Infusing Our Downtown--SAKU Tea Bar

SAKU Tea Bar

Owners: Kuros Zahedi and Sandra Loeffelmann

Why Bellingham? “We love the nature and the access to it. The scale is nice, although it’s getting busier, which is good for business. It’s a good place to raise kids and you can find a bunch of interesting and unique people all around town.”

Favorite shop downtown? “Hardware Sales is an amazing place with amazing people. The Co-op; I’ve always loved little co-ops.”

In other careers for their whole lives, Kuros Zahedi and Sandra Loeffelmann had been toying with the idea of opening a tea bar for years. They have always loved tea and got into good tea in Seattle 10 years ago. Three years ago, they quit their jobs, took their kids and traveled the world for a year. While they traveled, they were dreaming of what they would do when they returned and decided on a tea bar in Bellingham. The pair came back for a year, and got to know Chelsea Jepson, owner of Tide Lines, really well. They took off to travel for another 6 years, but came home when Chelsea presented them with the perfect opportunity: opening their tea bar in her shop.

“Chelsea started coming up with designs for how it would work,” Sandra said. “It was a fantastic collaboration and we give a lot of credit to Chelsea.” Kuros and Sandra thought it would be a perfect way to start their business. Their vision of aesthetics matched with Chelsea’s shop, and it would allow all three of them a more flexible schedule for being in the shop. Kuros and Sandra did a lot of the initial planning while in Thailand. They also met families and tea producers in Taiwan that they were able to source teas from. They tasted “tons and tons” of teas, and went through an intense development of recipes for their drinks.

In January of this year, Kuros and Sandra began sawing, sanding and hammering to make the tea bar, tables and chairs. They decided on SAKU for the name, which has a double meaning. In Japanese, it means “bloom,” but it is also the first two letters of Sandra and Kuros’ names.

Although the tea drinks are the core of their business, another goal was to create a peaceful and relaxing environment where people could step in, enjoy a tasty drink, and slow down. “There’s something missing in people’s lives these days, and it’s our mission to bring that back,” Kuros said. “Tea has always been associated with meditation, calm and simple, which is needed these days with all the stress.”

Although the tea bar just recently opened on April 4, Sandra and Kuros are well on their way to reaching their goal. A beautiful sense of peacefulness envelops you as you walk into the shared space of SAKU and Tide Lines. Not only is it the design of the space, but also whether it is Chelsea, Sandra or Kuros behind the counter, each one of them provides a relaxing feeling. It has been a steep learning curve for the new business owners since they have never done something like this, but Sandra and Kuros are truly enjoying figuring it out and improving things every week.

Every time a customer comes in and is delighted with a drink, the partners are overjoyed. “People come in and feel very at peace and relaxed because of the atmosphere,” Kuros said. “Then people start talking with each other since it is a small space.” Sandra and Kuros love the connections they are making by owning the tea bar. Some people come in whom they haven’t seen in years but still recognize each other. So far, customers have just been from word of mouth, but the next step for the new business is to get the word out.

Although they haven’t done any marketing for SAKU, there aren’t any other tea bars in town, which has helped. Kuros and Sandra see tea on the rise, and are excited to provide a unique offering downtown. “There are a lot of people who don’t want to drink coffee, and they’ve been wanting tea,” Kuros said. “It’s healthy and it makes you feel good.” With the steady increase of customers over the past couple months because of friends telling friends, there is a common theme: people come in and say “Finally. Finally a tea bar.”

“We opened because we loved tea, but didn’t realize people wanted it so bad,” Kuros said. Sandra and Kuros urge everyone to stop by SAKU, whether you love tea, or don’t know you love tea yet!

Check out Bellingham’s tea bar at 833 N State St. for some tasty drinks.

Today's post was written by Kristin Foster, Media Intern.