A woman extends a gleaming white canister over the counter, its hinged lid wide-open. "This is the Immortal Nectar," she says. The potential partakers of the Immortal Nectar gaze within the canister, sniff in its vicinity, appear impressed. On the top of its lid is a stark black number 90; on the wall behind the counter in very straight rows are canisters 1 through 89, then 91 through 150, each looking like a big button waiting to be pushed. Along another wall, 150 corresponding test tubes are labeled and marshaled in a line, inviting self-service sniffing.
It's tea, 150 kinds, loose-leaf, all organic, for sale by the ounce, available to go, or prepared for on-site consumption. Its purveyors: Remedy Teas, brand-new on the half-subterranean ground floor of that weird-shaped building on 15th Avenue East and Harrison on Capitol Hill. Remedy's environs are neither mismatched-pottery-with-hippie-politics style nor of the stodgy-British-service-with-desiccated-scones variety. They're like a low-ceilinged, cozy laboratory, with glossy white tiles and cucumber-colored walls, white patent-leather ottomans, wireless internet. Erlenmeyer flasks act as vases for lilies. It's warm, it's futuristic, and in the birthplace of Starbucks, it's revolutionary: no coffee, only tea.
At Remedy, $3.50—the price of a double-grande what-the-hell-ever in a paper cup—buys a tiny project, a ritual. There's a pristine white tray; a glass teapot on a minimalist metal stand with a tea-light candle beneath for warming and flickering purposes; a transparent teacup, the better to see the color of the tea; a small digital timer that blinks a silent red alert when steeping is complete. But first, the 150 choices. In the Wellness category, the extremely detailed menu offers to cure what ails you with the likes of Mentalitea, Relief ("Colds suck"), Hangover, Green Energy. (They're momentarily out of tea number three, Deep Sleep, an already-popular knockout potion containing valerian and kava kava.) Other options sound like Kamasutra positions or the names of video games: Silver Needle, Green Oz, Precious Eyebrows, Iron Goddess of Mercy, Black Joy, Hairy Peak Noir, Honeybush, Monkey Picked, Banana Split.
If your idea of a remedy involves more than herbs and hot water, never fear: Remedy's not of the holier-than-thou ilk that would deny a person a real drink. Beer, wine, and sake (mostly organic selections) are available, as well as three chilled tea cocktails, prepared with care, chemistlike, in a ceremony that's worth watching. A green-tea version of a mojito involves a mortar and pestle for the mint; a mimosa's made with white Earl Grey and fresh-squeezed orange juice. The most interesting delivers a giddyap/whoa combination of fully caffeinated citra maté tea and a shot of sake. It looks lovely in its double-walled glass, and its tea component claims to provide antioxidants and vitamins, boost the immune system, rejuvenate the body, and increase mental clarity. It tastes like seaweed and pie spice. It's weird but great.