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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane business turning online success into speak-easy tea house

Drew Henry shows off his speak-easy inspired tea house, Revival Tea Company at 415 W. Main Ave. Revival Tea Company will be the first tea shop of its kind in Spokane. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane resident Drew Henry thought Revival Tea Company would always be an online business.

But three months after Henry launched the company in 2018, business was booming with orders from customers worldwide requesting fresh-crafted, spiced chai tea.

That demand is what encouraged Henry and wife, Cerina, to open a brick-and-mortar tea house in downtown Spokane.

“People were saying, ‘We love your tea, you need a place where we can go’,” Henry said. “We didn’t expect there to be a desire in Spokane for tea, but there’s a lot more tea lovers in this area than we could have ever imagined.”

Revival Tea Company is opening Saturday at 415 W. Main Ave., Ste. 100, in a block of historic buildings that is also home to Durkin’s Liquor Bar, Austin’s Live Fire Barbecue, Madeleine’s Café & Patisserie and Sweet Peaks Ice Cream.

The tea house – located in a former speakeasy – has several tables, a lounge area and a bar for customers to sit and sample more than 37 various teas.

Customers can choose from a cup of tea ($2.50), teapot ($8.50) or a flight of three different teas ($6.00) served in 4-ounce taster glasses.

“When it’s brought out, we will teach you where it comes from and how we blend it,” Henry said. “It’s like a beer flight, but maybe a little bit more educational.”

Revival Tea Company also features a selection of four iced teas, gluten-free butter cookies from Scotland and muffins from Spokane-based Made With Love Bakery.

The tea house has a $5 “mocktail” happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m. daily that features an Earl Grey old fashioned drink made with bourbon extract, a hibiscus cosmopolitan and a drink called the Irish Revival, which tastes similar to an Irish coffee.

Revival Tea Company is moving its Spokane Valley production facility to its brick-and-mortar store, which allows more space to blend and package teas for its wholesale business, Henry said.

“We are looking forward to have a production facility here because of what that does in terms of our capacity and for our outside business,” Henry said, adding customers will be able to watch the blending and packaging process through the facility’s glass windows.

The tea industry is expected to see between 1% to 3% annual growth because of a rise in health-consciousness and disposable income among consumers, according to the Tea Association of the USA, Inc.

The specialty tea segment generated more than $2.5 billion in 2018, according to the association.

“There are way more young tea drinkers than I thought,” Henry said, adding Millennials and Gen Z are contributing to the rising popularity of tea. “We wanted to make tea cool again.”

The Henrys initially considered opening a distillery, but after visiting several distilleries in Ireland, the couple realized there may be a larger market for tea than whiskey in Spokane.

“We pivoted from whiskey to tea, which I think is good because we didn’t have a lot of preconceived notions. When we do our blending, we do a lot of things tea people would never do,” Henry said, adding the company’s Northwest Breakfast tea is blended with pine needles. “For us, we can honor the past of tea, but also innovate.”

Before opening Revival Tea Company, Henry met with owners of the Lake Missoula Tea Company to learn about tea sourcing and sustainable practices, and with Portland-based Steven Smith Teamaker, which was founded by late craft teamaker, Steven Smith, who also started Tazo Tea Company and sold it to Starbucks in 1999.

Henry created a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for Revival Tea Company’s first batch of spiced chai tea in 2018. The campaign generated more than $5,000, allowing Henry to ship product to more than 24 countries.

“That’s where we got all the international recognition. We got really lucky because Kickstarter featured us on their homepage,” he said, adding the company gained customers through word-of-mouth. “Since then, 75% of our orders online come from Spokane County; however, every day, we are shipping to cities we’ve never shipped before.”

Henry aims to continue expanding the wholesale side of Revival Tea Company, while also providing a community gathering place for people at the brick-and-mortar tea house.

“We have a 15-year lease here and we want to show people we are here to stay,” he said. “We are excited to watch this become hopefully a third space for a lot of regulars.”