EvyTea launched in 2014 as a line of cold-brew teas, steeped for 16 hours and stocked on shelves at stores like Whole Foods—but when founder Evy Chen brought her unsweetened organic teas to the SOWA farmers market, another idea started brewing. “A lot of people asked us when we were going to have a retail shop,” Chen recalls. “That was never really a thought until we started to get an overwhelming amount of requests.” Soon she stumbled upon a location: a vacant garage in Jamaica Plain. “There were no windows. It was really dark; it was really cold. But somehow, I saw in my head, ‘Oh, this place could be really cool.’ ”
Last June, that space was reborn as Tea Bar by EvyTea, part retail cafe, part R&D lab. “The brick and mortar has given me a very different stage compared to the bottle form. With health codes and all the regulations, it takes a really long time for R&D before anything can come to market,” Chen explains. “But a retail setting is much more flexible, and it allows us to create really funky combinations.” Like, say, sparkling white tea mojitos featuring seasonal fruit—strawberry and rhubarb in June, blueberry and watermelon in July—and a just-launched lineup of bubble teas. The tea bar also offers a rainbow of on-tap cold-brew varieties, hot tea, tea flights, and coffee and tea lattes in flavors like matcha turmeric, along with loose-leaf bulk tea and the bottles that started it all. They’re served and sold in a funky space with mismatched furniture and an herb garden-lined patio, a photogenic nook that served as the location for a romantic movie scene filmed this fall.
The tea bar is less than a year old, but Chen is already expanding, opening a second brick-and-mortar location in Charlestown in June and debuting a mobile tea bar in a 1976 Airstream Argosy trailer in May. And she’s coming for your coffee break: The company just launched EvyTea on Tap, a keg program for offices in New England, New York and New Jersey. It’s all part of Chen’s mission to change the way people drink—and think about—tea. “We’re not a traditional tea company,” she says. “And iced tea is a mature market. That particular sugary drink lifestyle isn’t what a lot of people are after anymore.” She hopes cold-brew tea can achieve the kind of growth cold-brew coffee has seen in recent years—and that Boston can become a hub for more companies like hers. “When people think of Boston, they might think health care or biotech. There weren’t a lot of consumer innovations happening,” Chen says. “But Mayor Marty Walsh has definitely been pushing for that innovation, and that consumer wave is coming. More and more experts in the consumer goods industry are going to look to Boston when they’re looking at what’s new and what’s hot.” Or what’s cold, as the case may be.