SAKU Tea Bar
A latte to love
What: SAKU Tea Bar
Where: 833 N. State St.
Wednesday, November 2, 2016
If you’ve never tried a turmeric latte, you’re missing out. The rich, hot beverage is sweetened with honey, topped with frothed milk and contains just enough spice to be distinctly different.
Comfort food in a mug, it’s a top seller at SAKU Tea Bar, which opened on Bellingham’s State Street six months ago.
Owners Kuros Zahedi and Sandra Loeffelmann were traveling in Thailand when they determined it was time to stop flirting with the idea of opening a tea bar, and, to use Nike’s famous phrase, Just Do It.
“Persians drink a lot of tea, and I’ve always loved tea,” Zahedi, a teacher and mixed-media artist who left Iran at the age of 5, says.
We’re basking in the morning sunlight over cups of Imperial Golden Bud tea from China, sitting at artsy-looking tables with bases made from black gas pipes.
SAKU Tea Bar has a decidedly spa-like ambience inside—there’s a feeling of calm tranquility that makes you want to linger and explore the unique artwork on the walls (some of it made by Zahedi) and examine the jewelry displays by Chelsea Jepsen, a local artist and co-owner of the store.
Visitors will find teapots from Thailand for sale, woven baskets, soaps and packages of tea that Zahedi and Loeffelmann have sourced from India, Thailand, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, South Africa, and Japan.
Customers can order beverages as familiar as the London Fog (Earl Grey tea, vanilla and sugar) and the Durban Red (rooibos, orange, vanilla and sugar), or as unusual as the Kyoto Campfire (kukicha, lapsang and maple), an iced Jasmine Elderflower (jasmine green tea, elderflower syrup and lemon) or the Bellingham Gold, a yummy tea latte consisting of turmeric, spices and honey.
A $4 tea buys you time to reflect on life over a steamy beverage, catch up with a close friend or simply grab an opportunity to relax in a blissfully quiet, organic-feeling space. It’s a far cry from Starbucks or Woods Coffee, that’s for sure.
Zahedi breaks into a broad grin as he describes the pleasure he derives from running his tea bar.
“I love getting to know the customers, and have become great friends with many of them,” he says. “So far, only wonderful people come here—maybe it’s because there are so many wonderful people in this town!”
Some customers, particularly those who have been drinking tea for many years, have become tea mentors to Zahedi and Loeffelmann. One couple from Everson brings their own tea to share with the owners so they can discuss its nuances and exchange sources.
Expansion plans are in the works, and if a soon-to-be-implemented Kickstarter campaign goes well, SAKU will be expanding its storage space and investing in the implements required to package on a larger scale the turmeric, matcha and rooibos blends that have proved to be so popular.
“Right now, we can sell them directly to customers from the tea bar, but with new permitting and a little retrofitting, we hope to wholesale to other coffee shops, tea shops, retail and grocery stores,” he says.
“It’s taken us a while to figure out the flow of how we want to do things, but we have a unique offering, we get a lot of tea lovers, and we’re selling them a lot of bulk, high-quality tea.”
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