Restaurant Development & Design

January-February 2017

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4 6 • r e s t a u r a n t d e v e l o p m e n t + d e s i g n • J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 7 through licensing agreements, are being considered for New York, Tokyo and Los Angeles. Jacobs also recently launched a wholesale foodservice program, wherein Samovar supplies premium tea products to other cafes and restaurants. "The whole third-wave coffee thing had taken the country by storm, but tea drinkers were — and, in most places, still are — treated like second-class citizens. I wanted to test a concept that would provide for tea drinkers what great coffee places provide for coffee drink- ers," Jacobs says. Doing so presented challenges. Top among them, Jacobs says, was to approach tea in a fresh way, consistent with the needs of urban consumers. That meant creating a focused, approach- able menu built on a carefully curated, expertly prepared selection of premium teas; providing complementary fresh and healthful foods; and ensuring that cus- tomers could get in and out quickly. "The opportunity was to look at the problems with tea and fix them," Jacobs says. "One of those problems has been too much choice. A typical teahouse has 100 varieties of tea. Nobody wants that; it just creates stress." A second challenge was to convey an image of tea in a unique way, not evok- ing dated notions of grandmothers and doilies and also not depending heavily on the traditional ritualized Asian tea ceremony. "We wanted our concept to present tea as an accessible beverage, like coffee, that's delicious, hydrating, energizing, healthful and affordable. That was our challenge and our op- portunity. Both of our models work, and the demand for quality tea is growing quickly," Jacobs says. From a design perspective, Samovar seeks to create a relaxed, stress-free oa- sis that's unique to tea. The original Tea Lounge offers table service in a simple, warmly contemporary atmosphere, while the newer Tea Bar has a more modern aesthetic, stripped down to simple, authentic materials. "We don't put art on the walls, or postcards or bulletin boards," Jacobs says. "We were inspired by the Japanese aesthetic called shinrin-yoku, which translates as 'forest or nature bathing.' There's a lot of science supporting the idea that being in nature lowers stress, so we wanted to create a physical space that allows for a similar experience, of taking this moment and connecting with nature. Our tea is sourced in small batches from family farms all over the world. It's a raw, natural material that once you see it, you connect to it." The challenge, Jacobs notes, was following that philosophy without creating spaces that are cold and barren. "There's a fine bal- ance between being empty and full of potential," he says. "We've tried to create an experience that is very tactile and craft-oriented but also as progressive and efficient as possible. At one end of the spectrum, we have our chai, which we cook in a copper pot with fresh cardamom, pepper, spices, and tea with milk and sugar. We ladle it out, and the aromas waft down the street. We also have more high-tech brewing devices, like the crucibles, which bring the theatrics of tea front and center. They convey the beauty of the raw materials; you can see the tea expanding and infusing the water and smell the aromas." Abundant natural light, muted tones, soft lighting, natural materials, and subtle Asian, Scandinavian and industrial design influences combine to create the desired look and feel at the Tea Lounge. The smaller Tea Bar concept takes Samovar to another level. Designed in partnership with San Francisco-based Arcanum Architec- ture, the airy, modern space features what Jacobs calls a "future craft" aesthetic. Principal materials are salvaged wood, stone, plaster, metal and glass. The line of crucibles behind the bar, a softly lit back wall display of custom-designed ceramic mugs, and a row of 4-foot-high natural limestone dividers in front of the counter are design highlights. "Each of those dividers weighs 3,000 pounds," Jacobs says. "They're about 4 feet high, but each one also goes 4 feet down below the foundation. It was a mas- sive engineering effort to make sure that they would be magnificent and tactile de- sign elements but that they'd also be safe and wouldn't fall over in an earthquake. Ultimately, they work together with the rest of the materials to create a beautiful backdrop for tea that doesn't get in the way but that also, if you look a little deeper, has a lot of substance." Samovar's full-service Tea Lounge features abundant natural light, muted tones, soft light- ing, natural materials, and subtle Asian, Scan- dinavian and industrial design influences. Photo courtesy of Samovartea.com COFFEE & TEA BEVERAGE BONANZA:

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