A New Leaf: Teahouse’s dynamic new owners are good company
Rich Freedman sits at a table in The Teahouse, perched on the edge of his seat. The cup of tea in front of him has grown a bit cold but he doesn't seem to mind. He intently scans a copy of the new menu he's putting together.
"The fontina and wild mushroom panini is the most popular item on the menu," he says. "Hang on a second, I'll have somebody make one. It's really good." Suddenly he's up and away, waving to customers as he strides across the refurbished floor and around the corner of a freshly painted wall.
There's been nonstop excitement around here since The Teahouse gained new owners Rich and Jake and Sandra Mendel. We were closed for nine days in November for a makeover from the floorboards to the lighting, and now we're open again with a refreshed commitment to excellent service, a close community, delicious food and, of course, gourmet teas.
Rich returns to the table and the panini swiftly follows. "The Porcini is the key ingredient — it adds wonderful flavor to the panini," he says.
The Teahouse's new menu retains old favorites like our famous oatmeal, scones and strawberry shortcake and adds new items including paninis, house-made soups, chocolate hazelnut lava cake and gingerbread.
"I've always loved food and cooking," Rich says. "I grew up in a family whose meal time conversation was about what we were going to eat at the next meal. I've been cooking my whole life."
After working as a tax attorney in Washington, DC and helping build a successful healthcare company in Boston, Rich moved to Santa Fe. Jake and Sandra Mendel were among the first people he met here.
"Jake and I hung out at The Teahouse when Dionne's first opened," Rich says. "We would come here every day and she would bring us tea. We didn't even order."
Rich took a five month trip to Italy last year that included culinary school. Back in Santa Fe, he started a pop-up restaurant called the Italian Table, which he's planning on bringing to The Teahouse sometime after the New Year. "It's five-course dinners made from scratch. We make beautiful Italian food with the best local ingredients available and imported delicacies from Italy," he explains. No wonder that mushroom panini has already vanished from the plate.
The Teahouse also offers over 100 different teas from China, India, Japan, Sri Lanka and Santa Fe where our original flavored teas are blended.
"Our goal is to offer our customers a world-class selection of teas," says Rich.
A gentleman sitting at a nearby table cranes around and chimes in. "We're here from Texas for the first time. We came back today just for the matcha," he says, his wife nodding as she sips. "I would drive back from Austin just for the matcha."
Rich smiles and thanks the customers profusely. The new ownership team is intent on making this the sort of place where conversations flow and strangers become friends. "We just want it to be a really comfortable place to come for good food and drink and good company."
Ask Rich about his restaurant philosophy, and he'll quote the response of Neem Karoli Baba when student Ram Das asked him to explain the highest yoga—"Feed people, love people, serve people."
Now that's a fresh cup of tea! Join us?
BONUS: Learn about our teas of the month and all of the goings on at The Teahouse on our Facebook and Twitter pages.