To drink a cup of tea is to understand the places and experiences that shape its many traditions. The traditions translate into the cup and are soon understood by the drinker. At Firepot Tea Bar, as the morning light streams in, founder of Firepot Nomadic Teas Sarah Scarborough shares her journey with tea. Sarah started the brand in 2001, as she was working at a tea house in Montana. It was there that the now-famous chai recipe came to life. “That was the beginning of my career in tea,” Sarah explains. The career has been long and varied, with different iterations of the brand and hiatuses here and there. Ten years later, Sarah had a mad rush of creativity and energy after her first child, and the brand once again began to form itself. She started brewing and bottling the chai. Soon, it was found at coffee shops across town, and the ideas for a tea bar began brewing. Now, nearly another decade passed, Firepot Tea Bar welcomes tea lovers to try teas from around the world.
The tea bar is the culmination of Sarah’s connection to tea. The modest space is outfitted with rugs and pillows found during a recent visit to Morocco, stools custom-made in Marrakesh and a window seat overlooking 12South. To look around the room is to get a glimpse into Sarah’s travels. “It was a long process to get where it is, but it is how it was meant to be,” Sarah says of the shop, which we first got wind of in 2016.
As I sip an organic ceremonial grade matcha mixed with milk, maple syrup, cardamom and Himalayan pink salt (the cardamom matcha latte), Sarah leads me on a world tour of tea. “I have been traveling for nearly 20 years, and I have good knowledge of where and who to get tea from,” she shares. Her travels have led her to Nepal, across Africa, through India, to Sri Lanka and Japan. She combs the world for the best tea, with a commitment to sourcing well and supporting organic, Fair Trade practices. “It’s important for me to buy from gardens I’ve been to,” Sarah shares. It is a Nepali tea that Sarah drinks each morning. “People are kind and spiritual,” Sarah says of Nepal. Grown in the fertile soils on mountaintops that live in the clouds, the leaves of the Himalayan Royal Ruby carry notes of cocoa, cedar and rose, and the tea is smooth to sip. From Nepal, Sarah takes us to Hawaii, where farmers on the Big Island harvest green tea leaves with notes of sweet pea, pineapple and morning dew.
“We have a curated selection,” Sarah explains. We have something for everyone, but we aren’t going to give you 10 oolongs. We will give you three.” The menu is easy to follow. A list of origins includes China, Japan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Hawaii. You can order loose leaf tea steeped, or choose from The Rituals Collection, a wellness line curated for the strength of mind, body and soul. The six organic, non-GMO certified teas are served in tea sachets.
Just as Sarah has a knack for finding teas, she has a knack for combining flavors. The Bowl of Soul, a personal favorite, combines turmeric MCT oil (coconut), cinnamon, cayenne, milk and cocoa powder. Lattes marry freshly steeped tea with steamed milk. Seasonal drinks make the most of seasonal flavors and will soon be changing from spring to summer. This summer, look for the Green Goddess, a sparkling matcha drink with ceremonial matcha, CBD oil, rose simple syrup, lemon juice and sparkling water. “Together, the matcha and CBD oil will create a focused, relaxed mindset,” Sarah explains. As expected, you’ll also find a selection of chai (the tea that jump started Sarah’s journey) and perhaps more unexpectedly, you will find sparkling teas, sweet tea concentrates topped with sparkling water.
All teas can be made to order with house-made almond milk, Hatcher Farms whole milk, coconut milk and oat milk.
“The world of tea can be confusing.” It’s as if Sarah can read our minds. “The tea bar is a great platform to demystify it,” she continues. While the tea bar is a place for exploring ingredients and getting a glimpse into tea traditions, its cultural importance is not easily translated in such a small space. Sarah is passionate about the cultural interpretations of tea. “The function of tea is connection,” she says. Nomadic Tea Party, which will launch in July, will provide experiences to understand the cultures surrounding tea through gatherings, cooking and travel.
In the meantime, a collection of loose leaf teas, tea sachets, matcha and chai along with teapots, books and wares — not to mention a full menu of tea — can be found at Firepot Tea Bar.
Stop by to see it for yourself!
Firepot Tea Bar: 2905 12th Ave S Nashville, TN 37204; Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
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