Nirvana Tea House & Cafe – Inviting the World to Tea
Trekking in the Himalayas — over 5,000 miles away from his birthplace in Ireland — Ed Williamson was offered something that reminded him of home: a cup of tea.
“My mother was always putting a pot of tea on“ he says. “Tea was a door to open conversation”.
“There we were,” Williamson says, “sitting on a dirt floor of the home of 3 yak farmers, and they’re making us tea. Honestly, holding that cup, I teared up.”
The welcoming nature of these strangers is what inspired Williamson, months later, to open the tea house. Nirvana is a gathering place where tea can serve as a doorway to create community. The result is an experience like nothing else in Millis, or anywhere in the surrounding area. A rustic, peaceful space where everyone is welcome. Williamson’s experience in Bhutan comes through in the colors, design, and feel of the space. From Bhutanese fabrics, to photos and paintings from Bhutan; even the rugs hail from the office of the king of Bhutan. Tying it together is a mural depicting the rolling hills of a tea field.
Choosing teas was the first step. “Part of our mission is people understanding the story of where these teas come from,” says manager Kelly Harris. The start-up team tasted nearly 100 teas, narrowing it down to the 41 now offered. “We were very conscious of the farms we selected,” says Harris. “We wanted to know about the people growing it. We chose them all for a reason. We have teas from 8 countries— a broad range.” One source in China boasts a 2,700-year-old tea bush; another estate in India is elephant-friendly certified. Much of the tea is handpicked by small-scale farmers actively engaged in developing their local communities.
Nirvana recently added masala chai to its array of iced teas, and offers numerous tea lattes. They now have a loyalty program to reward customers and they offer gift cards. All of their teas are available to purchase in 30g and 60g bags. “It was important for us to offer smaller quantities so that everyone has the opportunity to explore a vast array of what the world has to offer. Our tea servers can guide customers through the journey, beginning with the flavors they know, to discovering new and exciting varieties” said Harris.
The fully plant-based menu includes a hearty, flavorful variety of sweet and savory bowls, salads and wraps, and Mediterranean platters. For a sweet treat, Nirvana offers apricot brandy tea-soaked dried fruits, cinnamon chai and lemon matcha tea cakes, and blueberry ginger scones. On the weekends, visitors can enjoy an expanding brunch menu, currently including Nirvana’s signature banana malpua pancakes, tofu scramble, and 3 varieties of avocado toast. “Everything tastes really good!” Williamson says. “[The managers] have done tremendous work. We cook almost everything right here.”
General manager Keith Maher says he, Harris, and manager Tamra Saegh worked to take the cafe where Ed wanted it to go. Making a positive global impact is integral to Nirvana’s vision. Along with creating community, the focus of the tea house is to support the environment and farmers. The tea house partners with City Compost, and Tangerini’s Farm for its tea treats and fresh veggies. Williamson pays generous wages, so all tips are donated and customers have a choice to support wildlife, human rIghts, and hunger relief. Williamson matches all donations by 10%.
“Most importantly,” says Williamson, “tea is what opens the door.”
Nirvana is located at 969 Main Street, Millis. Reach them at (508)376-2333 and at Nirvanateahousecafe.com. Open 11am-9pm Tuesday-Friday, Saturday 8am-9pm, and Sunday 8am-8pm. Weekend brunch menu available 8am-2pm.