By early October, downtown Cleveland will be home to a new retail experience that combines high-end coffee and tea service. Vintage Tea and Coffee (1120 Chester Ave.) is the creation of Jeff Su, a native of Taiwan and Cleveland State University grad. Vintage joins other recent tea-focused establishments like Cleveland Tea Revival and the Tea Lab, signaling a rise in demand for quality tea service.
“My idea is to do the same for tea that Third Wave did for coffee,” says Su, referring to the recent trend that places importance on coffee bean origin, roast and brew methods. “Third Wave only focuses on the highest quality coffee. I want to do the same for tea.”
Su will source all his teas directly from Asia, he says, and serve them up in an intimate, immersive setting that places an emphasis on technique and education. The 800-square-foot space can accommodate no more than 15 guests at a time, many of whom will be seated directly across from baristas at the brew counter.
“I want to share with customers the knowledge and culture of tea,” Su explains. “Like coffee, tea has a very long history and it’s very complex. There is so much information that even myself, I don’t feel like I know everything about tea.”
Su says that even though all of his teas will originate from either Japan, China or Taiwan, each variety requires different brewing techniques that are dictated by the tea’s unique growing conditions.
“I created the tea bar, where customers can sit and watch and communicate with the baristas to learn more about tea and coffee and why they are brewed for certain lengths of time,” he notes.
Su also will brew and serve Rising Star Coffee, the Ohio City roastery where he underwent significant coffee training. That training was passed along to his staff, which has undergone extensive training in both tea and coffee service.
In addition to enjoying coffee and tea onsite, customers will be able to buy coffee beans and loose tea to go. And just because he hails from Taiwan, Su also will incorporate his favorite cold beverage: bubble tea. “This is my own recipe,” he says. “This high-quality bubble tea is not like conventional bubble tea.”
As a former student of Cleveland State University, Su says that he has enjoyed following the growth of downtown and wanted to open up his shop nowhere else.
“Downtown just feels right to me,” he says.
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