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Soulful, Soothing, Serentity

Al Parker - December 8th, 2008
In a downtown that is percolating with coffee shops, a Traverse City family business offers visitors a soothing, healthy beverage that has been an integral part of the Zen Buddhist culture for centuries.
Serenity Tea Bar & Café, located in a century-old building across from the historic State Theater, offers 70-some organic, fair-trade specialty tea drinks, plus an impressive menu of organic vegetarian food.
“We really try to focus on having things as local as possible and as natural as possible,” says Jack Fivecoate, who owns and operates the tea bar with his brother Kerry Hanley and their mother Jill Pluckebaum.
Leave the hustle and bustle of Front Street and enter Serenity Tea Bar & Café and the impact is immediate and, well, serene. Visitors are greeted by a gurgling fresh water aquarium and a warm vibe.
For four months the mother and sons worked to renovate the 113-year-old building, stripping away decades of tacky décor and grime. They had to put in the tea bar and upgrade the electrical and plumbing in the ancient building.
“We were remodeling from Dec. 1 to March,” says Kerry. “It was tough.”

The result is a clean, relaxing décor with walls that are banded in sage and burnt-orange. Local framed artwork attracts the eye, while the century-old wooden floor has been beautifully restored. The building’s original tin ceiling has been painted a tasteful chocolate.
As for the tea, the most popular brew on the menu is the matcha green tea, the oldest variety of shade-grown Japanese green tea. Instrumental in the Zen Buddhist culture for more than 800 years, matcha green tea is typically ground into a fine powder.
Unlike many teas where the most nutritious leaves are tossed with a teabag, matcha is mixed with water and consumed entirely. Thus, a matcha drinker consumes 10 to 15 times the nutrients found in regular green teas.
“Matcha green tea has 137 times the anti-oxidants of anything on earth,” explains Jack, who learned much of his tea training at the Light of Day Tea Room. “It’s pretty much the healthiest thing on the planet.”
One of the tea bar’s most popular drinks is the Matcha Mango Latte, where the matcha is blended with rice milk and mango juice.
Visitors are invited to enjoy a small pot of tea for $3.50 or share a large pot for $5. Dozens of popular and unusual teas are available, all organic and fair trade certified and blended locally by Light of Day Organics.
Jack does much of the cooking, offering focaccia sandwiches, salads, soups, pita pizzas and grilled paninis.
“We offer a complete vegetarian menu,” says Jack. “We also cater to vegans with our breadings, pesto and hummus, all-vegan.”

Some unique menu items include the Pesto Panini with tomato, basil, red onion, toasted pine nuts, mozzarella and matcha green tea pesto served on a multi-grain bread ($6.95), and the Buddha Belly, with tomato, onions, cucumber, sprouts, sunflower seeds and matcha green tea hummus served on focaccia ($6.50).
Pizza lovers will want to try Jack’s Pizza, featuring matcha green tea pesto sauce, toasted pine nuts, red onion, basil, tomato, sun-dried tomato and mozzarella (6.50) or the Voluptuous Vegan with matcha green tea hummus, onions, garlic, red and green peppers, sweet corn and artichokes ($6.00).
Their sumptuous salads include the Red Headed Hippie, with mixed greens, breaded and baked tofu, red onion, tomato, celery and organic blue cheese with Buffalo sauce and white tea-infused ranch dressing (7.50) and the Dr. Zeus, featuring mixed greens, kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, red onions, artichokes, organic feta and croutons ($7.50).
Soon they plan to add some small plate dinners and an expanded dessert menu.
The emphasis will always be on organic, local products and many infused with tea in the oils, dressings and sauces. Their list of local suppliers includes Oryana, Happy Sprouts, Food For Thought, Naturally Nutty, Leelanau Cultured Veggies, Bay Bread, and Home Grown Organic Eatery.
Serenity Tea Bar & Café also hosts live entertainment on a sporadic basis. Anyone with a guitar is invited to play.
“It’s not your Grandma’s tea room,” says Jack with a smile. “But everyone is welcome here.”

Located at 232 E. Front Street in Traverse City, Serenity Tea Bar & Café is open Monday through Thursday 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For takeout orders call (231) 421-1564.

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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