by Eric Ginsburg
Sarah Chapman partially designed and decorated her tea lounge with Craigslist discoveries, but Vida Pour Tea looks more like a Pinterest creation.
The new State Street spot smells of a mixture of teas, the gentle scents of candles and wooden furniture crafted in Stokesdale. Plants line the front windows, partial wooden barrels shade ceiling lights and a back room feels like an Irving Park living room. But Chapman didn’t just oversee the décor of the venue; she’s also the proprietor.
Owning a tea lounge isn’t something Chapman always knew she wanted to do. She played ice hockey for 16 years before playing lacrosse for UNCG, where she studied fashion. But even as the venture launches, it’s difficult for her to imagine doing anything else.
While studying abroad in Thailand, Chapman got sick, so sick that her then-boyfriend (now husband) didn’t even recognize her when she returned to the States. As she struggled with sickness in southeast Asia, a jasmine tea she found was the one thing that eased her pain. Thus began her unexpected foray into a world full of books about herbs, tea tastings and, eventually, Vida Pour Tea.
Chapman’s standalone business is only a few weeks old, but she quietly moved her teas into 15 stores in the area, including Beansboro and Scuppernong Books. She also spent two years hosting tasting at markets and businesses such as Just Be.
“It was a lot of free samples, getting a lot of feedback,” Chapman said, adding that the process enabled her to hone her craft.
And it worked. Trophies for the Best Non-Alcoholic Beverage at the last two Big Sip competitions adorn a shelf below her register.
Chapman sells 28 different kinds of tea and plans to keep adding more as she experiments. The jasmine silver needle is her favorite, but she recently played with a smoky, vegan, maple-bacon tea. Some blends have blueberries or peppermint, there’s a spectrum of caffeinated options and an assortment of herbs and boosters as well.
But there’s no white sugar on the counter, and the packaging is recyclable. It’s all a part of Chapman’s aim to be as natural, healthy and local as possible. Sticks of vegan lip balm grace the counter by the register, and local honey is for sale nearby. She even sells muffins and soap infused with her teas.
Chapman’s father is the lone member of the store’s cleaning crew, and she is the only one smiling behind the counter seven days a week. Her demeanor and genuine nature is calming — fitting, considering her wares — and her eagerness to help provide people with healthy and tasty beverages avoids being preachy.
“I just love learning about what makes people feel better without putting them on a thousand medications,” she said.
To some extent Chapman is pulling from the built-in clientele of the immediate area, including three yoga studios, Eclectic by Nature and a few clothing stores. She wants the space to feel funky and fun, and has been working to foster relationships with nearby business owners.
“It’s turning into a friendly, sleepy street,” Chapman said. “It’s almost like Little Asheville.”
The building previously housed the Secret Tea Room, but Chapman gutted the kitchen and put in new floors. She plans to add some grab-and-go style healthy food, but removing the kitchen created space for one of the business’ most unique elements: the lounge.
The front of Vida Pour Tea looks like a tastefully decorated café, with tables and chairs along the sidewalls and a few seats at the bar. But the back room that once served as a kitchen — somewhat tucked away up a few steps and obscured by a partial wall — is a unique asset.
Conversation hardly slips out of the lounge area at the rear, which offers a love seat, sofa, table for two and a bigger table as well. Groups, like book clubs, can reserve the space, too.
“It almost creates a little fort,” Chapman said. “It feels like a living room but you don’t have to clean up after yourself.”
She is still getting her bearings — opening the business hasn’t come without its setbacks, including the need for a new hot water heater — but she has a vision. And that’s half the battle.
Visit Vida Pour Tea at vidapourtea.com or 412 State Street (GSO). Call Sarah Chapman at 336.609.4207 for more information.