My tea tasting travels recently led me back to the city of Ballard, to explore Miro Tea, which has set out to revolutionize the tea drinking experience in our coffee soaked city. Considered to be one of the trendy and up-and-coming parts of town, Ballard is home to many tasty restaurants and cute cafes. In fact, the maker of the delicious chocolate covered espresso beans we carry, Hot Cakes, is located just down the street.
Luckily, Miro Tea’s cozy atmosphere allows the shop to fit right in. In keeping with the area’s hipster vibe, the entire store is made out of recycled materials. The piece de resistance is the tea tasting bar. This beautiful lacquered table is made out of a tree stump that provides the space with a Northwest feel. The wall behind the bar is covered in bamboo, which is fitting since the name “Miro” has Buddhist origins. However, the best part about the tasting bar is the tea! There are always four teas available at the bar to sample, and they are changed out every day so that people in the neighborhood can try something different.
While I was in the shop, I got a chance to chat with Miro’s assistant manager, Emi Horiuchi, who has been with the company for about four years, to learn a little bit about the company’s history and mission. According to Emi, Miro Tea’s founder, Jeannie Liu, opened the café in August 2007, with the idea of creating a tea bar that was different from the old fashioned-style tea houses. Thus, Jeannie created a modern yet casual environment, where customer’s don’t have to worry about being told “you’re doing it wrong,” when it comes to selecting, brewing and drinking their tea. Emi also explained that they try to be fairly approachable, and one of her favorite aspects about working in the store is that she “get[s] to offer people things that they like, rather than telling them what they should like.”
When it comes to finding something they like, customers shouldn’t have any trouble. At Miro Tea there is a giant menu at the counter that features about 200 blended and non-blended loose leaf teas and herbals. This selection of teas changes depending on the season and what is in stock, as Jeannie travels all over the world to try and buy different teas. You can also purchase tea beverages such as tea lattes (tea brewed with steamed milk), chai and iced tea fusions (iced tea hand shaken with seasonal fruits, herbs and fresh squeezed juices). If you do happen to get stuck trying to decide on a tea, just ask the knowledgeable staff who are happy to offer their recommendations.
Of course, that is just their tea menu, which doesn’t even begin to cover the wide selection of food that is available at Miro Tea. You can choose from a variety of pastries, sandwiches, soups and salads. However, the most popular snack is the crepes, which come in both sweet and savory options. Emi claims Miro is most well-known for the Christy (fresh spinach and goat cheese, and topped with Spanish Serrano ham and an over easy fried egg) and the Harvest (roasted yellow squash, eggplant, zucchini, red onion, kale, green & red peppers with goat cheese & house made fire roasted tomato sauce) crepes, but all of them sound equally delicious.
After hearing about all of the scrumptious sounding teas and treats available, I decided to test them out for myself. I went with the Coconut Oolong, a Baozhong oolong flavored with coconut. This tea happens to be one of the shop’s more popular teas, along with the Chill (a peppermint and licorice herbal blend) and the Bourbon St Red (rooibos flavored with vanilla and bourbon). For a snack I tried the sweet Chocolate Haze crepe, which was filled with Nutella, banana toasted hazelnuts and topped with whipped cream. My tea arrived in a Bodum Bistro Mug that showed off the tea’s pretty, light yellow color. It tasted amazing – very light and sweet with slight nutty and coconut flavor. The crepe was much bigger than I expected, but was very tasty as well, which was evident in my ability to eat the entire thing in one sitting despite its size and richness.
Before I left, Emi added that Jeannie is into supporting the neighborhood; so opening the store was “all about building the community, and not about the money.” The goal was to have a tea shop where people could come in and relax and meet others. From the looks of things, it appears Jeannie and the folks at Miro Tea have certainly accomplished this goal. When I visited, the shop was full of people, who were either quietly typing away on their computers or hanging out with friends. There is even a corner filled with books and games that people can use to pass the time while they sip their tea. This shop, and neighborhood, is certainly my cup of tea and I will definitely be back for more.