Coffee or tea? That is the question. Little mom and pop coffee shops and teahouses are popping up in every nook and cranny of Salt Lake Valley. There truly is nothing like that rush of caffeine to get the day started. Because of its lower crash rates and healthier ingredients, tea is quickly becoming a favorite among working professionals and college students alike. The Tea Grotto is one of many up-and-coming teahouses capitalizing on Utah’s love of tea.
Located in Sugarhouse at 2030 South and 900 East, The Tea Grotto is a modern, innovative tea and tonic bar that first opened its doors in 2004. Owner Rebecca Sheeran, a legitimate tea connoisseur, has not only been certified on many levels of The Specialty Tea Institute, but has recently visited India, one of the places where tea was born. Sheeran has taken that old-world flavor and incorporated it into The Tea Grotto. There are more than 80 selections, most of which are loose-leaf teas, because teabags are less bold in flavor.
Upon entering The Tea Grotto, one might be overwhelmed by the copious selections that take up a wall-length blackboard. In colorful chalk, it lists anything from Chai to green teas and tisanes to medicinal blends. Customers can order individual cups or full pots of tea, which can be re-steeped upon request for no additional charge. On a small board off to the side is a menu with sandwiches and pastries. All of this would be extremely intimidating, but the staff is friendly and eager to answer any questions. If the drinker were feeling adventurous, a good idea would be to try the Bubble Tea-a chilled dessert tea served with a fat straw to suck up the large tapioca beads at the bottom of the glass. In the mood for a hot tea? The pot of lemon strawberry tea is delightful. The food is also fresh and fantastic, especially the tomato and mozzarella sandwich.
It might take a few minutes longer on the weekend for choice selections to arrive, but after that first bite sandwich, nobody would care. The fresh taste of tomatoes, mozzarella, and pesto on warm ciabatta feels like organic heaven for the mouth. Follow it with a swig of a subtly sweet but heady floral tea, and the drinker is on cloud nine. Add the new age music in the background to the belly-warming food and tea, and any Grotto guest can fully relax and enjoy the atmosphere at this quaint little shop.
At The Tea Grotto, the ambience is indie, comfortable, and hip. It shares a spacious area with Dolcetti Gelato, and its décor is reminiscent of modish San Francisco and Seattle tearooms. Ceramic tables with high-backed chairs provide the perfect spot for tea parties of two or more, while a few overstuffed couches and love seats are tucked in a corner, enticing single sippers to collapse onto them and read a book or paper while enjoying a brew of choice. A fascinating chandelier made of stemware, hangs from the generously high ceiling, casting a cheery glow over the scene.
The Tea Grotto’s charm extends beyond its products to its community-oriented attitude. It features a number of weekly events, as well as a monthly club that observes various tea ceremonies. According to manager Venessa Vetica, the easiest initiation into the world of tea is a tasting. Stop by Saturdays from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. for an introduction to the hot, aromatic world beyond your common Starbucks.