When people first walk in, they think, “Is this a cafe? A furniture store? An art gallery?”
After graduating from Baruch College, I worked in fashion and home decor at Bergdorf Goodman. Along the way, I got hired at Daniel, a high-end French restaurant and a completely new experience for me. The first few months were tough. There was a high level of expectation and so much food and wine knowledge to learn. Details from the placement of a fork to the way you set a plate down mattered. I liked it. It got easier as I got better and I worked my way up from busser/runner to Captain.
After about a year, I wanted to travel. My general manager was all for it and sent me to San Francisco to work at Coi (pronounced “Kwa”, not like the fish). While Daniel was spacious and luxurious, Coi was small and intimate. At Daniel, your role and the way you worked up were predefined, while at Coi you’d perform tasks for various roles. The exposure motivated me to learn more. We’d take trips to wineries and local farms, and during all this I met Coi’s tea producer, Red Blossom Tea Company, and from there found Samovar Tea Bar in the Mission.
It was at Samovar where I began to organically enjoy tea. I was subconsciously enjoying my time sipping tea, picking up on flavor notes and mouth feel. I learned more about tea culture and got into mindfulness and minimalism.
After two years in the Bay, Christopher returned to New York searching in vain for a refuge from the everyday flood of information and noise. NYC’s coffee-bias remained dominant among traditional Chinese and Taiwanese tea parlours and matcha establishments, ranging from trendy to ceremonial, that didn’t quite fill the void. He expanded his knowledge, tasted various chais, and looked at whether a LES chai place was a real need. Blended with his memories of his favorite chai place in San Francisco, Christopher made his own chai bar for New York.
Christopher focused on offering a high quality product in a minimalist space, incorporating his love of design, hip-hop, and fashion. He curated furniture by Danish and Scandinavian designers and even painted The Hideout Chai Bar’s characteristic KRINK-inspired graffiti ink drips along the counter and ceiling. Future plans include featuring work by local artists, designers, and craftsmen, chai-infused pastries, and offering much-anticipated iced chai in the warmer months.
Overall, I want to emphasize minimalism, sleek designs, that less is more, a philosophy of not needing to be entrenched by constant advertisement, and to enjoy made-in-house chai. That’s the essence.
Correction: March 28, 2017
An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified Coi’s tea producer as Samovar. Red Blossom Tea Company is Coi’s actual tea producer, not Samovar, and the post has been corrected to reflect this.artisanal, beverage, cafe, LES, one-person business, tea