The soft launch of Ceremony Tea’s new location at 21 Euclid Ave. saw a steady stream of customers eager to return to the shop Friday, preceded by a month-long hiatus following its move off Thayer Street.
While the new, larger space has more of an industrial feel than its former location, the geometric light fixtures, neutral color palette and minimalist aesthetic ensured that Ceremony has maintained the same calm ambiance.
As this reporter sat sipping a lavender matcha latte, one customer walked toward the exit holding a drink laden with whipped cream and extravagant toppings in one hand and onigiri in the other. Smiling to herself, she then exclaimed, “I’m so excited!” while leaving the shop.
The enthusiasm for Ceremony’s return is a sentiment shared by Brown students and community members alike. After the tea shop left Thayer July 21, many expressed worry that Ceremony had closed permanently.
“When we closed for a month, we got so many messages, emails and Instagram DMs asking when we (would) open,” said Michelle Cheng, Ceremony’s owner and founder. “That was very humbling.”
Cheng said she decided to move locations to refocus on the original purpose of the store: tea ceremonies. “Unfortunately, two months into our (original) launch, the pandemic happened,” Cheng said. “We couldn’t really do indoor seating, which prompted us to pivot to a new to-go menu.”
Limited by health restrictions, tea ceremonies — which Cheng said were foundational to Ceremony as a location and an experience — couldn’t happen in the shop for months. “The pandemic definitely threw a wrench in everything, but we were able to adapt and pivot really fast,” Cheng said. “If we weren’t able to do that, I don’t think we’d still be here.”
Eventually, she added, Ceremony began taking tea ceremony reservations again. But “that’s when we realized we can’t function with both (tea ceremonies and to-go options) under the same roof because it was too small.”
The new location has a dedicated room toward the back for a variety of tea ceremonies, in addition to new outdoor seating and a bar featuring imported sake, wine and local IPAs. Cheng said the bar will open within the next two weeks and serve sake martinis, sake lemonade, tea-infused low-alcohol cocktails and more.
Izzy Gao ’21.5, a returning customer who visited the store Friday, said she was looking forward to using the new space for studying. “I see myself coming here after class. It’s much more spacious,” she said. Gao said the cozy environment made it an ideal space to study or relax. “People really come here for the space,” she said.
Attention to detail is central to tea ceremonies, according to Cheng, including choosing different vessels and pots for different loose-leaf teas. Additionally, those conducting the ceremonies must have extensive knowledge about the teas and their sourcing. This meticulousness runs through the whole tea shop, Cheng said, as small decorative details, hand-selected snacks and imported pottery create a cohesive experience.
Jeffrey Zhang GS said that he was excited to continue going to Ceremony. “It’s my first time here,” he said. “I think it’s one of the most beautiful coffee shops around here, so I’m really excited.”
Cheng said she was enthusiastic about the larger space and the new directions Ceremony will be pursuing. “I’m excited to see where this journey is going to take us,” she said. “When we first started Ceremony, we had a very small dream of just sharing our tea knowledge and the good teas that we source with our customers.”
Now, Cheng feels as though Ceremony has become a fixture on College Hill and brings an important aspect of East Asian culture and her own upbringing to the neighborhood. “We didn’t know how much we were infused in everyone’s daily lives,” she said. Feedback and praise from students and locals, Cheng said, has been gratifying.
Ultimately, Ceremony is focused on good tea, connecting with farmers who grow tea and creating a place to share and be with others, Cheng said.
“It led us to building a little community here,” she said. “I think that’s the most rewarding part.”
Katy Pickens is the managing editor of newsroom and vice president of The Brown Daily Herald's 133rd Editorial Board. She previously served as a Metro section editor covering College Hill, Fox Point and the Jewelry District, housing & campus footprint and activism, all while maintaining a passion for knitting tiny hats.