Tea for Two at Macha
The story of the Monroe Street teahouse is a story of love
The story of Macha Teahouse is an unconventional love story. It features a boy, a girl and, most importantly, a whole lot of tea.
Owners Anthony Verbrick and Rachel Fox met at a gallery opening at Hue Art Gallery, where Fox was co-director. A romance began, and in 2007 the now-married couple merged Fox’s art background, Verbrick’s lifelong interest in Asian culture and their shared passion for tea, transitioning the gallery into a teahouse.
The idea was to “create an inspiring environment but also let people enjoy tea without being pretentious,” Verbrick says.
The Asian-fusion teahouse has several private tea rooms available on a first-come basis upstairs and tables for a more casual tea time on the main floor. It’s a creative atmosphere, with brightly painted walls, ornate end tables and plump pillows.
An assortment of more than forty loose-leaf teas gives customers a wide array of options.
“You can just pick a tea and suit your mood,” Verbrick says.
“A lot of tea drinkers have a specific tea they drink for each mood, or if it’s raining out. It’s so interesting to see people’s preferences on even something as random as the weather,” Fox continues.
Warm weather brings iced teas with mint, fruity, lemonade and house blends. A new summery endeavor features granita, a traditional Sicilian shaved ice similar to sorbet or Italian ice. Made with tea, it is sweet with a texture reminiscent of icicles and comes in two flavors: Earl Grey and Thai Rose.
Verbrick is personally responsible for house blending. He starts with a base tea (green, black or herbal) and expands to combine subtle and dominant flavors. Adhering to the trial and error method, it usually makes ten to twelve blends before he’s satisfied. Whenever possible, he leaves the tea “orthodox,” meaning untarnished with artificial flavors and sweeteners, opting for organic herbs and pure oils as much as possible.
Though the blends are local, Macha handles its own sourcing around the globe. Their distributers include tea brokers, a small Japanese farm and an American living in China.
Upcoming tea blends at the house will come from the fall leaf pickings. “The more autumnal pickings tend to be heartier, more robust, more stringent,” Verbrick explains. Late fall and winter blends tend to use consoling cinnamon and vanilla flavors.
The popular house-made Thai Rose blend uses hibiscus, which targets the tart taste buds and causes a magenta coloring. With hints of lemongrass, hibiscus, lavender and basil, it has a light, floral aftertaste. The black Lao Shan from Northern China boasts a smooth aroma and malty chocolate gusto, and hails from a lesser-produced part of China. Macha’s rarer Yue Guang Bai, a large-leaf tea from the Yunnan Province of China, is of the white variety but brews and tastes like a darker black variety.
Macha also serves the more obscure matcha, a Japanese green tea. Brewed distinctly from other teas, it is not steeped but rather whisked as a green powder into hot water. Because matcha uses the entire tea leaf, it retains more nutritional properties than traditional loose-leaf tea. Macha offers matcha in three fashions: traditionally, blended with milk as a latte and enveloped in dark chocolate as a “ninja” truffle.
The house has a limited food menu, focusing solely on foods that pair well with their tea.
1934 Monroe St., 442-0500, machateahouse.com
Photo of Macha’s white jasmine, matcha and Thai Rose tea granita, courtesy of the teahouse’s Facebook page.