How a Tea House Gets Built - Part 1

Updated: Jun 4, 2020

In his introduction to Urasenke Chado – the textbook written for one of the primary schools of the Japanese tea ceremony -  Iemoto Sen Soshitsu XVI writes: “through chado, the customs and ways of life of long ago relating not only to tea but also flowers, incense, and architecture, among others – traditions that are considered ‘distinctively Japanese’ - take living form.” 

The path of tea leads through many detours, through which one encounters many aspects of life as a whole. In only one week, I have found this to be true. Not that I think ripping up carpet and using a hammer drill on old floor tiles are “distinctively Japanese” traditions. I have been wrong before, though.  I bring to you the first installment of my new series: building Minneapolis’ most beautiful tea house!  I cannot express enough gratitude for being able to work on this project at this moment in history. It has given me something to work on while practicing "social distancing" during the current pandemic, and has given me hope that I will be able to provide my community with a valuable respite once the dust has settled. First, some "before" pictures!

We’re starting with a former coffee shop in the heart of Northeast Minneapolis. The “bones” of the place are beautiful. As soon as we walked in while looking for the right location, we knew this was the place. The most obvious change so far relates to everything that has been removed or, better yet, demolished! The first step was to get nearly all of the furniture moved down to the basement:

So much room for activities! I did not, however, move the glossy black vinyl chairs down to the basement yet, because they look so beautiful! Just kidding. They’re awful looking, but I needed a place to sit once I wore myself out.  I promise to limit the use of glossy black vinyl in Northeast Tea House (and any other project in which I may someday involve myself). The transformation continues with the removal of the carpet:

Honestly, I think this looks like an improvement already! Note also that I am taking this picture while sitting in the aforementioned chair. I've learned that removing carpet is hard work. I was sore for the next few days and seriously considering incorporating more carpet-based-exercise into my fitness routine.  Next, I had to remove most of the floor tile. This was a much more labor intensive, dirty and noisy process of slowly chipping away with a hammer drill. I tried my best to only do this type of work during off-hours for the neighboring restaurants, to be a good neighbor and to not be intrusive with my noise. All the same, I find it ironic that a tea house dedicated to peace and calm should start with a drawn-out phase of hammering and clanging, but...yin and yang, right? 

Progress! The tile off to the left, behind the counter, is staying in place since it’s special “food safe” tile that we’ll need and which will be hidden anyway behind our new counter.

That's it for part one. If you made it to the end, thanks for reading this - I can't wait to share the rest of this journey with you!

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