A couple of weeks ago, I visited Sip Tea Lounge in Huntington for the first time. My first thought was, “Wow, I’ve died and gone to tea heaven.” My second thought: “Wow, I wish I’d come here sooner.”
I’d come to check out one of the shop’s special events, a talk on agro-ecology with Eliah Halpenny and Cam Muir from Big Island Tea in Hawaii. It was a wonderful, thoughtful event; an event that perfectly complemented its setting, too, because Sip Tea Lounge is nothing if not wonderful and thoughtful.
Wonderful and thoughtful, also, are its patrons—who flocked to the shop on a Monday night for this event in impressive numbers. Together these patrons are, to borrow from owner Nicole Basso’s vocabulary, the shop’s “Sipsters.”
“We have a lot of regulars,” says Basso. “A lot of people have met one another in the tea shop and become close friends. It’s a really nice group. It’s very intimate and there’s a very friendly, warm atmosphere.”
It’s not hard to understand why the shop’s regulars have chosen the lounge for their Huntington hang-out spot of choice. The shop itself is beautiful, and the list of teas and treats is extensive.
“Our teas are really special,” says Basso. “We also have lots of vegan treats, and we make everything that we sell at the shop right in our kitchen. My goal, really, has always been to give people a tea experience they wouldn’t get someplace else.”
This emphasis on offering an experience is something to which Basso has dedicated herself since opening the lounge in 2012.
“We just try to make it digestible for people,” says Basso. “Tea can be overwhelming. You look at a menu and you don’t know what to get. Here, we encourage people to look at the samples, smell the different teas, but also to ask the staff. I encourage everybody to taste all the different tea, to sample it, so they can compare it to others when people come in.”
And people come in a lot. There are those who work nearby in the village and grab quick cups of tea before, during, and after work. And then there are those who like to linger, who come in the evenings and for the lounge’s frequent events. Of course, these two groups are not mutually exclusive.
“Our regular standing events are basically open mic nights,” says Basso. “We welcome anyone who wants to do poetry, jokes, original music, etc. Open mic night is the first Friday of every month.”
The last Thursday of every month is reserved for PechaKucha.
“It’s a live presentation,” says Basso. “It’s a Japanese word that means ‘chit-chat.’ It’s basically a slide presentation that consists of 20 slides—each slide is 20 seconds—on any topic. Each presentation adds up to about six minutes plus a little longer. The idea is that anyone who participates can speak on any topic they want to talk about. They just have to stick to the format: 20 slides, 20 seconds each.”
Recent presentation topics have ranged from beekeeping to the construction of solar-powered kayaks.
“There’s a history teacher from a local high school who speaks fluent Chinese,” says Basso. “He did one on Chinese characters and their evolution. It’s been so fun. PechaKucha night sparks good, adult discussion. It’s a great way to generate interesting conversation.”
The event I attended with Big Island Tea was interesting, too. After the agro-ecology presentation, Eliah and Cam passed around three different teas for tasting (a green, a black, and an herbal, Mamaki). Sip Tea Lounge will be carrying all three of these teas on their menu and for sale.
“The quantities are limited because they are harvested and processed during certain times of the year,” says Basso. “I believe we are the only ones who will have the tea in New York. It is rare, yes. All of Big Island Tea, however, is also of extremely high quality, made even more special because it is grown and harvested in the United States, and we have a direct relationship with the grower and processor.”
Direct relationships seem to be the theme at this little Lounge in Huntington—between owner and patrons, owner and growers, Sipsters and Sipsters. Like the tea on their menu, you’ll just have to try it out yourself.
Keep reading: Don’t miss our profile on Sip Tea Lounge owner Nicole Basso here.