If customers seem wary of the Classy Hippie Cafe's selection of nearly 20 teas, Leo Hickman asks a simple question: “How are you feeling right now?”
One answer might be, “Exhausted, but can’t do caffeine.” Hickman would recommend a ginger roobois, with the energy perk coming from ginger and lemon. The answer could also be, “Stressed and tense.” Hickman would pull out a chocolate mint herbal concoction that feels like a relaxing reward.
Hickman approaches tea from a holistic, Ayurvedic mentality. It makes sense coming from the owner of Hidden House, an alternative wellness center that offers yoga, tai chi and other classes in Midtown. The first Classy Hippie Cafe is actually located inside that center (417 20th Street), and offers more teas, food, chef demos and other services.
But the original outpost is a bit hidden. No one really knew about it beyond Hickman’s circle of friends and Hidden House regulars. More exposure will certainly come to the second Classy Hippie Cafe, a charming little nook inside Midtown Collective (1914 P Street). The collective is led by the Firefly Exchange and functions as a group of boutiques sharing one roof. The cafe opened up just last Wednesday, Oct. 22.
Teas start at $3.50 for a to-go cup. A sleek glass canister costs $15 and comes with a 50 cent discount each time it’s refilled. Hickman said most customers so far have been ordering teas to-go, but others have lingered for hours. There are just two tables, each joined by two seats, with the opportunity to sip teas poured from pot into one-ounce, warmed tasting cup.
The most important thing to know about tea? The leaves need to be loose, and they need lots of room to expand, according to Hickman. The stuff ground up into little paper pouches just won’t cut it.
Hickman brews according to Eastern tradition, meaning a lot of leaves are steeped for a very short period of time—just 30 seconds. He offers specific teas to balance your dosha, if you’re into Ayurveda. He buys from a local tea company, Tea Cozy, and gets his spring water from the Sacramento Food Co-op.
“Water is so important in your flavor of tea… People often drink green tea because they think it’s healthy, but then they’re drinking it with chlorine-infused tap water and paper packaging,” he said.
Classy Hippie Cafe does serve coffee—infused with ganoderma, a Chinese mushroom thought to have great health benefits—but Hickman’s passion is clearly for tea. It’s not just that coffee burns his stomach—it’s the lifestyle.
“Coffee is fast. It pumps you up,” he said. “Tea is slow. It’s ‘let me get to know you.’ It’s liquid meditation.”