Creativity meets Culture
Everything is still closed at 10 am on NW 23rd, in Portland while I walking to Tea Chai Te. As I enter the door to Dominic’s&Angela Valdes location, I have always the same warm, welcoming feeling since my first visit.
Kashmiri Chai their signature drink next to Velvet Oolong is my todays choice. A friendly woman behind the self-built counter prepared my tea in clay mug while I took the seat in one of their Victorian style armchair.
The whole idea to open a tea place started as a class project while Dominic studied general business at the University of Oregon, in Eugene. Even as Portland is a high coffee scene, he noticed that there was a growing interest in tea and he had a feeling he could bring really great tea from around the world down to a casual atmosphere to welcoming different kind of people. The naturally fit and the flexible creativity of both owners was especially visible as they create the first store with a small budget and a handful of old furniture and designed it on their own. Angela made the lamps from scratch in the locations and draw the art on the coffee table in their new Hawthorne location.
The passion and first real fascination of tea started for Dominic in his college time,in Eugene. Growing up in a small town in Southern Oregon, he knew only Lipton grocery tea bags. His first touch, with high rare tea began as he went to learn for exams in a fancy, french style tea store with Victorian furniture. It was fascinating for him and was introduced to a new world.
His senior college year was at the time while 9/11 happened and the economic shut down and hiring opportunities were rare, so he was glad to get a corporate job in a huge company with great benefits. He learned fast that he couldn’t fake that it wasn’t the right fit for him and took a huge risk and quit after almost a year. Around this time, he moved to Portland and started to open Tea Chai Te. It took a while to build a regular customer base but they were right, there was a high demand on tea. And in the following years they got many requests to open locations on the other river side and expanded their business with the Sellwood Caboose location in 2011 and the Hawthorne space in 2013. The name Tea Chai Te reflects the passion for gathering, different cultures and the open personality of both owners.
Tea means for him to have varieties and if you sip on a mug of tea from different parts of the world you get the opportunity to taste a piece of their culture. environmental, climate and growing factors have an important impact on taste and smell of tea. Tea from Japan taste has a strong sea smell and taste due to the fact that the growing environment is different as a buttery tasting tea from Northern India.
As they first opened he had once a vision to carry only organic products, but with all the raising costs it wasn’t economical realistic. Still organic, sustainable and local are three parts which are very important for him and his wife. Especially since they are a family with their two kids and the lupus disease of his wife.
Their own blends are handpacked in a warehouse in Portland, Oregon and the Happy Mountain Kombucha are bottled in Portland,too. Both products are available in over 12 local shops in Portland and since a few months even in NYC in a small cafe/store.
As I sat down for a chat with Dominic, you could feel his passion for the business and that their it is not all about profit. They see their employees more as part of a their family and know that the staff represents not only the business even more without people behind the counter who have a passion for it too, there would be no word of mouth marketing.
As long as we will live in Portland it is a must to visit this every week and I can highly recommended it for tourists or locals to enjoy yourself for an hour or two and stroll afterwards on NW 23rd and let the credit card do her job….
Tea Chai Te
Open Everyday 9am-10pm
734 NW 23rd Ave – Portland, Oregon – (503) 228-0900