It forces you to slow down, relax, and savor the moment. Maybe it is that experience that has led so many to value the Tea Grotto as more than just a tea shop. Since its opening in 1994, the Tea Grotto has been a community center and a place where countless relationships have been formed. During my time working there, I met almost all of the people who play major roles in my life today. Now, the Tea Grotto is taking on another incarnation, with new ownership and a new location. For many, the change is bittersweet, but the future holds much in store for this unique shop.
When Molly Heller was working at the Tea Grotto between 2006 and 2010, she developed an intense love for tea. “It became a staple, all day every day,” says Heller. Little did she know that she would someday co-own the shop with her husband, Brad. After receiving her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Modern Dance at the University of Utah, Molly left for New York to pursue a dance career. She danced professionally, and she and Brad pursued the idea of opening their own tea shop. “It just didn’t work out, and we were really bummed about it,” she says. “But it was like the universe was telling us something about coming back here”. Shortly after they returned to Utah, they ran into Rebecca Sheeran, the original owner of the Tea Grotto. “I knew that the Tea Grotto needed help, and that she needed help,” says Heller. The three decided to join forces as co-owners. Eventually, Sheeran passed the torch on to the Hellers.
The Hellers plan to make some improvements to the shop while keeping the heart of the place. The new space, located at 401 E. 900 South, is designed by Toby Putnam to have the feel of a contemporary Japanese tea house. The colors are warm, with lots of wood and some textured-metal accents. “Every corner that you go into has something different about it,” says Heller. They are keeping the booth that so many have sat in over the years, and there will still be a Zen seating area, as well.
There will be an extended tea bar with more tea tastings. More classes will be offered, and every Sunday after hours, there will be a tea-meditation class. “We’re going to use the gaiwan ceremony and also some seated yoga,” Heller explains. In case you aren’t familiar with a gaiwan, it is a traditional Chinese vessel for serving tea. The menu will also get an upgrade. All of the food will be locally made or house-made, and will be paired with a tea. Many of the dishes will have tea infusions such as the house-made chai and matcha cupcakes. There will also be several “tea elixirs,” which will be concentrated shots of tea and a superfood designed to wake you up, or calm you down.