Photograph courtesy of Janet Gicker, TravelLaneCounty.org
By Sophia McDonald
Oregon is known for its casual way of life, friendly people, and quality food and drink. Nowhere are these traits more evident than in the plethora of tea shops scattered across the southern Willamette Valley, one of the state's most populous regions. Enterprising business owners from Stayton (near the state capital of Salem) to Eugene (home of the University of Oregon) have created havens where tea enthusiasts of all stripes can eat, drink, and be merry.
Summer, when the weather is dry and warm, is a great time to visit the Willamette Valley. With the beaches, the mountains, the festivals, and the farmers’ markets, there’s always something to do. And if all you want to do is sip tea and enjoy your surroundings, there are plenty of opportunities for that, too.
OREGON COFFEE & TEA
215 NW Monroe Avenue
Corvallis, OR 97330
541-752-2421 • oregoncoffeeandtea.com
A rainbow of teapots and a menagerie of animal-shaped cream pitchers beckon to visitors from the window of Oregon Coffee & Tea. Inside, however, it’s the 250 jars of tea that call out to tea lovers. Casey and Dennis Collett and their family have put together an abundance of teas: black, green, oolong, puerh, herbal, rooibos, and fruit mélanges. Tastings are available by appointment, and the staff will brew a single cup of tea anytime. On Saturday mornings, visitors can enjoy one of Dennis’s Danish pastries filled with jam, homemade marzipan, or chocolate with their beverage.
When the Colletts purchased it, the company sold coffee exclusively. But Casey believed there was a market in tea. Dennis still specializes in coffee, leaving much of the tea purchasing to his wife and the couple’s daughter Miriam. Son Jordan handles mail-order sales, and even grandson Christian helps out. With all this family around, it’s hard not to feel like one of the gang. Such sentiment is important to Casey. “When we welcome you into the shop, we’re welcoming you into our home,” she says.
LISA’S TEA ROOM, RESTAURANT & GIFT SHOP
1520 Main Street
Philomath, OR 97370
Patrons regularly travel more than an hour to visit Lisa’s Tea Room in Philomath, but this restaurant, gift shop, and tea parlor is well worth the trip. Guests can enjoy tea or a meal in one of the shop’s three themed rooms. The European room delivers Old-World elegance, while the country room provides a more casual setting. The children’s room features a mural of Alice in Wonderland characters. High teas always include rose cakes—miniature sweets baked in a flower-shaped mold, stuffed with a cream filling, and topped with colorful edible glitter. There are 23 Harney & Sons teas from which to choose. Visitors can also enjoy a sandwich, a salad, or a quiche, if a traditional tea service is not their choice. The gift shop features a selection of teapots and teacups, jewelry, and other gift items.
Lisa Lake and Whitney Christensen, the mother-daughter pair who own the shop, work hard to make guests feel welcome. Men sometimes get “dragged” into the shop by their wives, Lisa shares, but the quality food and comforting atmosphere keep them coming back.
GARDNER HOUSE CAFÉ AND BED & BREAKFAST
633 N. 3rd Avenue
Stayton, OR 97383
503-769-5478 • gardnerhousebnb.com
Pieces of history are sprinkled all over the Gardner House Café. The home was built in 1898 for Abner Davis Gardner, who served variously as Stayton’s apothecary, grain miller, postmaster, and mayor. The mantel over the fireplace is from the Marion Hotel, which became the temporary state capitol after a fire in the 1930s. Co-owner James Loftus (pictured above right with his wife and daughter) displays memorabilia, including a moon rock from the Apollo 11 mission, belonging to his father, an astronaut who became assistant director of NASA Johnson Space Center’s Space and Life Sciences Directorate.
These touches from the past combine with every modern convenience to make a cozy spot for breakfast, lunch, or a traditional tea service. Patrons can choose from 26 teas, including a house blend with vanilla, dried fruit, and spices from Strand Tea Company. James’s wife, Loni, makes the pies, crumpets, six varieties of scones, and other treats fresh daily. There is a private cottage behind the house for guests who wish to stay overnight. It includes a large bedroom, private bath, and kitchenette, but there’s no need to cook. Breakfast is delivered to your room each morning.
2778 Friendly Street
Eugene, OR 97405
541-285-8997 • jteainternational.com
At J-Tea, guests are invited to sit at the bar while owner Josh Chamberlain puts on the kettle. It’s the best seat in the house. Having lived in Taiwan for six years before setting up shop in 2007, Josh gleaned a wealth of knowledge, which he is happy to share as he prepares each tea and pours it.
J-Tea specializes in oolong teas from Taiwan and China. There are 70 teas on the tasting menu, all of which are available for purchase. On warm days, Josh can whip up a batch of traditional bubble tea (sans tapioca pearls) and other iced teas. Pastries from a local bakery are available for snacking, and shoppers can purchase traditional Taiwanese unglazed pots and china tea sets.
The shop was remodeled in 2010 to give it the feel of high-end tearooms Josh visited in Taiwan. The lofty ceilings and full-length windows add to the storefront’s modern feel. J-Tea’s newest feature is workshops on subjects such as tea brewing, one of the many ways Josh passes on his enthusiasm for tea to others.
SHELTON MCMURPHEY JOHNSON HOUSE
303 Willamette Street
Eugene, OR 97401
541-484-0808 • smjhouse.org
The historic Shelton McMurphey Johnson House provides an elegant tea experience as well as a glimpse into Eugene’s history. The home, built in 1888, is one of the city’s best examples of late Victorian-Queen Anne Revival architecture. It was in private ownership for nearly 100 years before becoming a museum and historical site.
The house is also a fine place to enjoy tea. Services are offered in the living room and the parlor, with lovely views of Eugene’s downtown. Volunteers serve the teas, which include three courses and all the hot beverages you can drink.
The tea tray features a trio of sandwiches, including the house’s traditional chicken salad, as well as several sweets. The scones are baked by participants in a local program for at-risk youth. Tea services are available by reservation only near Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, during the December holidays, and for groups of six or more.
Tours of the house and its collections are available to top off your day. If relaxation is the only thing on your agenda, just sit back and enjoy your surroundings.
Other Tea Venues & Attractions
• Next door to the Ivy Garden Tea Room is For Yours (541-791-1844), a gift shop that sells tea sets handmade by local artisans.
• The Campbell House Inn (541-343-1119; campbellhouse.com), a 20-room bed-and-breakfast (pictured at left), is around the corner from the Shelton McMurphey Johnson House.
• Tea Lady (541-302-9778) in Eugene offers a wide assortment of loose teas for purchase, including many organic varieties.
• Mountain Rose Herbs (800-879-3337; mountainroseherbs.com) offers more than 64 certified-organic teas, as well as a huge selection of organic herbs and spices, culinary oils, and health and beauty products. The company’s national headquarters in west Eugene features a small showroom where customers can pick up orders and browse the herbal gallery. Mountain Rose Herbs is a Zero Waste and Fair for Life company that trades exclusively in organics, so patrons can rest assured that their purchases support sustainable and fair-trade practices.
• If you’re looking to purchase fresh Oregon produce, nuts, wines, and prepared foods, contact the Oregon Farmers’ Markets Association (oregonfarmersmarkets.org) for a list of markets all over the state.