By Andrew Wroblewski
When stepping into Sip Tea Lounge, patrons of Huntington village are effectively stepping into a world of their choosing.
Transformed by the soothing, welcoming environment that owner Nicole Basso has carefully crafted, customers to the lounge have no shortage of choices when deciding where to land.
Whether it be in China with a Pu-erh tea, in India with an Assam tea or perhaps Sri Lanka with a black tea – Basso ensures that, along with a hot cup of whichever brew is chosen, customers are also served up a one-of-a-kind experience of culture.
“The idea is that they’re being transformed to a place where they can sense what the culture of the tea that they’re having would be like,” she said.
Take, for example, the Pu-erh tea – a fermented dark tea produced in Yunnan province, China. Sip serves the tea “gongfu” style – a formal Chinese tea ceremony – which is typically how it would be served if presented on the other side of the globe.
But for Basso and her customers, it’s presented right here in Huntington.
“With a nice walking area, lots of restaurants and diverse consumers… Huntington is a good place to have a shop like this,” she said.
Originally opening its doors in January 2013, Sip has found a home at 286 New York Ave. The tea house offers 40-50 different types of tea, is the site of several social events such as open-mic nights and a book club and, perhaps most importantly, gives customers the chance to bond over a hot beverage.
“There truly is an experience that goes with drinking tea, it’s not just a quick thing,” she said. “It’s meant to really be savored and enjoyed.”
The feel of the tea house plays into that notion.
With an earthy, soothing vibe, Basso has shaped the epitome of relaxation in an eco-friendly way with tabletops made from reclaimed wood, stone counters, soy-stained floors and no-VOC paint on the walls.
Basso wants customers to feel free and welcomed from the second they step inside – even if they’ve never before delved into the world of tea drinking.
“We want everybody to feel like they can find a tea that will satisfy them… No one should feel intimidated when they come in here,” Basso, a native of Halesite, said. “[The type of brew] really depends on the person, but usually we can find something.”
Of course, she said, if a customer truly has no idea which world they’d like to get a taste of, Basso and her staff are more than willing to serve as tour guides on the path to a perfect cup of warm, relaxing refreshment.