t an urban teahouse
Time for t
By Kanna Deutsch
“There’s something nice about tea and the process of tea,” says Kristy Jennings, owner of t, an urban teahouse, as she stands behind the long counter at which I sip a cup of hojicha green tea and listen to Bon Iver’s Blood Bank playing overhead. And she’s right. There is friendly quality in tea that is not found in any other beverage.
Tea has long been the universal drink of comfort. It’s the beverage Tom Hanks’ character, Joe Fox, serves Meg Ryan’s in You’ve Got Mail when she is sick in bed. My Fair Lady Eliza Doolittle drinks tea while seeking love advice from Henry Higgens’ mother. And fans The Big Bang Theory knows that herbal tea is Sheldon Cooper’s cure-all remedy for upset guests. It is this feeling of warmth and comfort that Jennings has created in t, an urban teahouse. Jennings says that she created t “to have a great communal place for somebody to sit. Tea is very communal and sharing it is a very bonding experience. I wanted to figure out a way to serve my community in a way that I would enjoy more.”
Jennings grew up drinking tea, but her love for the drink did not solidify until she spent a semester in Vienna. “That sealed the deal for me- made it part of my morning ritual.” Prior to opening up her business, Jennings had career of nearly twenty years in health care, but decided that she was not being challenged enough and needed to find her niche. Jennings then halted her medical career and spent the next two years soul searching. The result of which is t.
The teahouse carries over one hundred different teas from all around the world. She says her criterion for choosing the teas she serves are, “one- it’s a high quality tea and two- it comes from a source that I trust.” As a rule, Jennings only buys from vendors who buy solely from the trade and who “have a great reputation for quality”. “I have a relationship with a very short list of vendors. I interviewed them and other teahouse owners,” she remarks. After Jennings decided to open a teahouse, she spent a year taste-testing three to ten different variations of every type of tea she carries to choose the one that she now serves to customers. To make her final decisions, she chose traditional teas whose taste profiles matched what they were famous for and non-traditional teas whose taste profiles she thought Oklahomans would be partial to.
Situated on May Avenue, t allows customers an intermission from the business of the street and their lives. Jennings says she picked the Zen décor to create a modern but warm space. “I wanted it to be comfortable—comfortable where you want to curl up with a book for a while.” All the artwork is done by local artists and changes every six months. This unique teahouse also offers private art receptions for customers on the mailing list. The teahouse carries bakery goods and chocolates from Prairie Thunder and Dude, Sweet Chocolate respectively.
One thing that Jennings would like readers to know is that “tea tastes better than you think it does. There are so many out there that I can find you one you like [and] tea is incredibly good for you.” Her teahouse is for both veterans and novices of tea. “We’re very approachable. People can learn a lot about tea from us and with us. Learning together, not learning about tea in an intimidating format,” she says. The learning that she and her customers partake in helps Jennings to build relationships with everyone that walks through her doors. “The relationship with customers- that’s my favorite part. That’s the part that I knew would be there but I didn’t know how nice it would be or how much they would regard us as a part of their family. And it’s reciprocal. They enjoy coming here just as much as we enjoy having them here.”