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Denver’s newest tea shop isn’t a scones-and-finger-sandwiches sort of spot. Rather, Ku Cha House of Tea, which opened in Cherry Creek on May 4, is a celebration of the drink’s wide-ranging flavors and styles.
Qin Liu and Rong Pan stocked their third Ku Cha location (the others are in Boulder and Fort Collins) with a heady collection of some 170 different varieties of tea, the majority of which are sold loose-leaf in hand-packed bags.
The husband-and-wife team know that’s an overwhelming number of options, hence the educational descriptions on all of the glass sample jars. They encourage customers to pick up the containers and take a sniff. “Smell is a critical component of taste,” Pan says. “If you like the smell, you’ll probably like the taste.”
Ku Cha employees should also be treated as a resource: Every staff member goes through a 12-hour training so they’re adept at advising on which teas ease ailments or how best to use a traditional Chinese tea bowl.
Pan and Liu are tea masters themselves. They opened their first Ku Cha location in 2005—the culmination of a class project Pan submitted while the pair were working toward MBAs at the University of Colorado Boulder. They draw extensively on their Chinese heritage when stocking the small shop and still hand-select every product.
The means they’re familiar with every green, white, rooibos, and oolong tea, as well as their lineup of chai and yerba mate. “Our most popular herbal tea is Cloud Chaser, because everyone is suffering from anxiety these days,” Pan says. She describes the organic blend of lemon balm, lavender, marjoram, peppermint, rose petal, and St. John’s Wort as “very relaxing and up lifting.” Those who have trouble sleeping will appreciate the Organic Nighttime Blend, while others might look for teas that help with joint support or digestion. For children, Pan recommends caffeine-free fruit teas, such as Paradise Peach, sourced from Colorado-grown peaches.
Most unique, though, is the selection of “pu-erh,” a type of fermented Chinese tea. The complex, earthy teas are great for those looking to kick a coffee habit because they provide a jolt of caffeine without the jitteriness that often accompanies a shot of espresso.
A build-your-own tea station allows customers to mix their own concoctions based on their tastes or particular health concerns. There is also a variety of beautiful and functional tea accessories for sale, as well as books, gift boxes, decorative pieces, and even pastries infused with Ku Cha’s wares.
Eventually, Pan and Liu plan to offer made-to-order drink service, including tea lattes and the like. For now, though, tea lovers can support the store as members; the $15 annual fee gets you 10 percent off every purchase, as well as access to members-only cultural events, such as demonstrations on making traditional North Indian chai or tea parties featuring classical Chinese music.
“We started this business to help deepen appreciation for Chinese culture and to tell the story about tea and how it is an art form,” Pan says. “Outside of China, most people don’t connect tea with art and culture. We want to make that connection.”
2445 E. Third Ave., 303-322-0183