.Food & Drink: Tea Time

Key Tea unveils café inside Open Secret

By Tanya Henry

Last March when I wrote about Cristian See Ellauri and his Key Tea Cart at the Fairfax Farmers’ Market, I noted, “One day, he hopes to unite all of his interests and have a space where folks can perform, create art, and of course, drink tea.”

On Earth Day (April 22), that hope became a reality. Ellauri teamed up with Robert Calef, the longtime owner (28 years) of Open Secret Bookstore, and revived and renovated the café space within the store that was most recently Radiance Cuisine. And, just as Ellauri had envisioned, the space has become much more than simply a café.

“We really needed a place to land at night in San Rafael—where the community could come together,” says Ellauri, who has a theater background and revels in his open mic/master of ceremonies role. So much so that a cabaret night, featuring satirical comedy, poetry, acrobatics a drum band and dance, is planned for the café’s upcoming grand opening on Saturday, August 5.

There’s a lot to see in the 2,200-square-foot space—and it begins at the door. Key Tea commissioned San Francisco artist Rob Bell to build a ZOME (a structure using unusual geometries) for the entrance of the teahouse. The ZOME provides an intimate seating area, and has recently been adorned with haiku poetry.

Continuing with his theme of “Unlocking Plant Love,” Ellauri offers cold and hot teas that are made with locally sourced plants and herbs.

Whether you’re looking to sip an afternoon cup of tea, buy a Tibetan wall hanging or hear a sitar player from India, it’s likely that you’ll find it all at San Rafael’s newest community-building café.

Key Tea, 921 C St., San Rafael; grand opening, Sat., Aug. 5, noon-10pm, cabaret performance 8-10pm; 808/428-3233; keyteacart.com.


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