WILLIAMSTOWN - Though Terra Café has been open for less than three months, owner Frank Chen has already implemented changes.
Chen, who opened the café in the Colonial Plaza in early December, has expanded the amount of seating for customers by creating a tea room and now offers an expanded menu, including 30 different types of loose-leaf tea from premium importer Mark Wendell. The creation of a separate tea room will help enhance tea-drinkers' experience, Chen said. "When you enjoy tea, you don't want it in a crowded area," Chen said. "And tea's aroma is very subtle. It's no match to coffee. If you try to enjoy tea next to coffee, the coffee kills the flavor."
Terra Café specializes in the reportedly hard-to-find George Howell coffee, a distributor whose namesake imports beans from small operations from around the world. Chen compared Howell's coffee beans to grapes used in fine wine- soil properties, climate and region affect the flavors of the coffee, he said. In addition, the coffee beans are only lightly roasted, something which the distributor says brings out the natural flavors best. The café also serves sandwiches, salads and baked goods, and every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., offers free coffee tastings.
By utilizing an extra 760 square feet next door, Chen said he has created a space where tea drinkers can enjoy their beverage in peace, separate from the smells of the kitchen and coffee percolator. It's just one way Chen is introducing customers to the art of drinking tea. Customers are given the chance to drink from imported tea cups and pots, hand-made by Chinese artisans.
"We try to educate people," Chen explained. "We wanted people not to just get tea and go, but to sit and enjoy it, too."
Customers will be able to enjoy a variety of loose-leaf teas including white, green, black, herbal and flower teas.
Another small detail is the temperature. Depending on the type of tea, Chen said, it's best to brew it using different temperatures of water. The café offers two temperatures of water, 180 and 210 degrees.
One specialty Chen enjoys showing off is blooming presentation tea. When a small, sphere shaped "tea blossom" is seeped in hot water, it opens to reveal flowers nestled inside. The blooming tea is best when served in a transparent tea pot, Chen said, so drinkers can watch it blossom.
One unique item the café will offer: Frozen yogurt. Frozen yogurt stores have become very popular among people who are health conscious, Chen said. Many customers see it as a healthy alternative to ice cream, since it has less sugar. In addition, the probiotics it contains are good.
"In big cities, they have sprung up everywhere," he said about the stores. "But as far as I know, we're the only one around."
Chen said so far, reception to the tea and tea room have been positive.
"The coffee continues to be very popular," he added. "It continues to become more popular with likes on Facebook and the tastings."