Rachel Eisenfeld tasted over 200 teas to finalize the 60-plus available at her shop.
“Thank you for taking the time to pause with me,” says Gretchen Schutte, in her smooth-like-honey voice. It’s midday, midweek, and 10 people sit on chairs, backs straight, legs bent in 90-degree angles, eyes closed, listening to Schutte’s instructions on breathing, melting into the moment. Soon, eyes blink open and Rachel Eisenfeld shuffles around the room pouring paper cups with hot water as Schutte gives permission to smell the loose-leaf bags of tea, to notice the textures of the dried leaves and herbs, to feel the warmth radiating off the water. This is a chair yoga and tea meditation class.
When the session is over, Eisenfeld, the 32-year-old owner of Elden Street Tea Shop talks with guests, gauging interest if these events resonate with her neighbors.
In preparation for opening the community-driven space, she tasted some 200 teas to finalize the 60-plus on shelves. The shop, opened late last year, operates in an almost 100-year-old house in Herndon. Little rooms, with walls painted in a muted minty green have different functions: a pachinko-decorated game room doubling as a microfiber shop, Yarn Pop, a more traditional space with tables and chairs for sipping, chatting, typing and knitting, a private room for tea service and a tea library to shop for loose-leaf.
The teas—orthodox (only tea leaves), blends (tea, herbs, flowers) and flavored blends (tea, herbs, flowers, oils)—live in glass canisters where customers sniff black, white, green, oolang and rooibos, plus a masala chai blended by Purcellville’s Dominion Tea. Elden Street also creates their own blends. Teas are sourced from small farms in Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Japan and China, like Dragonwell, a famed Chinese green tea with notes of chestnut, butter and honeysuckle.
Food offerings are sparse: biscotti from neighbor Great Harvest, gluten-free brownie and coconut brittle from Sterling’s Bakefully Yours and bean-to-bar chocolate from Chantilly’s River-Sea, including Lavender & Tea made with Elden Street’s Earl Grey. Gear includes strainers, measuring spoons, filters and timers.
Like anything else in the food and drink world, Eisenfeld plans to bring in new teas for the change of season, and later this spring, will open an outdoor tea garden in the back of the store. “It’s going to look very enchanted,” she says. // 714 Pine St., Herndon