RIGA - "We want Latvian people to understand that tea is more than hot water, we want them to understand the world of tea," said Ilze Konovalova of downtown Riga's newly opened Chado tea house.
Konovalova is clearly passionate about tea. When anyone shows an interest, she will rifle through the massive selection, pointing out the different varieties and occasionally lifting a particularly aromatic tea out of the bunch for people to sniff.
Her narratives about tea always come back to her personal favorite, oolong milk. Her eyes light up as she talks about how each time the unique tea is brewed, the flavor subtly changes.
The Chado tea house, which is now in its third month of existence, is hoping to set up a tea culture similar to the wine culture that exists in France, she explained.
One look at the interior will show just how far Chado goes to achieve that goal. Entering the house feels like stepping squarely out of 21st century Latvia and straight into 19th century Hong Kong. Carefully crafted Chinese tea bowls, all for sale, line the walls while polished European chandeliers hang from the ceiling.
A side room features a more Asian atmosphere, with five booths set up around low tables and lined by pillows for reclining. A collection of bells from all over the world decorates the ceiling, but the red walls with white trim still seem distinctly European.
Konovalova said that the atmosphere here is what sets it apart from the other tea houses in the city. She explained that the creators of Chado wanted to give clients the ability to walk into the tea house and forget about the problems of their daily life.
Chado closely follows the philosophy behind its namesake 's the famous Japanese tea ceremony. An important part of the ceremony is to talk only about tea during the sitting, and to use the experience as a refuge from mundane worries. With a choice of 140 different kinds of tea from all over the world 's more than any other tea house in Latvia 's there is always something new to discuss.
"The main purpose of chado is to let people feel harmony. Everything that we try to give the clients comes from the ideals of the chado ceremony," Konovalova said.
Much like the tea ceremony itself, Riga's new tea house tries to bring people a little bit of peace and harmony, an escape from the stress of the day. The clientele seemed to be taking this idea to heart: in the main room a number of well dressed businessmen could be seen enjoying their one chance to relax during the day.
In order to help open the world of tea to Latvians, the Chado staff is always willing to discuss the subtle differences between teas, or explain the proper use of some piece of little known tea paraphernalia. Chado also offers a number of locally grown "herbal" teas that are said to be particularly healthy.
While Chado's popularity is growing, Konovalova said that it still has a way to go before it reaches its full potential. She said that few have heard about the place, but was confident that word would quickly spread.
"It hasn't had the chance to develop a reputation, but the people who have come say only good things about it," she said.
Chado tea house
28 Caka street
Open 9 a.m. - 10 p.m. daily