so you can come back and get the exact same thing,” she said.

“You can call it what you want, and your friends can come in and purchase that particular blend.”

Mills employs 15 people: six “CelebriTea Bakers,” four “Tea Mavens,” three assistant managers and two “Clean Team Members” from Skookum.

“I can't pay them much right now, but they are all, including our Clean Team, participating in profit-sharing,” Mills said.

“It's my belief that if we are successful, it will be because of their efforts, and I want them all to feel they have a stake in the business.

“I have an open-books policy because I want to further everyone's understanding of how the business works and give them the knowledge to make suggestions that could improve service or operations.”

While Mills has taken liberties with her job descriptions, she reserves the best one for herself, taking on the identity of a “tea tart.”

“A tea tart will do almost anything for a first flush Darjeeling,” she said of the leaves that are the first to be picked during the tea harvest.

The bakers are all people who are passionate about baking, and each one gets to bake one of her own specialties each week in addition to the regular bakery items, Mills said.

“We have a CelebriTea Baker board going up which will feature the baker of the day and her speciality,” Mills said in an email.

During the first week of operation, every sale is 10 percent off.

This discount will continue for locals indefinitely.

“I wanted to keep the emphasis on being a place that is for Port Townsend, not just for tourists,” she said.

“Hence the 'Local Love Discount.'”

Pippa's Real Teas is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week.