Metro

New tea shop sources local produce and customers

Students head to Ceremony Tea on Thayer to drink, share piping hot tea

By
Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Ceremony tea shop opened on Thayer Street Dec. 13th. It is owned by Michelle Cheng, who also owns Leafy Green tea company.

Despite the challenges of seasonal student presence on Thayer Street, the crowd of customers shows that Ceremony finds business steadily growing.

Ceremony opened on Dec. 13, right before fall finals, replacing Tealuxe. Tealuxe cited slow seasons during University breaks as a challenge to changes on Thayer, The Herald previously reported.

“When we opened, it was right around the corner of finals, so we had a lot of students,” said Ceremony’s owner and founder Michelle Cheng. “It’s kind of calmed down a little bit since students left for the holidays, but we are slowly gaining more customers at our base who live in the area. We’re seeing a healthy flow.”

Students make up a significant portion of Ceremony’s customers. “Between eleven and two o’clock, there’s definitely a majority of students,” Cheng said. “We also see local customers as well. They’re slowly getting to know what we offer in terms of (the) tea ceremony and also … mocktails.”

According to Cheng, when students are present, some of the best-selling items are teas by the cup, including matcha, cold brew and nitro tea. With the afternoon and evening crowd, the tea ceremonies and mocktails are becoming increasingly popular. Ceremony’s zero-proof mocktails are served from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m., with a Happy Hour featuring discounted drinks running from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. “We definitely see a trend that’s happening within the whole sober movement, and that’s driving a whole different kind of customer to our location,” Cheng said.

Cheng believes that it is important not to become too reliant on student business, which can cause “huge fall out … when summer break and winter break hit.” While Cheng understands that many businesses come and go on Thayer, she believes that the uniqueness of Ceremony will help the shop remain profitable in the off-season.

Ceremony specializes in authentic tea ceremonies and offers loose-leaf teas, pastries and mocktails. All of the teas are sourced by Ceremony’s sister company Leafy Green, which Cheng also owns. “We strictly work with small farms in Asia, mainly China, Taiwan and Japan,” Cheng said, adding that “we have a personal, direct relationship with all of our farmers. There’s no middleman.”

A tea ceremony is a traditional way of making tea that involves washing and steeping it multiple times for maximum flavor. Each tea — whether it be oolong, black, green or white — has its own ritual and designated tea pots, according to Cheng, and are traditionally thought of as calming and cleansing practices.

For pastries and light desserts, Ceremony has partnered with SinoBox, a Franco-Sino fusion pastry company located in Warren. The tea shop has also partnered with Ellie’s, a Parisian-inspired bakery located in Providence.

The microgreens for Ceremony’s tea-based mocktails are from a micro-farm in North Providence called Sprout Organic Farms. “It’s our mission to deliver really freshly harvested food,” said CEO and co-founder of Sprout Aaron Damus, adding that all of the greens produced by the company are organic.

“We are excited to partner with (Ceremony),” he said. “We’ve been talking and planning to work together since before their opening.” Cheng currently plans to expand the array of microgreens that Ceremony will be using for drinks and mocktails. “There will be more things coming from us, like lemon balm … and certain types of mint,” said Damus.

In addition to their local sourcing, for Cheng, Ceremony’s defining factor is its authentic tea preparations. “A lot of people really love our concept, because … no one (here) is really serving tea this way,” said Cheng. “I’ve been drinking tea like this since I was growing up in Asia,” but “(the) tea ceremony is a very new concept, especially in Rhode Island.”

After reading about Ceremony in a local magazine, Providence resident Peggy Edwards decided to stop by for the first time.

“It sounded really interesting,” said Edwards. “I wanted to treat my friend to something different and fun, so I thought this would be a good spot.” Edwards also commented that the tea is “delicious” and that the store is “very welcoming and wonderful on a cold day.”

Noa Mintz ’22 also enjoys everything that Ceremony has to offer. “I was here every day during finals,” said Mintz. “Because they do free refills, I would bring tea to the SciLi, and every two hours, get a break and come back, so I could get air.”

“They care about the tea,” said Mintz. “So, it’s nice to get quality while I’m right on Thayer. It’s a perfect location and it’s a happy atmosphere.”

Unlike most of Thayer’s cafes, Ceremony “is very strict with no outlet usage,” Cheng said. “When your computer dies, we really encourage you to just take a moment, take a breather and look up, talk to your friends and engage with us throughout the whole tea ceremony process for a bit.”

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