Cuppa Serves Lexington’s Tea Crowd

by Alex Cheser
Columnist

I’m continually surprised by what Lexington has to offer. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the Bubble that you don’t even know what’s around the corner. Well, thanks to first-year Macy Gould I have found Cuppa: A Tea Café.

Cuppa is located on the corner of South Jefferson Street and West Short Street in a building that’s previously housed a gas station, a clothing store and supposedly a bookie’s office fronting as a boot store.

Owned by Lisa Samson and staffed by her daughter Ty and son Jake, Cuppa focuses on tea instead of coffee, but there’s still coffee available. Samson wanted to see tea treated with the respect it deserves in a small café environment. However, I’ve never had a café experience as fun or relaxed.

The tea menu has over 60 varieties and fusions of tea, all organic and either fair-trade or ethically purchased. There were teas I’d never even heard of. If you like, there are still plenty of lattes or cane-sugar sodas available, too.

You order your tea and then pick your teacup from the one of the china cabinets. The cups are all different and range from quirky to elegant. They were donated by Lisa’s aunt and a variety of other family members and customers.

You can sit in the room with tables (free Wi-Fi is available throughout the café for those studying needs) or in the room with lounge chairs and couches. Your tea is brought with a timer to insure that it steeps for the right amount of time and then you can pour away.

Cuppa keeps a tab for you while you’re sipping so you don’t have to rush to pay until you’re done. Over the past week I’ve chosen the Mandarin Silk, Apricot Escape and Green Pear teas. All have been wonderful. Lisa and her children know how to properly handle tea.

The food is equally delicious, too! All scones and pastries are baked from scratch every morning using locally sourced ingredients and all other ingredients in the sandwiches and panini are sourced as locally as possible. Soon Cuppa will even be baking its own bread in-store.

When I went for lunch, I had the asparagus and havarti panino. It came with potato chips and a slice of watermelon and was simple yet scrumptious. My friends spoke highly of the peanut butter and jelly and egg salad sandwiches, too. The white chocolate blueberry scone for dessert wasn’t too sweet, was very light and was all-around delicious. The fare is simple so as to not overpower the tea, but that’s part of the beauty of it.

This may sound like a hoity-toity place but it isn’t. Cuppa’s slogan is “Tea for Everyone,” and Samson means it. The teas are very, very affordable (much cheaper than Starbucks) and everything else is reasonably priced. The air is not pretentious at all and clientele ranges from University of Kentucky grad students to 85-year-old women. The big windows, soft colors, murals, local art and pottery, and low jazz music in the background are as inviting as the Samsons themselves. Sipping tea out of a teacup still makes me feel fancy, but I like that.

Cuppa is part of what’s being referred to as the Jefferson Street Revival along with other eateries like Stella’s, Nick Ryan’s, Grey Goose Bar and Wine and Market. The hope is to bring life back into this integral part of the downtown area. It’s an exciting environment within walking distance of Transylvania. Whenever this weather decides to quit being poopy, it’ll be a nice walk.

Currently, Cuppa is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. However, Samson stressed that if the Transy crowd was interested enough and if the business could support staffing the store later in the evening, she’d be all for it. Cuppa did extend its hours during finals week this past semester, so I can only hope and assume it will do the same this time around.

Oh, and if you show your student identification card you can get 10 percent off. I will certainly be stopping by at least once a week not only to have some delicious tea but to get stuff done. If nothing else, go to support this local business paying homage to the world’s favorite and most culturally entwined beverage right here in Lexington.

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