Tea Gather has a welcoming space
Posted on 04/06/2021
Taylor stands at the cafe counter, ready for your order.Northville is a big coffee town with the aromatic brew available at Red Dot, Starbucks, Tuscan Café and Sweet Brew ‘N Spice – but there’s a new business in town that adds another dimension to sipping and savoring a delicious brew. Tea Gather features natural and exotic tea for enjoying inside the café, outside on the front patio or taken to-go.

The café is owned by Taylor Ou and her husband Eric Lim, who previously owned Szechuan Empire in Livonia. (His sister now owns and manages that restaurant.)

The bright new café at 135 E. Cady features Pu’er, a tea made with leaves plucked from trees in the Yulin rainforest that are thousands of years old. The tea is rich in vitamins with high levels of theanine – known to be a mood enhancer, and natural properties that improve the immune system.

If that’s not your cup of tea, there’s also milk tea – just as the name sounds: hot or cold tea with your choice of plain or flavored milk or almond milk. Bubble tea is one type. Other menu items are fresh-fruit smoothies and flavored milk – avocado, banana and papaya are some of the choices. If you’re peckish (slightly hungry), try the Taiwanese street food, made from scratch by Eric, who grew up in Taiwan. The offerings range from basil popcorn chicken and bubble waffles to cuttle fish balls and salted green beans.

Taylor and Eric moved to Northville about five years ago. Taylor said she and her neighbor like to walk through the downtown area and the idea occurred to her to open a café for tea and street food and bring the Taiwanese culture to Northville. Her first choice was a former salon across from Kroger but she couldn’t alter the interior to her specifications so she kept looking. When the space became available on Cady, she signed a contract with the landlord in January 2020. Then COVID-19 struck, but she wasn’t deterred.

It took a full year to renovate the space – with the contractor bringing Taylor’s vision of a contemporary, bright space to life. A white-tiled back wall, hung diagonally, plays well with the black base cabinet that faces the customers. Three crystal-like, globe pendant lights provide a glamorous twinkle above the artful granite countertop. A beautiful curved wall of light and medium grey stone bricks serves as a contemporary focal point that bridges the entryway to the counter, where customers are greeted and orders are placed.

She calls the cafe a peaceful place, where children can do their homework and people can relax and appreciate the quality ingredients in the tea and food they offer.

Two examples of their high-quality cooking and preparation methods are the brown sugar boba, a beverage made from real brown sugar cooked in the morning instead of an artificial syrup, and the basil popcorn chicken, which is specially marinated and topped with seasonings and spices to bring out the juiciness and tenderness of the meat.

“The higher reviews and satisfied customers are what keep us motivated to work seven days a week,” Taylor said.

She notes that shiny tea leaves are a hallmark of quality and they should be spotless, showing no sign of decay. The café website provides a mini education in the art of tea gathering and its beneficial attributes as a source of nutrition and well-being. View the website here.

High-top tables and standard tables are spread throughout the spacious dining area. An airy bookcase holds items of Chinese culture and some kids’ games. Taylor invoked Feng Shui principles to create a happy, positive place for customers to sit and linger alone or with others. Full windows look out onto the front patio area and Cady Street beyond. It provides a window on the town of Northville – outside looking into the bright café or inside looking out at the people and vehicles passing by. Parking is just beyond the patio and also on the street.

“I feel happy about sharing my love of tea and this special place,” Taylor said. “I’m just a natural person. I feel lucky. Our neighbors are so very nice. We work hard (fellow business owners and themselves). We like it here.”

The café is open 7 days a week, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. For now, she and her husband are running the café. Eventually, she will hire and train employees to wait on customers and provide great service, so the couple can take a break. It doesn’t seem to bother Taylor that while she relaxes by sipping tea, her husband must have his daily Starbucks.

plastic cup of swirled brown sugar tea drink

Basil Popcorn Chicken