Tea is a key element of Briana Thornton's minimalist, health-centric lifestyle.
So when she opened her new tea shop, Aesthete Tea, in Multnomah Village, she wanted the store to also mirror her personal ethos.
"I wanted to be on the forefront of creating a community that was more about wellness and incorporating culture and teaching culture and the history behind something," Thornton says.
Aesthete Tea, which opened in April in the Multnomah Village French Quarter, matches a spare aesthetic with an expansive array of tea offerings.
Thornton's mother, Maggie Cassidy, is an herbalist, and Thornton remembers drinking tea as a child. When guests would come over, Thornton's family would always offer tea.
"Tea was just always in my life," Thornton says.
After graduating from the School of Visual Arts and New York University, Thornton went on to work for galleries and branding agencies. With Cassidy contemplating retirement and Thornton wanting to use her creative skills to jumpstart a company, the mother and daughter joined forces.
With the space, located in the back of the French Quarter, Thornton tried to foster an inviting, rather than transactional, atmosphere. It is painted white, includes a wall of teas in the background and — instead of the standard counter and register format — features a table for customers to sit and chat.
"I wanted it to represent more along the Japanese tradition of a teahouse being a sacred space and being minimalist and empty so that the tea can breathe and for people to be able to expand their consciousness within the teahouse," Thornton says.
Thornton is fascinated by tea because of its long history in many parts of the world including Africa and Asia.
Aesthete Tea includes teas that range in origin from China, Hawaii and Malawi, Africa. Key varieties include herbal teas, some of which help with cramping or anxiety (including a camomile, lemon balm and coconut flake tea variation), black teas, green teas and white teas.
"From our end to the tea being picked to actually creating the blends, it's really purposefully done," Thornton says. "We're really thinking (about) all of these things and trying to incorporate healing elements and beautiful, herbal, meditative elements."
Thornton doesn't claim that her teas reinvent the wheel, but she's proud of her products.
"I'm not the first one to pour water over a hot leaf. All blends are variations of other blends and it's all been done," she says. "We try to source really good, pure products where we know where we are coming from and we know how they're being grown."
Though she is hesitant to persuade others to embrace tea, Thornton says it offers health benefits and is symbiotic with values like open mindedness.
And Thornton believes Aesthete Tea provides another compliment to the grassroots atmosphere of the Multnomah Village French Quarter.
"It's a collection of beautiful people who believe in what they do and are trying to share nature," she says. "Whether it's working with soaps or plants or metals, we're all using these basic elements to share something beautiful."
For more information about Aesthete Tea, visit aesthetetea.com.
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