Tea Retailer: Chariteas of Sandy, Ore.

Retailers, tea room owners, F&B directors, specialty grocers, mass merchants and other business professionals attend World Tea Expo to see more than 200 high-quality tea suppliers and related vendors exhibit new products and innovations.

By Geoffrey Norman

Sandy, Ore. is a small town with a close-knit community, but not one readily associated with tea. That changed in 2009 with the opening of Chariteas. The proprietress – Charity Chalmers – was looking for a property to turn into a tearoom. A 100-year-old, 1300-square-foot cottage went up for sale, nestled along one of Sandy’s busiest streets. Charity took a risk and bought the place. Her business opened after a year’s worth of remodeling.

counterChalmers always had a fascination with tea. Her earliest memory was falling in love with a peach tea from a tearoom in Cambridge, MA. Having grown up in the Philippines and journeying to other Asian countries had solidified her interest in the beverage. She found that tea was a noninvasive way to learn about people. She believed that the town of Sandy had a neighborly feel potentially welcoming of a tearoom.

The converted cottage has two entrances – one to the right side, and one facing the highway. The highway-side entrance leads into the tearoom seating area, while the other entrance brings guests to the main counter. There is a range of seating, including a couch and two easy chairs, and product displays with teaware. Past the seating area is a wall displaying the shop’s available teas.

Chariteas has an outdoor garden for hosting parties such as bridal and baby showers. They serve breakfast and lunch, as well as English-style afternoon tea. While many places charge upwards of $20-$30 for such services; Chariteas charges under $16. For special events, they do outside catering in the form of a “blend-your-own” tea bar.

exteriorWhile serving tea is the primary focus of Chariteas, food is also an emphasis. Scones and dessert items are the shop’s top sellers, and Orange Grapefruit Wellness is the top selling tea blend. 60% of the shop’s total sales come from food. Another 10% comes from gift sales. As for tea, 20% percent of the sales are from blends and flavored teas. Orthodox and single origin teas make up the remaining 10%.

Of the shop’s available teas, special care is taken in the orthodox selection. Chariteas is one of the few tearooms in Oregon with a wide variety including Hunan heicha, single estate Ceylon black teas, and Indonesian teas. The only white tea they carry is from Indonesia.

As of December of 2014, Chariteas started wholesaling their own tea from central Java, Indonesia. Their first in a growing line of farm-direct offerings is a winter flush black tea. SeatingDepending on demand, future teas will follow. Their online shop went live as of a month ago. And, soon, they will be unveiling new packaging for their teas.

Charity owes much of her success to positive word of mouth, and in keeping a menu that is reasonably priced. She stresses that it is difficult to maintain a particular focus when running a tearoom, but she advises aspiring vendors to not let the restaurant side dominate. If the focus is on tea, it must stay on tea.

Chariteas: 38687 Proctor Blvd., Sandy, Ore. / Website: https://www.facebook.com/chariteas

For more tea writing by Geoffrey Norman, please visit The Lazy Literatus.