Miro Tea: Making Inroads in Coffee City

View of Miro Tea looking northwest up Ballard Ave NWSEATTLE, WA  – Owner Jeannie Liu bet that customers would flock to a casual café-like environment for artisan-quality fresh teas in a city known better for coffee. Almost seven years later, she’s collecting her winnings and doubling down because Miro Tea is still going strong.

The mission at Miro is to help people learn about this ancient beverage without having to learn the etiquette involved in an English tea service or the rituals of Gōngfū Chá, a traditional Chinese tea ceremony.

The mood is quiet and contemplative on a typical weekday afternoon. Conversation at that time of day happens in hushed voices as many lean over laptop keyboards with a teapot and warmer. The space enjoys a bit more hustle and bustle with steady, heavier foot traffic in the mornings and on weekends.

The food menu features sandwiches and crepes; a selection of baked goods is available in a display case near the cash register for grab-and-go regulars at the start of the day. Every dish comes with at least a few pairing suggestions from the more than 150 “store favorite” teas that make up the core of the Miro loose leaf tea menu. Pairing suggestions for the “Christy,” a crepe with fresh spinach, goat cheese, serrano ham, and an over-easy fried egg, include New Vithana Ceylon, Earl Grey, or Dragonwell.

Also on offer are tea lattes and iced tea fusions. Manager Emi Horiuchi said, “The chais are always

Emi Horiuchi walks to tea bar after delivering tea to a customer. Photo credit: Jenny Neill

Emi Horiuchi walks to tea bar after delivering tea to a customer. Photo credit: Jenny Neill

popular. We have a red tea, a white tea, and a green tea chai—those are really hard to find in other places. Our most popular is our masala chai which is a black tea chai with lots of spices.” Of the eight iced tea infusions, the customer favorite is the Hibiscus Mint Julep,  introduced in 2013.

According to Horiuchi, presenting a rotating selection of four tea samples each day is one of the ways they stay true to their vision of making tea accessible. The teas sit on a unique bar of found and finished wood in front of a wall overlaid with pressed sorghum cane. The morning crew members are tasked with selecting three caffeinated and one decaffeinated tea to feature. On a recent visit, the bar featured a Keemun Supreme, an organic green rooibos, Glenburn Moonshine Darjeeling, and a sencha.

The tea bar

The tea bar

Great for helping customers discover what they like best in a tea, this sampling program serves an important role in training employees as well. With a staff that has doubled in size in the past year, Horiuchi explained the tea bar has helped the team stay educated about the more than 200 teas available at Miro.

Horiuchi credited the development of new residential dwellings in the area, the result of Seattle’s strategic plan to combat urban sprawl, for the greater volume of sales. The typical Miro customer is 20 to 40 years old and lives nearby. As more residents move in, the staff is seeing people from other parts of Seattle come in to meet up with Ballardite friends. That growth in foot traffic has more than justified hiring more crew members.

In addition to selling loose tea, this tea house also sells a rotating assortment of teapots and serving ware. They stock some of the items used to serve in-store tea drinkers for purchase. About twice a year, they run a clearance sale to make room for new teas and merchandise.

Regulars may notice new single-sized tea glassware, teapots and warmers moving into service over the coming months. This is the first stage for more changes to come. Details are still being discussed, so at press time, the only sure news is that Liu is working on plans to refresh the interior design. What won’t be changing is Miro’s mission to be a community-oriented tea shop.

Miro Tea
5405 Ballard Ave N.W. Seattle, WA 98117
Daily hours: 8am until 10pm Mon-Sat, and 8am to 8pm Sun
Website: http://mirotea.com/
Contact: 206.782.6832

Sources: The Christian Science Monitor

Profiles / New Products, Tea Retailer Profiles

About Jenny Neill

Jenny Neill, a beverage writer based in Seattle, Wash., applies her lifelong sense of wonder and her fascination with sensory details, scientific inquiry, and cultural context to writing about tea, coffee, wine, and cocktails. She has also worked as an editor, proofreader, instructional designer, and health content architect.