Forest Groves Hippocra Teas offers healing, fun and top-notch tea from world traveler Adelidah Devi

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTOS: CHASE ALLGOOD - Adelidah (Ah-deh-LEE-dah) Devi is getting ready to offer free specials that will draw more people into her exotically decorated tea shop. Fun is a very big part of health, Devi said. Color, inspiration, aroma, sound, joy--and, of course, food.Fancy a little powdered seahorse with your tea? How about some slivered deer antler? Male silk moth?

Your answer might be “yes” if you grew up in China, where deer antler tips are reputed to improve energy and creativity, and seahorse or silk moth to improve sexual performance.

But you don’t have to travel to China to try these and other ancient Chinese ingredients yourself. They’re as close now as 2018 Hawthorne St. in Forest Grove.

That’s where Adelidah Devi opened Hippocra Teas Aug. 5, in a colorful, exotically decorated home that seems a world away from British afternoon tea with scones.

“It’s fantastic,” said Angela Smorra, a Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center employee who stopped in for the first time last week and tried some Lapsang Souchong tea. “I’ll definitely be coming back.”

A tea house in a town of coffee shops, Hippocra Teas has been swimming upstream as word of the new business spreads more slowly than Devi would like.

Cecilia Chapman, 71, has been doing her part to help by not only telling friends, but by bringing them along on her regular visits to the tea shop and even holding her birthday party there.

“It was fantastic. I had about 15 friends,” she said.

Of the 200 to 250 people who’ve walked through the doors, Devi said, Chapman is one of 80 or so “regulars” who show up once or twice each week or month.Cristi Santangelo-Verant and her 5-year-old daughter, Makayla, are now regulars at Hippocra Teas, where she enjoys the Dubai-inspired decor. Dubai is all about rhinestones and glitter and making it huge and flashy, she said.

“They tell me how they feel today, what they’re looking for,” Devi said. “Then we match a tea or a drink or a tonic to what their requirement for the day is.”

Chapman, for example, remembers plowing through chores and singing loudly after drinking a $2 shot of the Chinese Brown Ant energy booster.

One woman Devi hadn’t seen for six weeks came in recently and “she even pulled the card I gave her out of her purse and said, ‘Here’s the tonic I had last time.’”

Many of Devi’s customers come for the organic, loose-leaf tea, which costs $2 to $4, and ignore the $10 tonics which each include a dozen or so Chinese herbs.

Devi knows some people might balk at spending as much on 12 ounces of tea as on a whole meal, but “when you drink one of these $10 tonics, it could be compared to having 10 nutritious meals,” she said.

Tea lover Cristi Santangelo-Verant, 34, was drawn to Hippocra Teas by its colorful windows.

“Over the top and I loved it,” she said of her first experience there, when she was particularly pleased to find that the cupcakes Devi offered her 5-year-old daughter were gluten-free — the only kind Makayla can eat.

Santangelo-Verant herself has tried everything from mint tea — a favorite — to one of the tonic teas. (“It was to die for. She only used raw honey to sweeten it up.”)

And she enjoys the international influence in the decor. “It’s something we don’t see in this community,” she said.

Devi’s world travels sprang from her decision to give up a “left-brain” job as a systems analyst for medium-size companies and start medical school in 1989.

She changed paths after interning under a doctor who told her he was too old to start over, but if he could do it again, he’d focus on Eastern medicine.

Inspired, Devi spent four years becoming a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine, flying to classes in Sri Lanka from her home in California.

She said she finally set up a clinic in Dubai, which would be her home base for the next 10 years, with side trips to Europe, Australia, India, China, Indonesia and temporary living arrangements in Paris, the U.K., Lebanon and Sweden.

She said she came back to Portland because her daughter lives here and because she missed the Columbia River Gorge, where she’d lived for a while when her children were young. A relationship brought her a bit farther west, to Forest Grove.

Santangelo-Verant knows nothing about Eastern medicine and she’s not sure what physical effects Devi’s tea has on her, but she’s much more certain of what it does for her ailing grandfather, a Forest Grove Beehive Assisted Living resident who hadn’t walked since February.

On a whim, Santangelo-Verant began giving him some of Devi’s tea with a special mushroom ingredient. It was the only change to his diet and medications, so a week later when he “actually got out of the car and walked from the parking spot into Wal-Mart,” she said, “I knew there had to be some sort of effect.”

Devi also offers free one-hour consultations, which about 20 people have tried, she said, seeking help with problems ranging from poor digestion to weight loss.

When workers finish remodeling an upstairs classroom, Devi plans to offer a drumming circle, then a meditation gathering, then food and herb classes. Yoga, Tai Chi and Qigong are also on the agenda.

But Devi’s first big goal is to start breaking even financially and covering her overhead. “When we get there, I’ll feel really good,” she said. “Then we can concentrate on growth.”

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