18 years ago, our teahouse opened its doors.

Newsletter Archive Apr. 15, 2022

Two women standing in the teahouse, one holding a baby, while a young man seated next to them pours tea.
Zhuping and her family at the Tucson teahouse opening in 2004.

This is the first anniversary in two years since the teahouse has been open for table service. This has us reflecting on how fortunate we are to be there in the first place. The story of how it all came together is one of no small amount of hard work, good luck, and make-it-up as you go along ingenuity.

Many of you who were there for the early years know that by the time our teahouse opened in 2004, Seven Cups had already been in business for two years. Austin, Zhuping, and Keiko (Seven Cups’ first employee!) had been selling their teas online and at our local farmers market since 2002. By late 2003, Seven Cups had a community of regular customers and it was time to give the business a real home.

Austin’s son, Josh, spotted the location. It took a bit of vision to imagine it as a tearoom, but everyone saw the potential. The space had previously housed a Christian Science Reading Room, its walls off-white and floors tiled with linoleum. In a stroke of amazing luck, Austin found an architect and designer who was the husband of Zhuping’s maternity physician. (Did we mention they had a baby on the way?)

That serendipitous collaboration is responsible for one of the shop’s most beloved features – the sand-colored walls of the tearoom, “painted” with desert clay dug just west of town. With the linoleum pulled, the concrete floor was polished and robed up with some Persian rugs Austin had paid for with a barter of tea. It was beginning to look like a tearoom. All it needed was the furniture.

Working throughout her pregnancy, Zhuping personally selected the furnishings in China. Soon enough, a shipping container was packed to the edge with carved wooden tables, chairs, cabinets, and 10 foot long rosewood planks that would become our shelving. This container crossed an ocean, but moving the goods the final few feet of their journey was the hardest. That container rolled up behind the teahouse without a liftgate or forklift in sight. In Austin’s words, most of that valuable furniture came out of the container in a “controlled fall” as it was frantically unloaded in one evening. Short on time and muscle, Austin rallied his friends to finally get the goods in the door.

Furniture in place, Austin and Zhuping hooked up the home CD player for some tunes and the teahouse was done. Not a moment too soon either. Their son, Julian, was born just three weeks before the space officially opened.

Of course, what made the teahouse special was not the space, but the community that grew within it. Even when it was uninhabited in the depths of spring 2020 lockdowns, you – the community – still supported it. We are so grateful for you all.

Austin and Zhuping imagined the teahouse as a place you could come to to step out of daily life. This weekend, whether you’re browsing the selection of gaiwan on those old rosewood cabinets or doing the same online, we hope we can provide you with this reprieve and excitement.

A woman holding a baby who is staring at the ceiling in a room with sand colored walls and red rosewood furniture.
Julian with his grandmother in the teahouse’s opening days.

Spring Tea Update

Spring teas are on their way – at last! Barring any transportation delays, we’re looking forward to having the first several spring green, yellow, and white teas available as soon as the end of the month. This is our best estimate at the moment as the transportation situation out of Asia remains tight. If you’d like to sign up for a notification when the new teas are available, just send us an email and let us know the name of the teas you want to get a notification for. We’ll be glad to let you know!

Two gaiwans, one closed and one open with brewing tea inside, with a porcelain dish of fluffy dry leaf next to them.
Brewing Bai Mudan (White Peony) in our Blue and White Fish Gaiwan and Green Lotus Gaiwan.