For many who drink tea, it involves putting a bag of tea leaves in hot water and coming back a few minutes later for your drink. But for Simon Parish, preparing tea is far different – an almost therapeutic ritual.
Parish took that ritual and, with his parents David and Gabrielle, opened the Northeast Tea House in late August.
“He was never going to take a conventional path, but he wrote a remarkable business plan,” David Parish said. “Gabrielle and I provide the business acumen, but this is his vision. He runs the shop day-to-day.”
Of course, like so many people, that business plan was written pre-coronavirus. But that didn’t stop the Parishes. They took over what had been Tarracino Coffee at 224 E. Hennepin Ave., and began renovating the space in Mid-March. Despite having less traffic with fewer people going out, Simon Parish said that the response from those that have been in has been positive.
“I can’t say I had any credible expectations because I don’t have normalcy to compare it against,” he said. “But people are coming back and have been enthusiastic about the concept. And the most encouraging part is the vast majority who’ve come in and liked weren’t tea fans or aficionados beforehand.”
What Parish was attempting to do is to introduce tea culture to Minneapolis – specifically the art of Gongfu brewing. Gongfu means “making tea with skill,” and the process uses specialized drinkware to brew and drink the tea.
“It’s more flavorful, and it tastes different from what you expect,” he said. “With each infusion, the flavors change. And as you pay attention to the changes, it becomes a realization of the process to see the subtleties of the flavors. It’s become a valuable part of my life and I really want to share that. Most in the west don’t know that tea can do those things.”
The other thing that Northeast Tea House specializes in is Matcha. Unlike what you can buy anywhere else, the shop is one of two or three in the country that owns a granite, imported-from-Japan, Matcha Mill, and imported Tencha leaves which are ground into the Matcha powder.
“The difference between commercially available matcha – no matter how high the quality – and freshly milled matcha is night and day,” he writes on the Northeast Tea House website.
David Parish said that pandemic aside, he’s pleased with the progress the shop is making.
“There’s a long way to go,” he said. “We still have plenty of room to grow and build our community.”
The shop is open with limited hours for carryout only, staying compliant to Gov. Tim Walz’s most recent executive order. However, Parish is offering online Matcha and Gongfu experiences to help give people the Tea House vibe in their own homes.
The Parishes are also using the Tea House as a way to give back to the Jewish community. David just finished his term as the president of the Minneapolis Jewish Community Foundation, and both he and Gabrielle have been on the Minneapolis Jewish Federation board. When buying online with the code MJF10 at checkout for a 10 percent discount, half goes to the buyer, and half goes to the MJF unrestricted fund.
“There’s a substantial collection of tea giftware and items,” David Parish said. “We like the idea of using the shop as a vehicle for good. This is one of the things we care most about.”