With the rise of specialty coffee and craft beer, imbibers have become more curious about all sorts of brews—spirits, bitters, kombucha, kefir, tea, and more. They are remembering the rich tradition and comforting quality of a steeping cup of hot tea, including exploring tea lattes and the strangely addictive sensation of Taiwanese bubble tea.
In 2015, Matt and Snezana “Snowy” Kaufmann opened Gaiwan Tea House in Coeur d’Alene. After years of traveling, they wanted to bring the art of high-quality and organic tea to the Inland Northwest. And they succeeded.
I grew up with a tea-loving mother, so I was naturally drawn to the teahouse, whose peaceful vibe and lack of WiFi encourages meaningful connections. The main room is warm and inviting with plenty of natural light, wooden furniture, and doors leading to more intimate spaces: the Japanese-inspired lounge with banana leaf floor poufs and low tables, and a softer-lit space furnished with a comfy couch, alcove table, and chairs. If you prefer to take in the fresh air, head out to the bamboo tables in the side yard.
The menu includes more than 70 loose-leaf teas, from classic black, green, white, and herbal to more adventurous options: matcha green, oolong, rooibos and pu-erh teas. Matcha and house-made chai are spotlighted in specialty and seasonal flavors, lattes, and bubble teas. When you order a hot tea, they bring the pot to your table with the cup and saucer, advising you of the brew time intended for your specific tea choice. Iced drinks are presented in glasses that highlight the brew and make you feel you are drinking something truly special. A simple selection of pastries is available to accompany your drink. And, no, they don’t serve coffee.
While I have sipped many drinks from the teahouse’s menu, my two favorites are a simple hot green tea, and a rich and chewy chai bubble tea, sometimes with coconut milk, sometimes with dairy. And if I’m feeling a bit immune-compromised, their turmeric ginger herbal tea is the perfect way to warm up and soothe my senses. //